McCall defines sociology of language by explaining “Language plays a central role in social relations. Not only are the interactions between people explained and understood in terms of language, but those interactions themselves, more often than not, take on linguistic form. If a society is seen as the coming together of different categories of people to appropriate, organize, produce, distribute, subsist, and in some cases, exclude and oppress other groups, language is central to all these activities.”
Knowing all this we see how important language is in every interaction we make with other people and how important it is to a discipline like sociology. But what exactly does this mean to sociology? It means several things, it means that new languages will disappear and be created in a juxtaposition with culture, and that we can tell that a societal disturbance has occurred by observing a change in language and dialect. McCall uses Scotland as an example having lost its original language and having it replaced with “Scottish” an English dialect because the English had conquered them.
McCall’s study of the Quebec work place has produced some interesting results. In his study his objective was to find out how much use of the French language was actually going on in the workplace, in a social context and a professional context. What he found varied according to the industry and position within the company itself. McCall describes three different economic situations that industries workers are in. Textiles, aerospace and pharmaceuticals are used as examples. When the lowest payed of all, the textile workers were examined McCall’s research determined that a difficulty communicating is such an environment was actually beneficial to the employer because work time was not wasted with employees talking. The work environment itself is not very conducive to communication anyway, with loud machines making talk difficult.
Better payed blue collar workers in the aerospace industry mostly speak French, however, due to the technical nature of the work they do, (all technical manuals are English) all of the acronyms and technical wording they use is English, and at times is incomprehensible to anyone outside the industry. McCall points out that French language use is on the rise in the workplace because of structural changes, but points out that the conceptual process is almost entirely English, not because of a lack of French engineers, but because the market has always been traditionally English and does not change.
In the pharmaceuticals industry, which is mostly white-collar work, much of the same phenomenon has occurred as for aerospace workers. Those whose mother tongue was French, admitted that French was almost only used for social interactions. Like the aerospace industry, when two French speakers spoke to each other, English technical terms were used, but using French’s structure to communicate.
What McCall concludes is that this is symptomatic of a hierarchical system between two language groups. English being used for the rich and French for the working class, those that have a command of neither go to the bottom of economic food chain.
In a bilingual Canada this should not happen. However, Canada is not bilingual, and it does not desire to be. McRoberts details the history of Canada’s attempt at National bilingualism.
With the Pearson government came changes in language policy, and over the next three decades of language training and making federal institutions bilingual. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (or the B&B Commission) had many difficulties in implementing their suggestions; Trudeau’s government had no desire to see any of the B;B Commission’s suggestions implemented, but did succeed in making Ottawa bilingual. Despite these difficulties, much progress was made and the federal government has become a basically bilingual institution, political leaders now must be bilingual, as well as any government official that needs to be in the public eye. Most public institutions can offer bilingual service, and many areas of industry have seen a growth of francophones in them where they never existed before.
One of the difficulties that Bilingualism faced in Canada was that individual bilingualism was favoured over institutional bilingualism. What effect this had was that many people learned to speak French, but were completely unable to practice it. It was impractical for people to learn French when no one they interacted with spoke the language. Meanwhile in Quebec people needed to bilingual if they wanted to speak with anyone else on the continent and pushing Bilingualism in Quebec seemed redundant.
The B&B Commission had many possible interpretations of linguistic rights that it could suggest but the two most important ones are “territorial” and “personality” principle. The territorial principle is that bilingual institution should exist where the French or English population warrants them, so for example a bilingual post office would not be necessary in rural Saskatchewan or in rural Quebec. Personality principle states that language rights are the same throughout the country McRoberts states “The personality principle attaches uniform rights to citizenship and facilitates movement across a country. It favours geographically dispersed linguistic groups: however few in number the members of a language group may be in any locality they possess the full set of language rights. The territorial principle, on the other hand, offers language groups the security that comes from effective dominance over certain regions. In effect, a language group trades minority rights in one region for majority rights in another. Simply put, personality favours minorities; territoriality favours majorities” After much research they decided to use the personality approach, while conceding to some territorial ideas as well.
Incidentally, Quebec felt threatened that it was losing its culture to the rest of North America, and started a vigorous territorial policy to protect itself. The rest of Canada felt betrayed, many Canadians had begun to feel that this was part of the Canadian identity and when Quebec abandoned it, many English Canadians felt like they were rejecting their culture. In turn they abandoned their bilingualism plans, and Ottawa’s bilingualism plan failed. What we have now is not what anyone planned, but it is quite acceptable, federal institutions are bilingual (personality) and provincial institutions are typically unilingual (territorial.)
Kymlicka compares Federal multiculturalism, which promoted individual rights, which is very left wing, and Quebec interculturalism which supports group rights in a right wing manner. He conceded that neither argument is better, but “it multiculturalism is arguably the only approach that is truly consistent with liberal-democratic values.”
Comparing it to McCall’s article we see how the steps Quebec took towards interculturalism was necessary if Quebec desired to continue having a Francophone culture. McCall demonstrates that French was in the decline in several important areas of industry and that English is the dominant language. “The confining of French to social and factory-linked communication and the almost exclusive use of English in white-collar (language) work is linked to the historical dominance of English-speakers among those owning and running private companies in Quebec.” McRoberts says as much about the necessity of these changes in the realm of government “The Bourassa government had been forced to recognize that abandonment of official bilingualism and the personality principle were almost unavoidable response to linguistic conditions in Quebec.” These conditions were a lowering of birth rates in Quebec and the fact that most immigrants chose to learn English over French, this threatened French’s traditional 80 percent majority in Quebec.
We would imagine that McRoberts and Kymlicka would have an interesting conversation if they got together, because it seems like they disagree on what should be done. Perhaps not, Kymlicka seems to be solely explaining why Canadians prefer multiculturalism, and how to make it work, in the quote I used, we note that he does not encourage a change from liberal-democratic views, and multiculturalism is very liberal-democratic.
McRoberts however takes a more socialist stance and justifies Quebec’s intercultural changes. ” it the B&B Commission had proposed that concerted governmental action be taken to strengthen the place of French in the Quebec economy it was struggling to address the full reality of the French language in Canada” and he criticises the Federal government for ignoring the B&B Commission’s proposals.
Kymlicka would see the angry anglophones in the film Neverendum Referendum as not understanding the limits of multiculturalism and that only public debate can truly assuage their fears and doubts. If questioned about Quebec separatists he would say “Whether there is a real danger of intra-group oppression within Indian (or Qubcois) societies is open to considerable debate, although I suspect any such danger is overstated.” McCall on the other hand would have considerably more to say on the subject, he argues that Quebec, and more specifically Montreal is on the verge of a breaking point where two competing languages vie for superiority. The actions of the Quebec government have stopped the French language from disappearing, however global pressures continue English’s dominance in Quebec especially the way he point out that white collar work is done almost exclusively in French. The angry anglophones would probably argue about the loss of their rights with sign laws and law 101. Both McCall and Kymlicka would probably argue that these steps were necessary to keep Quebec francophone communities viable.
In all these articles create a wealth of information about what is happening with French and English in Canada, Quebec, and Montreal. With what we’ve read we can explain what is happening to industry, politics and society in general by these important language issues. We also have a good grasp of linguistic history in Canada, and the historical causes for all these critical issues in our presently multicultural Canada.
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