En français, mais quel français ?
August 8, 2017 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Français de nos régions. A website (100% in French) that looks at variations in French as spoken in France (and within France), Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec and Canada, and in the French-speaking Caribbean. It discusses and maps issues such as whether that chocolate-filled pastry is called a pain au chocolat or chocolatine, the word used for "mobile phone", how "80" is actually spoken in Belgium and Switzerland , Germanisms found in Swiss French such as stempf or poutzer, which regions of France pronounce the final letters in persil, encens, moins and vingt, and so on.

Data comes from university research studies and is accompanied by some commentary. The authors are university professors or professional linguists.
posted by andrewesque (38 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
(As mentioned, the website is 100% in French, with no English translations. But I'd guess/I'm hoping that the overlap between "interested in French regional vocabulary/linguistic differences" and "can read French well enough to understand website" is pretty high.)
posted by andrewesque at 12:44 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

I'm glad they mention explicitly that they'd like more survey data from Acadian French speakers. Even though I took French Immersion in the maritimes we never had any serious time spent on how Acadians actually spoke differently from Quebec and France francophones.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:12 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

Merci bien, c'est chouette !
posted by zompist at 1:14 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

Très intéressant! I wish they had data on Francophone Africa, but maybe that'll come soon!
posted by ChuraChura at 1:15 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

That last link on persil, encens, moins, vingt was supposed to be this one.
posted by andrewesque at 1:17 PM on August 8

No Africa? There are quite a few African nations where French is the native language. Seems strange to leave out 120 million people (almost twice the population of France).

There's even an African dialect of French that is becoming popular there: Français Populaire Africain
posted by eye of newt at 1:26 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

French kids are nuts: "Touche pas à mes gosses!"
posted by Kabanos at 1:38 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]

Octante? Huitante? Why was I never taught this controversy?
posted by GuyZero at 1:43 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

It did sound quite strange to my Quebecois ears to hear the year pronounced as mil neuf-cent nonante-quatre the year I went to Belgium. But they thought we were crazy to simply multiply numbers together instead of giving them proper names, which is a point I did have to concede to them. Still, it was quite jarring every time I heard someone say those numbers.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 2:12 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

I was more than a little surprised when I heard téléphone intelligent in Montreal when I visited recently, even though it was the first time I'd been in a French speaking place since the advent of what the European French call a smartphone.
posted by ambrosen at 2:30 PM on August 8

TIL about l’Hexagone, which is apparently common. But really awesome. Thanks!
posted by lumpenprole at 2:33 PM on August 8

C'est fantastique! I particularly loved the entry on débarouler, which I picked up as slang while living in Grenoble. I had no idea that it isn't commonly used in the rest of France, it's such a great word (and of course, a necessary word when you live in the land of ski).
posted by basalganglia at 2:40 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

totally fascinating! The maps could bear to be made clickable/zoomable, but zooming the page view works.

The whole thing about huitante versus octante for 'eighty' was super-interesting! I learned my French in Lausanne, and left to my own devices definitely use "octante" because it seems to fit with "septante" better. However the data clearly indicates that I was not paying sufficient attention to my dialect, as the form "huitante" is *completely* dominant in the Suisse Romande. I actually had to think for a long time to figure out which form I used naturally.

Wish they had some map data on la Louisiane for comparison to the to interesting stuff about Quebec and Montreal.
posted by mwhybark at 3:18 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

I learned French in a bilingual school in the US, starting in Kindergarten. I left before high school, though, and haven't been in an immersive environment since (though I did take courses in high school and at the start of college). Looking at this makes me realize how unopinionated I've become about "correct" French.

Except for chocolatine. That's wrong.
posted by waninggibbon at 3:24 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

basalganglia, the slang stuff was so interesting to me as well!

Most of the terms they explored were new to be - I doubt very much I have ever heard someone use "debarouler" - but often my first guess as to the meaning of the word was correct, which leads me to furrow my brow regarding my level of fluency. I rarely speak or read French with anyone but do still slip back and forth between it and English in my head. I imagine by now that very isolated French voice has grown some extremely idiosyncratic expressions, vocabulary, and grammar.

"espanter" was an example that I was surprised to grok at all, since the form has roots in dialects I have no apparent exposure to. It's pretty clearly related to "epater", as cited in the article, but appears to have been comprehensible to me because of my occasional use of the English phrase "twitterpated," meaning excitedly confused, a high-energy befuddlement.

I also was amused by the octante/huitante piece using the collective noun "twittos" to, I believe, designate persons that use Twitter, although from context it could also mean a group of tweets, I guess.
posted by mwhybark at 3:28 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

C'est trés cool, ça! Je vais partager avec le FB!
posted by From Bklyn at 3:39 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

No Africa?
This is a series of scientific projects funded by European and Canadian public institutions and based on internet-based surveys, each project targetting a specific area: Metropolitan France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Americas (USA, Canada, The Caribbean). Two of the main authors, Mathieu Avanzi (who has been posting the maps on r/France for a year or so) and André Thibault, give lectures and have written about African French, so they probably want to expand the surveys to Francophone Africa at one point, but 1) Africa is big and diverse and 2) the penetration of internet in subsaharan Francophone Africa, while booming, is still relatively low (compared to Nigeria or Kenya for instance), so the authors would have to rethink the web-based survey methodology to get usable results. They could probably do North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) though.
posted by elgilito at 3:52 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

I was listening to French rap for awhile and ended up bookmarking this site which is kind of an urban dictionary in French. I'm too afraid to use any slang for fear of sounding like HOW DO YOU DO, FELLOW KIDS? (Comment vas tus, jeunes camarades?)
posted by AFABulous at 4:26 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

Anyway, in addition to African French, verlan should definitely be mentioned.
posted by AFABulous at 4:29 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]

It is interesting to see how variable the usage is in Canada.

Wait chocolatine is a real thing? I honestly thought it was a made up thing for chain restaurants or something. Pain au chocolat for ever! I've heard croissant au chocolate but I usually only use it when the pastry is actually crescent shaped.

And the words for running shoes... I reveal that I'm old by using the word running shoes (with a French twang) or simply souliers instead of the hip sounding espadrilles.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:33 PM on August 8

> No Africa? There are quite a few African nations where French is the native language.

Actually, there are none, though there are some where it is an official language (mainly used to reinforce the eliteness of the elites and keep out the hoi polloi). French never achieved great penetration in any of the countries they colonized; in Senegal, for instance, it's Wolof that became the lingua franca, used all over the country by people who use their native language in their village and Wolof outside it. Africans in general tend to be very multilingual, a fact often overlooked/ignored by outsiders trying to compile statistics and create neat categories. (I just finished editing a book on language in Africa, so I'm up to the minute on this stuff!)
posted by languagehat at 5:55 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]

Oh, et bien sur: merci, andrewesque!
posted by languagehat at 5:56 PM on August 8

It's a pain au chocolat. there's no discussion or even a war, it's pain au chocolat and that's it. Chocolatines do not exist you hear, it's not a thing and it'll never be a thing !
posted by SageLeVoid at 6:03 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

Inasmuch as they share a continent and even a province with a bunch of English speakers, I would imagine the Québécois would be cool with just calling it a "chocolate croissant".
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:19 PM on August 8

I enjoyed this one as it gave me the opportunity to waffle about two languages I know imperfectly at the same time. Seriously, I don't see how they go from "Dutch kunnen caused people to switch from pouvoir to savoir!" unless it's some sort of wack pouvoir [translated to] kunnen [mistaken for] kennen [translated to] savoir chain but that would be wrong, because kennen would become connaître, not savoir, and these are not cats who no longer recognize how to walk because they have hurt paws, they are cats who no longer know how to walk.

Really I was just taken in by the cat example.
posted by sldownard at 11:28 PM on August 8

Inasmuch as they share a continent and even a province with a bunch of English speakers, I would imagine the Québécois would be cool with just calling it a "chocolate croissant".

Oh hell no. At least not according to the government.
French language office of Quebec (wikipedia)
French language police take issue with ‘grilled cheese’ in restaurant name
posted by lookoutbelow at 11:55 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]

Africans in general tend to be very multilingual, a fact often overlooked/ignored by outsiders trying to compile statistics and create neat categories.
It reminds me of a situation I read in a book about multilinguism (it's from memory so not exactly precise). So there's this kid growing up in a small village in Africa. 1) The kid speaks the language of the mother's village. 2) Because it is customary for wives to live in their husband's village, the kid speaks the language of the father's village. 3) The village is in a area where a major African language is a lingua franca, so the kid speaks this language. 4) The kid goes shopping to the market where foreign merchants speak another African vehicular language (say Swahili), so it's necessary to learn this one. 5) The kid goes to the madrasa, and thus learns some Arabic. 6) One of the country's official languages is French or English (for administration and education), so the kid knows one of these.
posted by elgilito at 3:04 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]

I hadn't realized that the odd little switching to base 20 also happens in parts of Italy as well. In fairness for folks mocking the use of four-twenties for eighty, the "ty" stands in for "ten", so eighty in English is eight-tens. Or for that matter dix-sept is the same construction as seven-te(e)n. What had always cracked me up about counting in French was swapping out into base twenty after getting more than half the way to a hundred.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:56 AM on August 9

I wonder if this is why people always ask my mom where she's from and act surprised when she says Belgium, apparently not recognizing her Belgian (Waloon) accent is French. (Or maybe people don't know what a Belgium is.)
posted by Room 641-A at 6:08 AM on August 9

The guys I worked with in Cote d'Ivoire spoke French (administrative language, language of education), Dioula ("lingua franca"), Guere (regional language), and either Oubi and/or Dao (ethnic group's language). They also all studied another language in school - German, Spanish, or English. The younger guys also use nouchi, which is an Ivorian slang that originated in Abidjan and incorporates French, English, and a bunch of Ivorian languages (especially Dioula and Malinke). It makes the older men wince, but it's fun. On s'attrape, mon gar.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:23 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]

So there's this kid growing up in a small village in Africa...

My French professor in university was like that! He was from Cameroon and spoke his mother's language, his father's language, French, English, Arabic, and a lingua franca. He seemed bemused by our difficulty in picking up a second tongue.
posted by Stonkle at 6:24 AM on August 9

Also I love huitante and I'm going to try to get away with that instead of quatre-vingts.
posted by Stonkle at 6:27 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]

I love this sort of thing! The universities of Liège and Salzburg have something similar for German, called Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache (Atlas of Everyday German). It’s less pretty than the FPP and they don’t make much of an effort to present their findings as part of a narrative, but it’s still a lot of fun to browse through. As someone whose native language is Austrian German, but who’s been living in Germany for three years, the number of times this site makes me go “wait, other people don’t use this very common word?” is still surprisingly high.
posted by wachhundfisch at 7:53 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]

Hmmm... Africans who immigrate to America tend to have the highest educational attainment of any group including native-born Americans. I'm sure there are lots of factors, but I wonder if exposure to a variety of languages is one of them, since learning them early increases connections in the brain.
posted by AFABulous at 8:15 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]

The Italian examples are kind of weaksauce, as the surveys were taken in 1935 at the latest, and there were only a few datapoints outside the interior of Sicily. It is evidence that some dialects used vigesimal numbering in the past, but it's mostly been replaced by "ottanta" (fun fact: trying to google "quattro-venti" is nearly impossible because you come up with links for things meaning "four winds"), even in Sicilian, in the 80-100 years since those surveys were taken. It's not good support for the claim that vigesimal is no less practical than decimal -- presumably the Italians shifted to the latter for a reason.
posted by katemonster at 8:54 AM on August 9

I lived in Belgium for 4-5 years way back when and found that dropping the use of septante/huitante/octante/nonante to be the hardest thing after leaving because of their sheer usefulness.

Great post, thank you.
posted by humph at 9:05 AM on August 9

Two centuries too late to help Napoleon. («Le mot impossible n'existe pas dans mon vocabulaire.», which in Klingon is evidently «mu'tay'wIjDaq DuHHa' 'e' Hechbogh mu' tu'lu'be'!»)
posted by XMLicious at 9:23 AM on August 9

"Quebec and Canada", eh...
posted by randomnity at 12:20 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]

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