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[zhoo-al, -ahl]
Joual is the common name for the linguistic features of basilectal Quebec French that are associated with the French-speaking working class in Montreal which has become a symbol of national identity for a large number of artists from that area. Speakers of Quebec French from outside Montreal usually have other names to identify their speech, such as Magoua in Trois-Rivières and Chaouin South of Trois-Rivières. Linguists reserve the term Joual for the basilectal variety of Quebec French spoken in Montreal.

Attitudes towards "joual" range from stigma to exaltation depending on forms and components of human communication such as social setting (formal/informal; public/private), channel (spoken vs. written; broadcast) and so on. "Joual" is often understood to have become a sociolect of the Québécois working class. However, it can no longer be strictly considered as such given two major events in the latter half of the 20th century: upward socio-economic mobility among the Québécois, and a cultural renaissance around Joual connected to the Quebec sovereignty movement in the Montreal East-End. At the beginning of the 20th century, "joual" was at best a kind of Creole that also fitted the description of a diatype more than any other categorization. Today, many Québécois who were raised in Quebec during the last century (command of English notwithstanding) can understand and speak at least some "joual".

Origin of the name joual

Although coinage of the name joual is often attributed to French Canadian journalist André Laurendeau, usage of this term throughout French-speaking Canada predates the 1930s.

The actual word joual is the representation of how the word cheval (horse) is pronounced by those who speak "joual". Cheval is usually pronounced as one syllable, [ʃval], by all francophones in the Francophonie. With this in mind, in the chain of speech some vowels and consonants undergo changes due to their environment. In the case of [ʃval], the Voiceless postalveolar fricative [ʃ] was voiced to become a Voiced postalveolar fricative [ʒ], thereby creating [ʒval]. Next, the [v] at the beginning of a syllable in some regional dialects of French or even in very rapid speech in general weakens to become the semi-vowel [w] written "ou". The end result is the word [ʒwal] transcribed as joual.

Most notable or stereotypical linguistic features

Joual French English
toé toi you or "ya"
moé moi me
m'a je vais I will
chus je suis I'm or "Ahm"
tu es (t'es) you're or "yer"
ché je sais I know
pantoute pas du tout not at all
pis puis / et puis then / "So what?" / and
y il he or "'e"
a elle she
ouais or ouin oui yeah or "yep"
y'a il y a there's or "there're"
icitte ici here
ben bien well / very / many (context)
s'a sur la on the 'xyz' (feminine)
su'l sur le on the 'xyz' (masculine)
enté cas en tous cas in any case / anyways
t'sé tu sais y'know
nuitte nuit night
dé-hors dehors outside
boutte bout end, tip
litte lit bed
Han? hein ? eh? huh? or what?
eille hey you
frette froid cold
fa fait make or do
fak donc (ça fait que) so, therefore
mék lorsque (from old French « mais que ») as soon as
dins dans les in the
s'pas ce n'est pas it's not
end'ssous en dessous under

Diphthongs are normally present where long vowels would be present in standard French.

Although moé and toé are today considered substandard slang pronunciations, these were the pronunciations of Old French and French used by the kings of France, the aristocracy and the common people in all provinces of Northern France. After the 1789 French Revolution, the standard pronunciation in France changed to that of a stigmatized form in the speech of Paris, but Quebec retained the historically "correct" one, having been isolated from the Revolution by the 1760 British Conquest of New France.

Joual shares many features with modern Oïl languages, such as Norman, Gallo, Picard, Poitevin and Saintongeais though its affinities are greatest with the 17th century koiné of Paris. Speakers of these languages of France predominated among settlers to New France.

Another outstanding characteristic of Joual is the use of profanity called sacre in everyday speech.

English loanwords

There are a number of English loanwords in joual although they have been stigmatised since the 1960s:

  • Bécosse: From backhouse, used generally in the sense of a bathroom. Unlike most borrowing, this one can sometimes be seen written, usually as shown here.
  • Bicycle or bécik: Bicycle
  • Bike or bécik: Motorbike
  • Blood: Compliment, as in "Té Blood" (You're all right). Rarely used today.
  • Braker: or [bʁeke]. Verb meaning "to brake".
  • Breaker: [bʁeke]. Circuit breaker (disjoncteur). Still very often used nowadays.
  • Caller: [kale]. Verb meaning to phone someone.
  • Checker or chequé: Verb meaning to check something.
  • Coat: Winter jacket (only for the clothing item), never in the sense of "layer".
  • Chum: Most often in the sense of boyfriend, often simply as a male friend of a male.
  • Dumper: [dɔ̃pe]. To throw in the trash, to deposit something, or to break up with someone. --Usually actually spelled and pronounced "domper".
  • Enfirouaper: To cheat someone. This comes from "in fur wrap". Centuries ago, fur traders would sell a ballot of fur, actually filled with cardboard in the middle.
  • Frencher: [fʁɛnʃe]. To French-kiss.
  • Fucker le chien: . Can be used to imply that something is difficult to do or to indicate a problem.
  • Fuse
  • Fuser: To fart.
  • Gas: [gɑz]. In the sense of fuel or in the sense of flatulence.
  • Lift: Only used in the sense of giving a lift to someone in one's vehicle.
  • Mossel: Muscle.
  • Peppermint, usually pronounced like pepper men
  • Pinotte: Peanuts. Unlike most other borrowings, this one is sometimes seen written, usually spelled like here. (also a street slang for amphetamines)
  • les States: . Used when referring to the USA.
  • Tinque : Usually [tɛ̃k]. Used in the sense of "container": Tinque à gaz [fuel tank]
  • Toaster: Grille-pain
  • Tough
  • Truck
  • Suit: Coat.
  • Ski-doo: Snowmobile (name of a Bombardier trademark that meant ski-dog).
  • Some words were also previously thought to be of English origin, although modern research has shown them to be from regional French dialects:
    • Pitoune (log, cute girl, loose girl): previously thought to come from "happy town" although the word "pitchoune" exists in dialects from southern France and means "cute girl".
    • Poutine: was thought to come from "pudding", but some have drawn a parallel with the Languedocian word "poudingo", a stew made of scraps, which was (in Montreal) the previous use of the term.


    See also

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