Get your Thanksgiving tickets! ūüćā Plus: How Quebec preserved “The King’s French”

A newsletter from a fellow Canadian organization in the Bay Area.

Canadian Studies Announcements

In This Issue:

Upcoming Events:

  • 5th Annual Canadian Family Thanksgiving
  • Book talk:¬†Converging Empires: Citizens and Subjects in the North Pacific Borderlands, 1867‚Äď1945
  • Graduate student discussion with Prof. Andrea Geiger

Canadian News

  • How Quebec preserved “the King’s French”


5th Annual Canadian Family Thanksgiving

Saturday, October 8 | 5:00 pm

Clark Kerr Campus, UC Berkeley | Buy tickets here

Canadian Studies is pleased to partner with the Digital Moose Lounge for our fifth annual Canadian Thanksgiving dinner! Join us for a special meal celebrating the Bay Area’s Canadian community, as you mingle with your fellow SF Bay Canadians while enjoying entertainment and a delicious turkey dinner.

Tickets may be purchased through the Digital Moose Lounge.

We’re also looking for volunteers to help staff the event. A limited number of reduced-price tickets are available to volunteers; please¬†contact us¬†for more information.

Book Talk:¬†Converging Empires: Citizens and Subjects in the North Pacific Borderlands, 1867‚Äď1945

Wednesday, October 19 | 12:30 pm | 223 Moses | RSVP here

Andrea Geiger will discuss her new book,¬†Converging Empires: Citizens and Subjects in the North Pacific Borderlands, 1867‚Äď1945¬†(University of North Carolina Press, 2022). Making a vital contribution to our understanding of North American borderlands history through its examination of the northernmost stretches of the U.S.-Canada border, the book highlights the role that the North Pacific borderlands played in the construction of race and citizenship on both sides of the international border from 1867, when the United States acquired Russia‚Äôs interests in Alaska, through the end of World War II. Imperial, national, provincial, territorial, reserve, and municipal borders worked together to create a dynamic legal landscape that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people negotiated in myriad ways as they traversed these borderlands. Adventurers, prospectors, laborers, and settlers from Europe, Canada, the United States, Latin America, and Asia made and remade themselves as they crossed from one jurisdiction to another.

Within this broader framework, Geiger pays particular attention to the ways in which Japanese migrants and the Indigenous people who had made this borderlands region their home for millennia negotiated the web of intersecting boundaries that emerged over time, charting the ways in which they infused these reconfigured national, provincial, and territorial spaces with new meanings. To see the North Pacific borderlands only as a remote outpost that marked the westernmost edges of the U.S. or British empire, is to miss not only the central place it occupied in the lives of the Indigenous peoples whose home it continues to be, but the extent to which it functioned, in the eyes of Japanese entrepreneurs, as an economic hinterland for an expanding Japanese empire, as well as the role it played in shaping wartime policy with regard to citizens and subjects of Japanese ancestry in both Canada and the United States.

Andrea Geiger¬†is professor emerita of history at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests include transpacific and borderlands history, race, migration, and legal history. She received a J.D. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington, and is the author of the award-winning¬†Subverting Exclusion: Transpacific Encounters with Race, Caste, and Borders, 1885‚Äď1928.

This event is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative (BIMI), the Center for Race and Gender, and the Department of History.

Graduate Student Discussion with Andrea Geiger

UC Berkeley students with a research interest in Professor Geiger’s work are welcome to attend a small group discussion with the speaker following her public presentation. For more information, please email¬†


How Quebec Preserved “The King’s French”

Metropolitan French speakers (and even some Canadians) have long dismissed¬†Qu√©b√©cois French as rustic and unsophisticated. However, as Montreal-based journalist Elizabeth Warkentin points out in¬†BBC Travel, it turns out Louis Quatorze may have sounded a lot more like your average¬†gasp√©sien¬†than a contemporary Parisian. Quebec’s unique historical development has helped preserve an aristocratic dialect of a past century now vanished from continental France.

The story starts with the early French colonization of Canada in the 1600s. At the time, few French subjects actually spoke French; instead, they spoke many now-vanishing regional languages, such as Breton or Occitan. When settlers reached New France, the French authorities therefore had to teach them a standardized French to facilitate communication. This French was based on the royal pronunciation of the time, and Quebec thus became known for its aristocratic dialect “as pure as that of the Parisians”, according to a French visitor in the mid-1700s.

Things changed when the British wrested control of the colony from the French in 1759. The¬†Qu√©b√©cois were cut off from developments in France, where the French Revolution was fomenting major changes. To consolidate a new republican identity, the revolutionaries pushed for a single language spoken throughout the country, which they based on the bourgeois Parisian dialect. Modernizers eliminated many features of the “old” French spoken during the¬†Ancien R√©gime, particularly “aristocratic” affectations. The government then enforced this standard throughout France, with the aim of creating a uniform “French” language.

Quebec, however, remained isolated from these reforms, and conserved the older language. When Alexis de Toqueville visited Lower Canada in 1830, he wrote: “The French nation has been preserved there… one can observe the customs and the language spoken during Louis XIV’s reign.” As a result, he noted, “It seems more like Old France lives on in Canada, and that it is our country [France] which is the new one.”

But how do scholars know that Quebec’s French hasn’t also changed over the same time? Historian Claude Poirier looks for misspellings in old documents to give us a clue to pronunciation. For example, the word “perdre” misspelled as “pardre” in a 17th-century document, shows us that the pronunciation back then was quite similar to how some contemporary Quebecois still pronounce it. And many terms now considered archaic in France are still widely used in Canada, such as “piastre” for dollar (originally referring to a 17th-century coin), or “barrer” to close a door (meaning, literally, to bar it).

Image: Bust of Louis XIV by Bernini, at the Place Royale in Quebec City. Source: Gilbert Bochenek, Wikimedia Commons.

Canadian Studies Program
213 Moses Hall #2308
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Canadian Studies Program | Univ. of California, Berkeley, 213 Moses Hall #2308, Berkeley, CA 94720

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