Mapping the french language
France Martineau, full professor in the Département de français, is leading the most extensive research project to date on the evolution of French in North America.
Le français à la mesure d’un continent [the French language across a continent] looks at the past, present and future of francophone communities in North America by recording their stories and identifying the distinctive linguistic characteristics of each community.
“French isn’t used the same way in all francophone communities. For example, the word espérer means to hope in Quebec, yet in Acadia and Louisiana, it means to wait,” explains Martineau.
Close to 100 fellow researchers and other partners from Canada, the United States and Europe are involved, as well as approximately 40 universities from around the world.
Martineau also examines the links among the francophone communities themselves and the bonds they share with anglophone and allophone communities. For example, how has French been adopted by non-francophone communities in Canada? What roles do families and schools play in maintaining the French language in francophone minority communities?
“This is a multidisciplinary project that brings together experts from many disciplines, including history, anthropology, sociology, linguistics and education. Our researchers look at the evolution of the French language with fresh perspectives. This has implications for not only francophones in North America but also members of the international francophone community,” she says.
By sharing their findings in real time through the use of the online corpus FRAN, Martineau and her team have become world research leaders in studying the French language.