After developing the Usito online dictionary, linguistics professors from the Université de Sherbrooke are now launching a new Web platform to document the evolution of written and spoken French in Quebec. An effort that aims to make Quebecers proud of their language, whether colloquial or literary.

Still embryonic for the time being, the Quebec Linguistic Data Fund will be punctuated over the next few months with thousands of extracts from newspaper archives, passages from works and old recordings to reflect the evolution of the Quebec language since the 19th century  .

Staff at the Université de Sherbrooke are working, among other things, on digitizing the audio frames of hundreds of interviews conducted by linguists in the 1960s with Quebecers of modest origins. When they will be online, in a few months, they will thus make it possible to hear a play of which there are not many traces left today, since it was practically absent from radio and television at the time.. It will therefore be a rare opportunity to compare the popular dialects of yesteryear and today.

“All aspects of the language are changing, the pronunciation, the choice of words… One thing you can see among other things is how the language has evolved in different ways between regions. But to do that, you need data. And that’s what the platform is for: to perpetuate all the data that we had and which were fragile”, explains Wim Remysen, director of the Center for interuniversity research on French in use in Quebec (CRIFUQ) and instigator of the project. .

Popular and neat languages

The Quebec Linguistic Data Fund seeks above all to simplify the lives of researchers who study the history of the Quebec language. But Remysen wanted the digital platform to be accessible to the average speaker.

That said, it should not be seen, however, as a form of collection to the glory of the joual from yesterday to today, warns the professor of sociolinguistics at the University of Sherbrooke. Normative language and literary written language have also changed a lot in Quebec, as evidenced by the many excerpts from books, chronicles, speeches and even comic strips that the University of Sherbrooke has gotten its hands on.

Neat French is also part of the Quebec language, which is too often limited to joual and other patois, regrets Mr. Remysen. “It is important to remember that French in Quebec is not just about the most familiar manifestations. […] We may have the reflex to lose sight of the fact that Quebec French also stands out in its neat register,” he notes.

The platform, designed as a search engine, is intended to reflect the richness and diversity of Quebec’s “linguistic heritage”. Eventually, the researchers associated with it would like to highlight the important regional differences. Data devoted to the language spoken in Estrie and Mauricie are already accessible on the platform, and a corpus from the Magdalen Islands should soon be added.

The Legault government announced last September the granting of a grant of $4.5 million for the realization of this project.

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