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César asks if I can write a little about Acadian French and Chiac on OffQc.

I haven’t spent enough time around speakers of Acadian French to be able to do here what I do with Québécois French. But what if we took a look from time to time at some of Lisa LeBlanc’s music? In this way, maybe you can infer certain things about Lisa LeBlanc’s variety of French without me having to explicitly say things like “this is Acadian.”

First, let’s return to Lisa LeBlanc’s song Câlisse-moi là. (You can read what câlisse-moi là means here.) We’ll look at another song of hers farther down.

In this song, you’ll very clearly hear the “aww” sound made by the accented â when Lisa pronounces the word câlisse. This sound is also used in Québec. It’s the sound you’ll hear in words like pâtes, fâché and ramasser.

There are three things in this song that strike me as less Québécois and more the variety of French spoken by Lisa LeBlanc, who, remember, is not from Québec but New Brunswick:

1. so
2. j’te bette
3. rolled r

1. so

We looked at Lisa’s use of the word so in her chorus here. Remember, the Québécois say faque instead of so, or at least this is the case in cities like Montréal and Québec. You can also hear so among franco-Ontarian speakers who live farther away from the borders of Québec.

2. j’te bette

In one line, Lisa sings: j’te bette que t’es pas game, or “I bet (you) that you’re not game.” Here, game means “willing,” and this informal usage is also used in Québec. On the other hand, I’d say that the verb most frequently used in Québec in the sense of “to bet” is gager. In Québec, you could say: j’te gage que t’es pas game.

3. rrrrr

Listen to how Lisa pronounces words like rut, vrai and peureux. Can you hear her rolled r? In Montréal, that rolled r used to be in common use up until about the middle of the 1900s. The rolled r today, in Montréal, is associated with older speakers. From what I understand, the rolled r is standard in Acadian French.

Here’s another song by Lisa LeBlanc that you might like: J’pas un cowboy.

Let’s look at these four parts of her song:

1. j’pas
2. pogner
3. tavarne
4. but j’feel

1. j’pas

If you’ve been reading OffQc for a while, you know very well that je suis often contracts to chu. Je ne suis pas un cowboy can be said informally as chu pas un cowboy.

Lisa takes the contraction one step further and pronounces je suis just as a ch sound, which is shown in the title of her song as j’. The j’pas in her title (which means je [ne] suis pas) sounds like chpâ. This can also be heard in Québec.

2. pogner

In one line, Lisa sings about a cowboy hat. She says: pis un chapeau que j’ai pogné à St-Tite, or “and a hat that I picked up in St-Tite.”

St-Tite is in Québec. Every year, there’s a western festival held there.

If you’ve been following along with OffQc for a while, you must be experts in the verb pogner by now, especially in the book title Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer written by Maude Schiltz.

The verb pogner, used very frequently in Québec, usually takes on the sense of “to catch.” Here, in this song, we can say it means “to pick up.”

3. tavarne

Listen to how Lisa pronounces taverne. It sounds like tavarne, right? Pronouncing ar instead of er is often associated with older speakers in Québec. For example, to the ears of someone from Montréal, la porte varte est ouvarte (meaning la porte verte est ouverte) sounds rural or spoken by an older person.

The exception, in Québec, is with vulgar words, which conserve the ar sound in all age groups, like marde, tabarnak and viarge.

When Lisa says tavarne (taverne), it rhymes with farme (ferme) in the line before it. It’s unclear to me if this pronunciation is standard in her variety of French, or if she’s chosen this pronunciation as a stylistic element to sound more folksy. I can’t comment on the social perception of the ar sound (as opposed to er) in Acadian French. If you know something about this, feel free to comment.

4. but j’feel

Lisa says: but j’feel toute seule en calvaire, or “but I feel as lonely as hell.” In Québec, “but” is definitely said as mais. This line would sound perfectly québécois said instead as: mais j’feel toute seule en calvaire.

The verb feeler (also spelled as filer) comes to French via English, and is only used informally. J’feel cheap. I feel bad. I feel like a low-life. J’feel pas ben. I don’t feel good.

We saw in entry #803 (Ma vie, c’est de la marde) the expression en esti, where the comic strip character says: il fait beau en esti, or “it’s fucking nice out.” The expression en calvaire works the same way: j’feel toute seule en calvaire.

There are other elements for us to look at in this song, but let’s leave some stuff for future entries! 😉

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Who you callin’ a pwèsson?

Angela asks about how she heard words containing oi pronounced in folk music, like the word soir.

Read this text:

Ce soir on va boire, moi et toi! On va manger des poires, et conter des histoires! Voir c’est croire!

Now read it again, like this:

Ce swèr on va bwère, moé pis toé! On va manger des pwères, pis conter des histwères! Wère c’est crère!

This is obviously an exaggerated example, but these pronunciations do exist.

What is this madness? Isn’t poire supposed to be pronounced like poire and boire like boire?

Well, yeah… but I think it was Confucius who said, “He who lives in a freezer for half the year will start saying weird shit.”

Anyway, the pronunciations in that second example (swèr, bwère, crère, etc.) sound more typical of certain older speakers. Younger speakers would say soir, boire, croire, etc.

I don’t suggest you start pronouncing words like in that second example. Just learn to recognise them. On the other hand, for those of you doing traditional music, you may want to consider incorporating those pronunciations for the folkloric effect they produce when you sing.

That second example came from a university essay posted online. The author also mentions how those pronunciations are perceived: Aujourd’hui au Québec (…) cette pronunciation est jugée vulgaire, ouvrière, campagnarde, de mauvais goût, etc. (Today in Québec, this pronunciation is felt to be crude, working class, rural, low class, etc.).

Obviously the people who use this pronunciation don’t give a hoot, but you should be aware of how they may be perceived by others. This is why I don’t suggest you adopt this pronunciation when speaking.

Angela also notices a curious expression that comes up in the folk songs she listens to: ô gué!

Ô gué! is an exclamation of happiness or gayness (or should it be guéness?). Not gayness as in Gay Pride gayness, but gayness as in Isn’t Life Just Dandy gayness.

Remember what “gay” meant before it became associated with homosexuality? It meant happy, joyful, blissful… That’s what gué conveys here. If you hear it in a song, it just means the singers are feeling pretty gay.

This isn’t a modern use though, and you’re not going to hear anybody say that while out and about in Montréal — unless of course someone suddenly decided to bust out a folk song while sucking back a calorie-laden caffeine meal disguised as a beverage at Starbucks. Ô gué!

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