Joual (French pronunciation: [ʒwal]) is an accepted name for the linguistic features of Quebec French that are associated with the French-speaking working class in Montreal which has become a symbol of national identity for some. Joual has historically been stigmatized by some, and celebrated by others.[1] While Joual is often considered a sociolect of the Québécois working class,[2] many feel that perception is outdated, with Joual becoming increasingly present in the arts.[1]

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 tend to eschew this term, but historically some have reserved the term Joual for the variant of Quebec French spoken in Montreal.[3]

Both the upward socio-economic mobility among the Québécois, and a cultural renaissance around Joual connected to the Quiet Revolution in the Montreal East-End have resulted in Joual being spoken by people across the educational and economic spectrum. Today, many Québécois who were raised in Quebec during the 20th century (command of English notwithstanding) can understand and speak at least some Joual. Joual is also commonly spoken in a few Francophone communities in Ontario, such as Hearst.


Further information: History of Quebec French

The creation of Joual can be traced back to the "era of silence", the period from the 1840s to the 1960s and the start of the Quiet Revolution.[4] The "era of silence" was marked with stark stigmatization of the common working man. Written documents were not shared with the typical working class man, and the very strict form of French that was used by elites excluded a majority of the population.[4] The Quiet Revolution during the 1960s was a time of awakening, in which the Quebec working class demanded more respect in society, including wider use of Québécois in literature and the performing arts. Michel Tremblay is an example of a writer who deliberately used Joual and Québécois to represent the working class populations of Quebec.[5] Joual, a language of the working class, quickly became associated with slang and vulgar language.[citation needed] Despite its continued use in Canada, there are still ideologies present which place a negative connotation on the use of Joual.[citation needed]

Origin of the name

Although coinage of the name joual is often attributed to French-Canadian journalist André Laurendeau, who in October 1959 wrote an article in Le Devoir criticizing the quality of the French language spoken by French Canadian students, the usage of this term throughout French-speaking Canada likely predates this text.[6]

The actual word Joual is the representation of how the word cheval (Standard French: [ʃəval], 'horse') is pronounced by those who speak Joual. ("Horse" is used in a variation of the phrase parler français comme une vache 'to speak French like a cow', i.e. to speak French terribly; hence, a put-down of the Québécois dialect.) The weak schwa vowel [ə] disappeared. Then the voiceless [ʃ] was voiced to [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 weakened to become the semi-vowel [w] written ⟨ou⟩. The end result is the word [ʒwal] transcribed as Joual.[citation needed]

Most notable or stereotypical linguistic features

Diphthongs are normally present where long vowels would be present in standard French. There is also the usage of sontaient, sonté (ils étaient, ils ont été).

Although moé and toé are today considered substandard slang pronunciations of moi and toi, these were the original pronunciations of ancien régime French used in all provinces of Northern France, by the royalty, aristocracy, and common people. After the 1789 French Revolution, the standard pronunciation in France changed to that of a previously-stigmatized form in the speech of Paris, but Quebec French continued to evolve from the historically older dialects, having become isolated from France following the 1760 British conquest of New France.[7]

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.[8] Speakers of these languages of France predominated among settlers to New France.

It could be argued that at least some aspects of more modern Joual are further linguistic contractions of standard French. D'la (de la) is an example where the word de has nearly fallen out of usage over time and has become contracted. This argument does apply to other words, and this phenomenon has become widespread throughout contemporary French language.

A defining characteristic of the sociolect is the deliberate use of the pronoun tu to indicate a question. The pronoun maintains its traditional usage, that of representing the second person singular, but is also used in conjunction with a verb, to indicate a question.[9] Tu is used, for this purpose, regardless of the technically relevant grammatical person. This is because tu, in this use-case, is a contraction of the antiquated t-il particle originating from 13th century France,[10] which was used to indicate a question.[11] For example, in metropolitan french, a question may be asked as simply "Veut-il manger?" whereas in Joual, it may be asked as "Il veux-tu manger?"

Another significant characteristic of Joual is the liberal use of profanities called sacre in everyday speech.[12]

Words of English origin

Main article: List of French words of English origin

There are a number of English loanwords in Joual, although they have been stigmatized since the 1960s,[13] instead favoring alternative terms promoted by the Office québécois de la langue française. The commonality of English loanwords in Joual is attributed to the unilingually anglophone nature of the factory owners, business higher-ups, and industrial supervisors which employed the majority of french-speaking blue-collar workers throughout 20th century.[14] This need to use English in workplace environments, when referring to technical elements of the worker's labour, caused the gradual integration of English loanwords into french.[15] These words would eventually come to be conjugated and integrated as though they were traditionally french words (such as "Check" becoming the verb "Chequer"). The usage of deprecated anglicisms varies both regionally and historically. In the table below are a few common Joual words of English origin.

Joual word Pronunciation (approximation) Standard French word (approximation) English meaning Example
Bécosse (f) [bekɔs] toilette extérieure (f) outdoor toilet (from "back house") le boss des bécosses (someone who behaves as though they are the boss)
Bécik (m) [besɪk] or [bɛsɪk] bicyclette (f), vélo (m) bicycle
Bike (m) [bɑik] motocyclette (f) motorbike
Bines (f) [bɪn] fèves (f) beans
Braker [bʁeike] freiner to brake (verb)
Breakeur (m) [bʁeikɚ] disjoncteur (m) circuit breaker
Bum (m) [bʌm] clochard (m) bum, vagrant
Chequer [tʃɛke] vérifier to check something out (verb) check ben ça ("check this out")
Chum (m, sometimes f) [tʃɔm] copain (m), ami (m), amie (f) boyfriend or male friend, occasionally female friend
Domper [dõpe] jeter, rompre avec to throw out (rubbish) or to break up with someone (verb) domper la puck (in hockey-"dumping the puck")
Flat (m) [flat] crevaison (f), plongeon sur le ventre (m) flat tyre or belly flop (in the pool)
Frencher [fʁɛntʃe] embrasser (avec langue) to French kiss (verb)
Froque (f) [fʁʌk] manteau (m) jacket
Hood (m) like in English or [ʊd] capot (m) hood of a car
Lift (m) [lɪft] lift (as in giving someone a lift in a vehicle)
Pinotte (f) like in English, but with a shorter i arachide (f) peanut, also street slang for "amphetamines"
States (les) [steːts] États-Unis (les) the United States
Tank (m) [tẽːk] réservoir (m) container, tank à gaz: "fuel tank"
Toaster (m) [tostɚ] grille-pain (m) toaster
Tough [tɔf] dur, difficile tough
Truck (m) [tʁɔk] camion (m) truck
Skidoo (m) [skidu] motoneige (f) snowmobile (from Bombardier's "Ski-Doo")
Screen (m) [skɻiːŋ] moustiquaire (f) screen of a window
Windshield [wɪnʃiːl] pare-brise (m) windshield

Some words were also previously thought to be of English origin, although modern research has shown them to be from regional French dialects:


Joual French English
toé toi (from classic French pronunciation of toi) you (singular, oblique)
moé moi (from classic French pronunciation of moi) me
pis, pis quoi et puis, puis quoi and, So what
moé j'vo [ʒvɔ] or j'va [ʒvʌ] moi je vais au/a la I will, I am going
Çé c'est It is
Les The (plural)
Ço [sɔ] Ça That
Po [pɔ] Pas Not
Lo [ʟɔ] There
j'fa, j'fasse, je fasse je fais I am doing
D'la De la Of the (feminine), from the (feminine), some (feminine), a quantity of (feminine)
té, t'es tu es you are
Il est He is, it is
tsé (tsé là), t'sais tu sais you know
je s'ré je serai I will be
j'cres, j'cré je crois I believe
pantoute pas du tout (de pas en tout) not at all
y il he
a, a'l'o elle, elle a she, she has
ouais or ouin oui yeah, yep
y'o [jɔ] il y a, il a there is, he has
toul', tou'l' tout le all of the
icitte ici here
ben bien well / very / many (contextual)
tu d'ben peut-être maybe
bengadon, ben r'gardon, ben gardon bien regarde-donc well look at
Ga don ço, gadon ço, r'gardon ço Regarde donc ça Look at that
su, d'su, de su sur, dessus on, over top of
su la, s'a sur la on the (feminine)
su'l sur le on the (masculine)
anyway, en tout co [ã tu̥ kɔ], entouco, entéco, ent'lé co, entouka en tout cas, en tous les cas in any case, however, anyway (from English "anyway" addition of this word is non-ubiquitous, but en tout co has broad usage)
Aweille!, Enweille! Envoye! Bouge! Allez! Send! Move! Go on! (contextual)
enweille don, àweille don envoie donc, allez come on
faite, fette saoul drunk
fette, faite, té faite fini, tu es fini finished, you are finished
nuitte nuit night
ti / 'tite, p'tite / p'tit petit / petite small (masculine / feminine)
déhor, d'wor, dewor, dowor dehors outside, get out (contextual)
boutte (masculine) bout end, tip, bit (un ti boutte = un petit bout = a little bit or a little while)
toutte tout everything, all, the whole
litte lit bed
tusuite, tudsuite, tud'suite, tu'd'suite, toud'suite tout de suite right now
astheure, asteur
(from "à cette heure")
maintenant, couramment now, currently, from now on
han? hein? eh? huh? or what?
heille hey
frette froid cold
fait make/do
s'fèque, s'fà que, sfàk donc (ça fait que) so, therefore
mèk, mainque, main que lorsque (from old French « mais que ») as soon as, upon
dins, dan lé dans les in the (plural)
c'est, ceci est this is
c'pos, cé po, s'po[spɔ] ce n'est pas it's not
end'ssour, end'ssou en dessous under
s'assir, s'assoère s'asseoir to sit down
ak, ac, a'ec, èk, èque avec with
boète [bwaɪ̯t] boîte box
à soère, à swère ce soir tonight
àmandonné, aman'né à un moment donné at some point, at any given time
bouette boue mud
c't'un, cé t'un, s't'un c'est un it's a
j'suis, chuis je suis (un) I am
garah, gararh garage garage (non-ubiquitous usage)
char voiture car, short for chariot
tarla, con, nono stupide dumb
kétaine, quétaine de mauvais goût, ringard (France) tasteless, cheesy (fashion)
fif, fifi éfféminé sissy, feminine male (can also mean queer, derogatory)
tapette (une) pédé (un) queer, feminine male, male homosexual or pre sex change male (all usage is derogatory)
grand slack grand et mince tall and skinny (from English "slack")
smatte (té), smartte (té) sympatique, gentil friendly, kind
plotte chatte, vagin cunt, whore, pussy, vagina (contextually derogatory)
graine, grène pénis Cock, penis (graine is the literal translation of the word seed, contextually derogatory)
botare bâtard bastard
eulle l' le the
étchoeuré écœuré tired (annoyed)
t'su, d'su mettre sur put on
vert (té) inexpérimenté (tu es) (you are) inexperienced (being new, "green", to something, vert is the literal translation of the word green)
troud'cu, trou'd'cu, trou d'cul enfoiré, trou de cul ass hole (contextually derogatory)
panel (un) camionnette, fourgon van (panel van, cargo van, non-ubiquitous usage)
jarret, hârret mollet calf
lulu mèche (deux) twintails (non-ubiquitous usage)
Drette lo Ici même (droit là) Right there
Ç'à d'l'air à ço, Ç'à d'l'air de'd ço Ça ressemble à ça It looks like that
J'te dis Je te dis I tell you
J'toute fourré, j's'tout fourré, schtout fourré Je suis confus I'm so confused, I'm all fucked up
J'cogne des clous Je suis épuisé I'm so tired
Checke-moé le don, Regarde le (donc) lui Look at him
Checke Fern, Checke checke Regarde ça/lui/elle, Regarde Look at him/her/that or simply look (gender neutral form, contextual, non-ubiquitous usage, circa 1980s but still holds meaning)
'Stacoze de'd, stacoze de, C't-à-cause de, c'est à cause de it is because of
'Stacé C'est assez That's enough
Viarge Putain ! Damn !
Grouille (toé) Dépêche-toi Hurry up
ta yeul!, la yeul!, ferme ta boète!, la ferme!, la farme! tais-toi! ferme ta gueule! shut up!, shut your animal mouth! (derogatory), shut your box! (derogatory)
Y pue d'la yeul (referring to a human male, Y means Il singular third person male whereas A (pronounced à) means Elle singular third person female) Ça pue de la gueule (animal), Il a la mauvaise haleine (human male) He has a stinky animal mouth, He has bad breath, He stinks from the mouth (gueule directly translates to animal mouth, hence the sentence is derogatory if relating to a human male. Pue is the literal translation of a conjugation of the verb to stink)
Chus dan marde Je suis dans le pétrin (Je suis dans la merde) I'm in big trouble (I'm in shit)

In popular culture

The two-act play Les Belles-sœurs by Canadian writer Michel Tremblay premiered in 1968 at the Théâtre du Rideau Vert in Montreal. Many consider it to have had a profound impact on Canadian culture, as it was one of the first times Joual was seen on a national stage. The play follows a working-class woman named Germaine in Montréal. After winning a million trading stamps, she invites her friends over to help paste them into booklets to redeem them. But Germaine is unsuspecting of her jealous friends who are envious of her winnings.[18] The fact that the play was originally written in Joual is very important to the socio-linguistic aspect of the women. The characters all come from the working class and for the most part, speak in Joual, which at the time was not seen on the main stage. The play was cited at the time as a "radical element among Quebec critics as the dawn of a new era of liberation, both political and aesthetic".[19]

When Les Belles-sœurs premiered in Paris, France in 1973 as it was originally written, in Joual, it was met with some initial criticism. One critic described it as difficult to understand as ancient Greek.[20] Tremblay responded, "a culture should always start with speak to herself. The ancient Greeks spoke to each other".[18] [verify] The popularity of the play has since caused it to be translated into multiple languages,[citation needed] raising controversies in the translation community over retaining the authenticity of Les Belles-sœurs even when not performed in the original dialect of Joual.[21]

Writing in Joual gave Tremblay an opportunity to resist cultural and linguistic "imperialism" of France, while signifying the secularization of Québec culture.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Joual | l'Encyclopédie Canadienne". Retrieved 2023-02-01.
  2. ^ "L'essentiel à connaître sur le Joual" (in French). Retrieved 2023-02-01.
  3. ^ Gilles Lefebvre, «Faut-il miser sur le joual?» Le Devoir 1965, 30 octobre; «L'étude de la culture: la linguistique.» Recherche sociographiques 3:1–2.233–249, 1962; Henri Wittmann, 1973. «Le joual, c'est-tu un créole?» La Linguistique 1973, 9:2.83–93.[1]
  4. ^ a b Prins, M. (2012). The Joual Effect: A Reflection of Quebec's Urban Working-Class in Michel Tremblay's Les Belles-soeurs and Hosanna (MA thesis). Arizona State University. hdl:2286/R.I.14644. ProQuest 1010987064.
  5. ^ Dargnat, Mathilde (2002). Michel Tremblay: le "joual" dans Les belles-sœurs (in French). L'Harmattan.
  6. ^ Laurendeau, Paul (1987). "Trésor de la langue française au Québec (XXII)". Québec français (in French) (67): 40–41. ISSN 0316-2052.
  7. ^ Marc Picard, "La diphtongue /wa/ et ses équivalents en français du Canada." Cahiers de linguistique de l'Université du Québec 1974, 4.147–164.
  8. ^ Henri Wittmann, "Le français de Paris dans le français des Amériques." Proceedings of the International Congress of Linguists 16.0416 (Paris, 20–25 juillet 1997). Oxford: Pergamon (CD edition). [2]
  9. ^ "Tu - Definition". Je Parle Quebecois. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  10. ^ Tanguay, Felix. "D'où vient le "-tu" interrogatif, et "c'est-tu" pertinent de l'enseigner?". Correspondance. Centre collégial de développement de matériel didactique. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  11. ^ Nadeau, Jean-Benoit. "Est-ce français de dire " tu veux-tu " ?". L'actualité. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  12. ^ Gilles Charest, Le livre des sacres et blasphèmes québécois. Montréal: L"Aurore, 1974; Jean-Pierre Pichette, Le guide raisonné des jurons. Montréal: Les Quinze, 1980; Diane Vincent, Pressions et impressions sur les sacres au Québec. Québec: Office de la langue française, 1982.
  13. ^ The standard reference to this subject is Gilles Colpron, Les anglicismes au Québec: Répertoire classifié. Montréal: Beauchemin.
  14. ^ Alexandre Lafrenière, Le Joual et les mutations du Québec. La question de la langue dans la définition de l’identité québécoise,mémoire de maîtrise (sociologie), Université Laval, 2008.
  15. ^ "Joual | l'Encyclopédie Canadienne". Retrieved 2023-02-02.
  16. ^ "pitoune", Wiktionnaire (in French), 2022-12-06, retrieved 2023-02-01
  17. ^ "poutine", Wiktionnaire (in French), 2022-12-06, retrieved 2023-02-01
  18. ^ a b "Les Belles-soeurs". Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  19. ^ Usmiani, Renate (1982). Michel Tremblay. Studies in Canadian Literature, 15. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.
  20. ^ McEwan, Barbara (1986). "Au-delà de l'exotisme: le théâtre québécois devant la critique parisienne, 1955–1985". Theatre History in Canada / Histoire du théâtre Canada (in French). 7 (2): 134–148.
  21. ^ Malone, Paul (2003-01-01). ""Good Sisters" and "Darling Sisters": Translating and Transplanting the Joual in Micheal Tremblay's Les Belles-Soeurs". Theatre Research in Canada / Recherches théâtrales au Canada. ISSN 1913-9101.
  22. ^ Dunnett, Jane (2006). "Postcolonial Constructions in Québécois Theatre of the 1970s: The Example of Mistero buffo". Romance Studies. 24 (2): 117–131. doi:10.1179/174581506x120082. S2CID 143556398.