«Catching “Montréal on the Move” and Challenging the Discourse of Unilingualism in Quebec»

«Catching “Montréal on the Move” and Challenging the Discourse of Unilingualism in Quebec»

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   Anthropologica  55 (2013) ••-•• Catching “Montréal on the Move” and Challenging the Discourse of Unilingualism in Québec / 1 Introduction L ike most other North American cities, if you wander down the streets of Montréal and through its neigh-bourhoods, you will hear most of the languages of the  world, brought to the city through immigration flows. Montréal, however, offers a particular twist to linguistic diversity in urban settings by the number of native-born speakers using two languages in their day-to-day lives (French and English) and the number of immigrants using three languages or more. In this respect, Montréal pre-sents an unusual language dynamic, one still in the midst of the major transformations launched during Québec’s Quiet Revolution, but also increasingly caught up in the changes wrought by globalization, rapid communication technologies and the new economy. Montréal’s unusual language dynamic in North America has its roots in a col-onial past and a history of language contact between two strong language communities that has more recently been influenced by the use of language legislation to improve the status of French. Despite the considerable success of language legislation, Montréal’s workplace remains one  where French-English bilingualism is of high value. A final factor compounding the complexity of today’s lan-guage dynamic is an immigrant population of diverse lan-guage backgrounds, likely to learn two languages rather than one within the process of social and economic inte-gration (Pagé et Lamarre, 2010). Surprisingly, despite the growing bilingualism and tri-lingualism of the population, very little attention has gone to how Montréalers are drawing on their language reper-toires in their everyday lives. While there is a corpus of sociolinguistic research from a variationist perspective, 1  most of the research on language in Québec has focused on measuring the vitality 2  and position of the French language, a major public concern with strong and ever present political ramifications. A limitation of this type of research, however, is that its focus is on language domin-ance and language competition, and therefore questions Catching “Montréal on the Move” and Challenging the Discourse of Unilingualism in Québec Patricia Lamarre Université de Montréal – (CEETUM)  Abstract:    A complex linguistic dynamic is emerging in Mon-tréal, yet most of the research on language in Québec relies on census statistics or survey data, leaving many questions unanswered. Specifically,  what are young Montréalers who are increasingly bilingual and multilingual actually doing with languages as they move through the city and how do they per-ceive traditional conceptions of language and identity? To an-swer these questions, a non-static ethnographic approach was designed, following 15 multilinguals through their daily lives across sites and networks. Participants collaborated in analysis through discussion and reflection on the verbatim and texts col-lected. The findings reveal a complex portrait of language in Montréal, challenging current ways of thinking about language and doing research. Keywords:  language dynamics, multilingualism, youth, urban ethnography, identity, politics of language  Résumé  : Une nouvelle dynamique complexe émerge à Mon-tréal, alors qu’une majorité des jeunes Montréalais d’aujourd’hui sont bilingues ou multilingues, quelle que soit leur langue mater-nelle, en contraste frappant avec le bilinguisme unidirectionnel des années 1960. Pourtant, il y a de nombreuses questions que la recherche existante omet de soulever. Plus particulièrement, comment les Montréalais utilisent-ils les langues dans leur fréquentation de la ville, et quels enjeux sous-tendent leurs choix de langues? Comment les jeunes Montréalais avec des pratiques langagières complexes perçoivent-ils les conceptions traditionnelles de la langue et de l’identité? La recherche ethno-graphique sur les pratiques langagières réelles remet en ques-tion la recherche démolinguistique fondée sur les données de recensement, de même que le discours sur les menaces pesant sur le français, qui colore le quotidien au Québec. Mots-clés : dynamique des langues, multilinguisme, jeunesse, ethnographie urbaine, identité, politiques linguistiques  2  / Patricia Lamarre  Anthropologica  55 (2013) are framed to determine which language is being used most often.  What this type of research is unable to reveal is how people are drawing on all of the languages in their daily lives. What is still needed is research on the actual language practices of young multilingual Montréalers, a generation that has grown up in the wake of Bill 101, 3  many of whom have been schooled in the French school sector but who have acquired three or more languages along the way to adulthood. To counter this lack of data, we 4  designed a study on how young Montréalers are using languages in spaces that are increasingly multiethnic and multilingual and in  which diversity is becoming a trait of the official language “communities” historically established—populations div-ided along linguistic lines, but where there is increasing blurring of boundaries and ambiguity over definitions, such as what is meant by Québécois, Anglophone and Francophone. This study examines how young multilin-guals draw on their linguistic resources as they move across sites in their daily lives, take part and position themselves in different interactions and networks. It also examines the representations underlying their decisions about language use, stakes and boundaries as they move through the city.To do this, we developed a non-static  case study approach to data collection, a term coined to describe the approach to urban ethnography we have elaborated to go beyond site-bound studies of language use. To catch how language is used as people move through their daily lives and through the city, we “followed” 15 young multi-linguals, thanks to a variety of data collection strategies, observing how they draw on their multilingual reper-toires. In addition, through introspective techniques, participants were asked to reflect on their practices and the thinking underlying these practices. This approach has yielded rich data on the diversity and complexity of language practices of young multilingual Montréalers, revealing also their awareness of the different stakes underlying language and their ability to negotiate these. In effect their life in Montréal is much like a parkour 5  ter-rain, a linguistic obstacle course that they navigate with considerable flexibility, while keeping a distance from the politics of language and identity in Québec, which has little emotional resonance for them. Our analysis of data draws heavily on critical socio-linguistics, which Heller (2003) describes as a perspective built on traditional interactionist approaches to socio-linguistics (Gumperz 1982), but able to relate language practices and discourse to social categorization (identity) and social stratification (power) by drawing on socio-logical theory. The analytical tools proposed in critical sociolinguistics can, therefore, not only interpret language use and discourse as related to social and ideological prac-tices, but use language practices as a window to reveal how these processes and ideologies are constructed and how frontiers are maintained or transformed. The emer-ging complexity of language dynamics of Montréal begs to be approached through the type of ethnography we have undertaken. This said, a non-static critical sociolinguistic approach to language practices rather than the traditional site-bound urban ethnography also has value for the study of language in other cities, including ones described as “unilingual.” Context Much has been written on how the sociolinguistic context of Montréal has been transformed over the past three decades. Montréal is often cited as an example of how language shift can be reversed through the mobilization of a linguistic minority around shared interests and through efforts at social engineering (Fishman 1991; Bourhis 2001; Oakes and Warren 2007). Indeed, if we look back to the 1960s, Montréal seemed well on its way to becoming a multicultural English-speaking city (Levine 1990). The 1960s, however, also marked the beginning of a period of rapid social transformation in Québec (McRoberts 1999). Today, three decades past Québec’s Quiet Revolu-tion, Montréal is a far more French city than it once was, thanks in part to language policy and legislation.Montréal offers a significantly different linguistic context than other cosmopolitan Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. On the one hand, Montréal is the only major metropolitan centre in Canada to func-tion predominantly in a language other than English. It is also the Canadian city in which bilingualism has the most value within the local “linguistic market” (Bourdieu 1982). Census data reveal that Montréal is the city where knowledge of both official languages is highest in Canada (Statistics Canada 2013). While Francophones and Anglo-phones are more bilingual than they were in the past, among Allophones (in census data, this refers to speak-ers whose first language is neither French nor English),  what can be observed is a fairly recent phenomenon of trilingualism. What these statistics suggest is that while French is increasingly necessary for social and economic integration into the life of the city, a complex bilingual/ multilingual language dynamic is emerging, in which the  value of French-English bilingualism figures importantly. Montréal further differs from other Canadian or North American cities by its history of divided institu-tional systems (including schooling, social and health-care services). This type of institutional parallelism has   Anthropologica  55 (2013) Catching “Montréal on the Move” and Challenging the Discourse of Unilingualism in Québec / 3 been considerably eroded (Juteau 2000) but, in the past, allowed the two major language communities to live side by side, yet in relative isolation. Until quite recently, the division of language communities extended to the geog-raphy of the city, with a west end primarily inhabited by English speakers, an east end primarily inhabited by French speakers and a “buffer” zone between the two (the Main/boulevard St.Laurent), historically occupied by immigrants. The city can no longer be so tidily div-ided into linguistic zones as the population within neigh-bourhoods becomes more diversified, yet it remains that these zones are still pertinent when it comes to predicting dominant language behaviour (Lamarre et al. 2002) and in how the city is imagined and described (Lamarre, in preparation).In present-day Montréal, traditional boundaries are in the process of “blurring,” whether one thinks in terms of linguistic and cultural identity, institutional separa-tion or the geographic distribution of the population. An obvious factor contributing to this blurring of boundaries is the increasing weight within the city’s population of immigrants and the children of immigrants, their pres-ence in previously more homogeneous institutions such as schools, and their impact on how group identity in Québec is defined, whether we are discussing what it means to be an Anglo-Montréaler/Québecer today (Norris 1999; Jedwab 2008; Floch 2008) or what is meant by Franco-phone (CSLF 1999; Meintel and Fortin 2001; Helly 1992; Fontaine et Juteau 1996). A further compounding fac-tor in approaching the notion of linguistic boundaries in Montréal is the fact that an increasing number of young people have the language skills to cross traditional bound-aries. And what little existing qualitative research there is, confirms that many are increasingly comfortable doing  just that (Radice 2000). The final element confronting traditional concep-tions of the language dynamics of Montréal, however, comes from beyond the territory of Québec and is part of a much larger trend affecting populations around the globe: the impact of globalization and modernity on how languages are perceived and on how identity, community, citizenship and immigration are defined and experienced (Appadurai 1996; Block 2006; Heller 2000; Meintel 1997, 1993; Kearney 1995). As Heller (2000) has argued, global-ization challenges existing social structures, networks and relationships by the creation of new ones not bound by the local context. If we think specifically in terms of language, globalization redefines how individuals perceive their linguistic resources in relationship to linguistic mar-kets, allowing for the possibility of using what is owned beyond the constraints of the local context, and calling for a more nuanced understanding of language as a form of capital (Lamarre and Dagenais 2003). Globalization and the movement of populations are also contributing to the emergence of new identities (Hall 1988; Harris 2006) and, in the case of immigrant and second generation youth, to notions of community and citizenship that can be described as transnational (Meintel 1993) or plurinational (Laperrière 2002). In summary, at one level, the language dynamics of Montréal are currently being transformed by internal trends: more specifically, through efforts at “franciza-tion,” the increasing bilingualism and multilingualism of the entire population, regardless of first language(s) learned, and the blurring of traditional collective iden-tities that results from the growing ethnic and cultural diversity within language communities. On another level, local language dynamics are also being transformed through broad external trends, the forces of globaliza-tion and post-modernity. It is within these complex and ongoing processes that we need to approach the study of language use among young Montréalers and interpret its findings. Towards a New Approach to Urban Sociolinguistic Ethnography The approach developed in this study contributes to the field of urban sociolinguistics, a recent field that has elicited considerable debate as to its definition, and even its existence as distinct from the larger field of socio-linguistics (Calvet 2005; Bulot et al.   2001; Heller 2005). Given these debates, the theoretical stance of this study needs to be clarified. Simply put, cities are considered as much more than a backdrop to ethnography: Montréal is not just an arrière plan , it   is also the object of study. Hence, what we claim to be doing is more than ethnog-raphy in   the city, but also ethnography of    the city (Fox 1972, 1975; Gulick 1989; Jackson 1985; Kemper 1991; Bier-bach et Bulot 2007; Hannerz 1980). The linguistic and social interactions captured through our research cannot be teased apart from Montréal: the two are intimately interwoven, rising out of a particular history and the place of languages within that history, but also contributing to  what Montréal is today and what it will become tomorrow. Like Heller (2005) and Mondada (2000), we recognize the role of actors and consider their relationship to the city, and to all other structures, as interactive, constructed  within a material and historic context, but not fixed or bound, rather always in evolution. The approach is also multiscalar: the linguistic and social interactions of the city’s inhabitants are understood as constructed locally (Pennycook 2010:128), but also under the effect of larger  4  / Patricia Lamarre  Anthropologica  55 (2013) globalizing trends which are transforming what is con-sidered local. It is within larger processes, always and necessarily in evolution, that actors understand and make sense of their lives, negotiate the everyday, and contribute to the production and reproduction of the world. How then can researchers do   a sociolinguistics of the city? Cities, even midsized ones like Montréal, are a challenge to tackle given their size and complexity. To study a city, we have to reduce and delimit what we are tackling, make it smaller, more manageable, so that it can be apprehended, analyzed, theorized. If we turn to urban anthropology, an older field that has much to offer urban sociolinguistics, we can identify a number of ways of “cutting up” cities: from an “urban ecology” approach looking at “natural” social milieus (Park and Burgess 1925), to “community studies” (Ware 1935; Whyte 1975) and “network” analysis (Bott 1957). Cities can also be broken down into social units, such as the family or street gangs, or approached through ethnographies conducted in specific sites, such as the workplace or the school. Per-tinent as these different types of ethnographic approaches may be, what they share is that they offer “a fragmentary picture of urban reality” (Fox 1977). These studies simply haven’t the capacity to offer us the inherent diversity of how individuals live their daily lives, as Goffman (1959) proposes, a series of performance of parts.Site-bound approaches to the use of languages allow us to learn much about how individuals use languages in specific sites, such as the school, the workplace, or even nightclubs, but these approaches have their limits (Lamarre et al.   2002): they cannot show us how individ-uals draw on their linguistic repertoires according to different social spaces, networks and stakes—in other  words, the diversity of linguistic practices they engage in daily. We are left in the dark as to how these delimited spaces and sites are different from the other spaces vis-ited in the course of the day by any one individual. Yet, movement through the city seems to particularily charac-terize the daily lives of young adults (Amit-Talai 1994) and this has been shown for those living in Montréal, who are often only somewhat attached to the neighbourhoods they return to at the end of the day (Dansereau 1999) and who are likely to move across many neighbourhoods and parts of the city for work, study and leisure activities (Lamarre et al . 2002). Site-bound studies defined by social unit or by network can only capture some of the ways individuals are performing/living their lives and draw on their linguistic resources in the process.  A different approach to urban anthropology and urban sociolinguistics can, however, be imagined as Han-nerz proposes (without seeming to actually believe): “To really study a city as a whole, one would have to take into account all of its people .... Moreover one would have to take them through all domains of activities, not only as they make a living, but also as they run their house-holds, deal with neighbors, brush against each other in the city square, or simply relax” (1980: 297). While Han-nerz’s proposition might at first seem quite impossible to translate into a data collection approach, it actually merits reflection. Without pretending to study all of the popula-tion of the city as they move through all of the spheres of activity (or domains), why not imagine a case study approach that actually follows a small group of people through their daily lives? Why not design an approach to data collection that is not static, not bound by sites, or even by the notion of place, but rather dictated by the participants as they move through their daily lives, dif-ferent sites and spaces, including virtual space (facebook, emailing, textmessaging, etc) and social networks.  An ethnography of this sort, which actually follows participants in their daily trajectories, has much to offer sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology at the data collection level, but also for what it can allow us to examine theoretically through empirical data. Furthermore, it has much to offer the study of Montréal, as an ethnography “on the move” can catch the diversity of an individual’s linguistic practices and how these practices are related to the different stakes, situations and networks encoun-tered within the specific language dynamic of the city. Ver-batim interactions recorded in situ  allowed us to seize the diversity of language practices of young Montréalers, but in order to really probe the stakes of language choice as perceived by participants, we designed an approach that is interactive and reflexive, asking participants to reflect on their language practices during the interviews and also through a form of journal keeping. In an effort to push analysis further, participants were also asked to interpret their own verbatim, giving the reasons for a particular form of language practice, thus allowing them to engage in a reflection on their own multilingual experience, as  well as participate in the preliminary analysis of data. Our approach not only allows the creation of a much less fragmented corpus of data on language practices, it also provides more complex and textured insights into the language dynamic emerging in Montréal. With this non-static approach to data collection, we claim, in effect, to be doing   a sociolinguistics of the city, putting movement and multiplicity at the center of methodology. The time is right for research of this sort in Québec. There are very few studies of multilingualism or of bilingualism, as lived and understood by an important and growing number of Montréal’s population. Ethnographic research of this   Anthropologica  55 (2013) Catching “Montréal on the Move” and Challenging the Discourse of Unilingualism in Québec / 5 sort reveals the politics of language use in the everyday, as well as the discursive and interactional construction of political and ideological positioning. It also challenges some of the taken-for-granted concepts that are used to study language in Québec and Canada. Most research, and particularily demolinguistic research, considers lin-guistic categories as closed and impermeable: you are either a Francophone or an Anglophone or an Allophone (a category that lumps together all speakers of home languages other than French and English). While it has become commonplace to accept hyphenated identities such as Italo-Québécois, Anglo-Montréaler, Polish Can-adian, etc, when it comes to the hyphenation of linguistic traits, an invisible wall goes up. Perhaps because of the potency of language as a distinctive trait of the French-speaking collectivity in Québec’s social and political world, there seems to be an inability to accept linguistic identity as composite or perhaps not even that important in an individual’s sense of self. Research needs to go beyond these traditional conceptions of linguistic identities and examine empirically how a new generation of Montréal-ais are drawing on linguistic and identity repertoires. As  will be taken up in the conclusions to this article, a study of this nature counters the often alarmist public debates on language in Québec, offering a more complex under-standing of language practices, as well as informs our understanding of how larger global transformations play out in localized contexts, reshaping boundaries and stakes defined historically. Methodology The study attempts to catch “Montréal on the move.” To meet this objective, our first challenge was to find strategies for data collection, allowing us to follow the fifteen young adults participating in the study, as they move across settings and social networks in their day-to-day lives, revealing how specific settings elicit different types of language practices and performance of linguistic identity. We also wanted to examine how young multilin-guals make sense of the spaces they cross in the course of the day and position themselves in relation to sites, social networks (in the older sense) and the politics of language and identity, so our second major goal was to build in reflexivity and interactivity in the analysis of find-ings. Our case study approach to data collection can be described as follows:Participants were recruited through existing net- works at the college ( cegep ) level, primarily through stu-dent radio but also through local free newspapers. A few participants proposed friends who were interested, so a small number actually know each other outside of the study. We looked for participants who were of immigrant background, had lived in Montreal for at least five years and were using three or more languages in their daily lives. Efforts were made to keep a balance between male and female participants and socioeconomic status. Follow-ing an introductory meeting to explain what participation in the study entailed and obtain initial consent, we asked the participant to fill in a short questionnaire on his/her background and to write a short biographical account of their life history and acquisition of linguistic resources; to keep field notes in the form of a logbook on how lan-guages are used and when in the course of a week; to draw up a list of the places they frequent within a week and explain what draws them to these different places; and finally, to select a number of emails and text messages to be included in the corpus. The next phase was a semi-directed interview, lasting 90 minutes, in which representations of languages and language use in daily life (with friends, family, at work, in educational settings, on the internet, etc) are explored.  We also asked questions on how spaces in the city are perceived and to help do this we drew on geographical and subway maps of the city of Montreal. At the end of this phase, participants were asked to reflect on what they have learned so far about their own use of languages in Montréal. Thanks to data already generated, a list of places and situations was drawn up in which verbatim  would be digitally recorded. Participants were provided  with a digital recorder to record 12-15 different natural interactions in situ . Participants kept field notes and were asked to provide comments on why they adopted language practices in these different situations. With the research team, field notes were discussed and used to determine  what verbatim would be transcribed by participants. Finally, to complete this phase in data collection, a mem-ber of the research team accompanied the participant in a  walk through a part of the city of the participants’ choos-ing, much like the “go along” technique used to explore neighborhoods in urban geography (Kusenbach 2003). 6   A second semi-directed interview was scheduled (90 minutes). This interview probed data collected through-out the case study, including the verbatim of natural interactions and the initial interpretation of these by par-ticipants. Focus group interviews brought participants together, five at a time, to discuss their experience of the city and of languages as young multilinguals. A final short reflection was requested, in which participants were asked to write about what they learned about languages in Montréal, the city, and about themselves. Case studies usually ran over a period of four months during which we remained closely in touch with
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