The Canadian linguistic situation has traditionally been characterized, from the beginning, by the opposition between English, the dominant language and culture in all respects, and the French of groups scattered throughout the territory, but concentrated mainly in Quebec.
Starting from the English conquest in 1760, perhaps the main problem of the territories that would later form the Dominion del Canada was in fact that of the large presence of populations of French language and culture: the approximately 65,000 residents of the time, almost all concentrated in the current province of Québec, they were of French origin. With the American war of independence there was a strong immigration of ” loyal ” American colonists, who did not want to join the revolution: it is estimated that their number was at the beginning of the century. 19 0around 80,000 units, mainly allocated in the newly colonized territories of Upper Canada or Ontario (where they were joined by other colonists of Anglo-Saxon origin; for other information on the history of Canada, see VIII, p. 647 ff.). It should only be underlined that as early as 1806, following this process of Anglicization, with the foundation of the French newspaper Le Canadien, the first national campaign in defense of the Francophonie began with the motto “Nos institutions, notre langue et nos lois”.
Subsequently, the economy and trade passed into the hands of the Anglo-Saxon element and industrialization was promoted by the large British and then American companies, for which English, in addition to being the language of the federal administration and of most of the provinces, it also became the language of economics. Since this century, US influence has become absolutely predominant in almost every field.
Currently, the western provinces are strongly characterized by a massive English linguistic and cultural presence (with the exception of New Brunswick, which “is the most completely bilingual and bicultural part of Canada, and perhaps the only province in which the policy of bilingualism of the federal government would have been able to function in the predetermined ways “, Wardhaugh 1983), while Quebec is increasingly claiming its French identity both linguistically and culturally. However Montreal has a notable presence within it, not only Anglophone, but also of other ethnic groups. In Ontario, where there is also a considerable French minority (especially along the border with Quebec), English is definitely predominant as a language and as a cultural model: current multiculturalism is mainly due to the influence of Toronto and appears to be, after all, a recent phenomenon (after the Second World War); in the rest of Canada the English language is predominant.
In 1971 in Quebec 79% of the population claimed to be of French ethnic origin, 39% in New Brunswick, around 10% in the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba. Outside Quebec, the rate of assimilation of French Canadians to the English culture and language is considerable: in Ontario alone, more than half of those who declare themselves of French origin are no longer French-speaking.
The English widespread in Canada is essentially that in use in the United States, to the point that one begins to distinguish between a type of ” English ” pronunciation, British, but also South African and Australian, and an ” American ” one, which also includes Canadian use; the latter is characterized by the so-called ” canadian raising ” whereby, for example, / ai / and / au / followed by a deaf consonant resolve into [ei], [eu], like house [ heus]; for this the Americans argue that Canadians pronounce “oot” (ie [eut]) for out.
On the other hand, the French of Canada has two main varieties, that of Québec and that of Akkadian, the latter spoken mainly in New Brunswick. On the whole, the phonetic system of Québec is very close to that of standard French; however a characteristic of Québec is the diphthongization especially of the nasal and long non-closed oral vowels, as well as the palatalization and subsequent affrication of the dental occlusives in front of / i /, / y /, and corresponding semivowels: emblematic also for linguistic discussions is in this respect the word joual, equivalent to the standard French cheval. The lexicon components are very interesting, with correspondences with other French dialects, with borrowings from Amerindian languages, above all toponyms including Canada itself (“village”), and obviously from English, also with many casts and sometimes with official reaction neoformations to Anglicism. Very important in this regard, starting from the 1960s, a series of official interventions at the level of linguistic programming, among which law 101 approved by the National Assembly of Quebec on August 26, 1977, which created the Office de la Langue Française with the aim of “defining and conducting Québec’s policy on linguistic research and terminology and to ensure that French becomes as soon as possible the language of communications, work, commerce, and business in the Administration and in companies”.
Alongside the two main ethnic groups, following immigration, substantial nuclei of other origins have formed: in 1961, out of a population of over 18 million residents, 8 million were of Anglo-Celtic origin, 5.5 million French, over one million German and about 500,000 of Italian, Ukrainian and Dutch origin respectively (slightly lower than the figures for immigrants of Polish and Scandinavian origin); the 1984 data estimate the population of Italian origin to be at least 748,000 units, which represents about 3% of the total population (just over 25 million).
To the historical conditions of bilingualism and biculturalism are therefore came to flank much more complex situations and articulated: right between the documents produced by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and biculturalism appeared in 1970 a volume specifically dedicated to The cultural contribution of the other ethnic groups, the whose indications, adopted by the federal government, have led to the policy of “multiculturalism in a bilingual context”. In particular, the Commission recommended that “the teaching of languages other than French and English and related cultural subjects should be incorporated as an option in the public primary school curriculum, provided that there is sufficient demand for such classes. “.
Thus there was a series of measures by the various provinces, starting from 1971 with Alberta; in 1977 Ontario established the Heritage languages program and in 1978 the Program de l’enseignement des langues d’origine began in Quebec, which also covers Italian: already in January 1979 the Heritage program in Toronto alone had 27,000 students enrolled for Italian, which in 1983-84 had risen to over 36,000 (out of a total of just under 90,000), while in Quebec on the same date almost 80% of enrollments in the “Languages of origin “concerned Italian.