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Quebec French
French of Quebec
Français québécois  (French)
Native to
Native speakers
7 million in Quebec; 700,000 speakers elsewhere in Canada and the United States (2006)[1]
Latin (French alphabet)
French Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Quebec
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byOffice québécois de la langue française
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottologqueb1247
Linguasphere51-AAA-hq & 51-AAA-icd & 51-AAA-ii
IETFfr-u-sd-caqc
A Québecois French speaker, recorded in Slovenia.

Quebec French (French: français québécois [fʁɑ̃sɛ kebekwa]), also known as Québécois French, is the predominant variety of the French language spoken in Canada. It is the dominant language of the province of Quebec, used in everyday communication, in education, the media, and government.

Canadian French is a common umbrella term to describe all varieties of French used in Canada, including Quebec French. Formerly it was used to refer solely to Quebec French and the closely related dialects spoken in Ontario and Western Canada[citation needed], in contrast with Acadian French, which is spoken in some areas of eastern Quebec (Gaspé Peninsula), New Brunswick, and in other parts of Atlantic Canada, and Métis French, which is found generally across the Prairie provinces.

The term "joual"[2] is commonly used to refer to Quebec working class French (when considered a basilect), characterized by certain features often perceived as phased out, "old world" or "incorrect" in standardized French.[3] Joual, in particular, exhibits strong Norman influences largely owing to Norman immigration during the Ancien Regime (they were perceived as true Catholics and allowed to immigrate to the new world as an example of ideal French settlers). For example the word "placoter" can mean both to splash around or to chatter which comes from the Normand French word "clapoter" which means the same thing. Its equivalent in Acadian French is called Chiac.

History

Main article: History of Quebec French

The origins of Quebec French lie in the 17th- and 18th-century regional varieties (dialects) of early modern French, also known as Classical French, and of other langues d'oïl (especially Poitevin dialect, Saintongeais dialect and Norman) that French colonists brought to New France. Quebec French either evolved from this language base and was shaped by the following influences (arranged according to historical period) or was imported from Paris and other urban centres of France as a koiné, or common language shared by the people speaking it.

New France

Unlike the language of France in the 17th and 18th centuries, French in New France was fairly well unified. It also began to borrow words and gather importations (see loan word), especially place names such as Québec, Canada and Hochelaga, and words to describe the flora and fauna such as atoca (cranberry) and achigan (largemouth bass), from First Nations languages.

The importance of the rivers and ocean as the main routes of transportation also left its imprint on Quebec French. Whereas European varieties of French use the verbs monter and descendre for “to get in” and “to get out” of a vehicle (lit. "to mount" and "to dismount", as one does with a horse or a carriage), the Québécois variety in its informal register tends to use embarquer and débarquer, a result of Quebec's navigational heritage.[citation needed]

British rule

With the onset of British rule in 1760, Quebec French became isolated from European French. This led to a retention of older pronunciations, such as moé for moi (audio comparison ) and expressions that later died out in France. In 1774, the Quebec Act guaranteed French settlers as British subjects rights to French law, the Roman Catholic faith and the French language to appease them at a moment when the English-speaking colonies to the south were on the verge of revolting in the American Revolution.

Late 19th century

After Canadian Confederation in 1867, Quebec started to become industrialized and thus experienced increased contact between French and English speakers. Quebec business, especially with the rest of Canada and with the United States, was conducted in English. Also, communications to and within the Canadian federal government were conducted almost exclusively in English. This period included a sharp rise in the number of immigrants from the United Kingdom who spoke a variety of languages including English, Irish, and Scottish Gaelic. This was particularly noticeable in Montreal, which resembled a majority anglophone city in terms of its commercial life, but was predominantly francophone. As a result, Quebec French began to borrow from both Canadian and American English to fill accidental gaps in the lexical fields of government, law, manufacturing, business and trade. A great number of French Canadians went to the US to seek employment. When they returned, they brought with them new words taken from their experiences in the New England textile mills and the northern lumber camps.

20th century to 1959

During World War I, a majority of Quebec's population lived in urban areas for the first time. From the time of the war to the death of Maurice Duplessis in 1959, the province experienced massive modernization. It is during this period that French-language radio and television broadcasting, albeit with a façade of European pronunciation, began in Canada. While Quebec French borrowed many English-language brand names during this time, Quebec's first modern terminological efforts bore a French lexicon for (ice) hockey, one of the national sports of Canada. Following World War II, Quebec began to receive large waves of non-French- and non-English-speaking immigrants (allophones) who would acquire French or English, but most commonly the latter.

1959 to 1982

From the Quiet Revolution to the passing of the Charter of the French Language, the French language in Quebec saw a period of validation in its varieties associated with the working class while the percentage of literate and university-educated francophones grew. Laws concerning the status of French were passed both on the federal and provincial levels. The Office québécois de la langue française was established to play an essential role of support in language planning. In Ontario, the first French-language public secondary schools were built in the 1960s, but not without confrontations. West Nipissing, Penetanguishene and Windsor each had their own school crisis.

Social perception and language policy

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Standardization

Although Quebec French constitutes a coherent and standard system, it has no objective norm as the very organization mandated to establish it, the Office québécois de la langue française, believes that objectively standardizing Quebec French would lead to reduced mutual intelligibility with other French communities around the world, linguistically isolating Quebeckers and possibly causing the extinction of the French language in the Americas.[citation needed]

This governmental institution has nonetheless published many dictionaries and terminological guidelines since the 1960s, effectively allowing many Canadianisms (canadianismes de bon aloi) or more often Quebecisms (French words local to Canada or Quebec) that describe specifically North American realities. It also creates new, morphologically well-formed words to describe technological evolutions to which the Académie française, the equivalent body governing French language in France, is extremely slow to react.

The resulting effect (based on many historical factors) is a negative perception of Quebec French traits by some of the Québécois themselves, coupled with a desire to "improve" their language by conforming it to the Metropolitan French norm. This explains why most of the differences between Quebec French and Metropolitan French documented are marked as "informal" or "colloquial". Various artists and citizens create work that grapples with this reality, such as the television shows Toupie et binou and Les Appendices.[citation needed]

Mutual intelligibility with other varieties of French

As mentioned earlier, Quebec French is not standardized and is therefore equated with Standard French, partly to keep it in line with and mutually intelligible with Metropolitan French. There is a continuum of full intelligibility between Quebec and European French.[4][5] If a comparison can be made, the differences between both varieties are comparable to those between Standard American and Standard British English even if differences in phonology and prosody for the latter are higher.[5]

Some travelling Québécois choose to register or modify their accent to be more easily understood, but most are able to communicate readily with European francophones.[citation needed] European pronunciation is usually not difficult for Canadians to understand; only differences in vocabulary present any problems. Nevertheless, the Québécois accent is mostly closer to that of Poitou or of Normandy and also some parts of Wallonia.

In general, European French speakers have no problems understanding Quebec newscasts or other moderately formal Québécois speech. However, they may have some difficulty understanding informal speech, such as the dialogue in a sitcom. That is due more to slang, idioms, vocabulary (particularly the use of English words), and use of exclusive cultural references than to accent or pronunciation. However, when speaking to a European French speaker, a more rural French speaker from Quebec can shift to a slightly more formal, "international" type of speech by avoiding idioms or slang, much as a person speaking Southern American English would do to a person speaking British English.

Quebec's culture has only recently gained exposure in Europe, especially since the Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille). The difference in dialects and culture is large enough that speakers of Quebec French overwhelmingly prefer their own "home grown" television dramas or sitcoms to shows from Europe or the United States. Conversely, certain singers from Quebec have become very famous even in France, notably Félix Leclerc, Gilles Vigneault, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Céline Dion, and Garou. Some television series from Quebec such as Têtes à Claques and L'Été indien are also known in France.[6] The number of such shows from France shown on Quebec television is about the same as the number of British shows on American television even though French news channels like France 24 and a francophone channel based in France, TV5 Québec Canada, are broadcast in Quebec.[7][8] Nevertheless, Metropolitan French series such as The Adventures of Tintin and Les Gens de Mogador are broadcast and known in Quebec.[9] In certain cases, on French TV, subtitles can be added when barbarisms, rural speech and slang are used, not unlike cases in the US of a number of British programmes being shown with subtitles (notably from Scotland).

Quebec French was once stigmatized, including by some Québécois themselves as well as Metropolitan French and others in the Francophonie. Quebec French was considered by them as a low-class dialect, a sign of a lack of education, or a corruption due to its use of words/structures from Ancien Régime French and sometimes simply due to its differences from standardardized Metropolitan French.

Until 1968, usage of Québécois/Joual was not encouraged in mainstream media and seldom used for theatre plays.[citation needed] That year, the huge success of Michel Tremblay's play Les Belles-sœurs proved to be a turning point. Today, many speakers feel freer to choose a register when speaking, and Canadian media features individuals and characters who speak in a way that reflects Quebec culture and the different registers of the language.

Relation to European French

Historically speaking, the closest relative of Quebec French is the 17th-century koiné of Paris.[10]

Formal Quebec French uses essentially the same orthography and grammar as Standard French, with few exceptions,[11] and exhibits moderate lexical differences. Differences in grammar and lexicon become more marked as language becomes more informal.

While phonetic differences also decrease with greater formality, Quebec and European accents are readily distinguishable in all registers. Over time, European French has exerted a strong influence on Quebec French. The phonological features traditionally distinguishing informal Quebec French and formal European French have gradually acquired varying sociolinguistic status, so that certain traits of Quebec French are perceived neutrally or positively by Quebecers, while others are perceived negatively.

Perceptions

Sociolinguistic studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s showed that Quebecers generally rated speakers of European French heard in recordings higher than speakers of Quebec French in many positive traits, including expected intelligence, education, ambition, friendliness and physical strength.[12] The researchers were surprised by the greater friendliness rating for Europeans,[13] since one of the primary reasons usually advanced to explain the retention of low-status language varieties is social solidarity with members of one's linguistic group. François Labelle cites the efforts at that time by the Office québécois de la langue française "to impose a French as standard as possible"[13] as one of the reasons for the negative view Quebecers had of their language variety.

Since the 1970s, the official position on Québécois language has shifted dramatically. An oft-cited turning point was the 1977 declaration of the Association québécoise des professeurs de français defining thus the language to be taught in classrooms: "Standard Quebec French [le français standard d'ici, literally, "the Standard French of here"] is the socially favoured variety of French which the majority of Francophone Québécois tend to use in situations of formal communication."[14] Ostiguy and Tousignant doubt whether Quebecers today would still have the same negative attitudes towards their own variety of French that they did in the 1970s. They argue that negative social attitudes have focused instead on a subset of the characteristics of Quebec French relative to European French, and particularly some traits of informal Quebec French.[15] Some characteristics of European French are even judged negatively when imitated by Quebecers.[16]

Typography

Quebec French has some typographical differences from European French. For example, in Quebec French, unlike European French, a full non-breaking space is not used before the semicolon, exclamation mark, or question mark. Instead, a thin space (which according to Le Ramat de la typographie normally measures a quarter of an em[17]: 12 ) is used; this thin space can be omitted in word-processing situations where the thin space is assumed to be unavailable, or when careful typography is not required.[17]: 191 [18]

Spelling and grammar

Formal language

A notable difference in grammar which received considerable attention in France during the 1990s is the feminine form of many professions, which traditionally did not have a feminine form.[19] In Quebec, one writes nearly universally une chercheuse or une chercheure[20] "a researcher", whereas in France, un chercheur and, more recently, un chercheur and une chercheuse are used. Feminine forms in eure as in ingénieure are still strongly criticized in France by institutions like the Académie française, but are commonly used in Canada and Switzerland.

There are other, sporadic spelling differences. For example, the Office québécois de la langue française recommends the spelling tofou for what is in France tofu "tofu". In grammar, the adjective inuit "Inuit" is invariable in France but, according to official recommendations in Quebec, has regular feminine and plural forms.[21]

Informal language

Grammatical differences between informal spoken Quebec French and the formal language abound. Some of these, such as omission of the negative particle ne, are also present in the informal language of speakers of standard European French, while other features, such as use of the interrogative particle -tu, are either peculiar to Quebec or Canadian French or restricted to nonstandard varieties of European French.

Lexis

Main article: Quebec French lexicon

Distinctive features

While the overwhelming majority of lexical items in Quebec French exist in other dialects of French, many words and expressions are unique to Quebec, much like some are specific to American and British varieties of English. The differences can be classified into the following five categories.[22] The influences on Quebec French from English and Native American can be reflected in any of these five:

The following tables give examples[23] of each of the first four categories, along with the Metropolitan French equivalent and an English gloss. Contextual differences, along with individual explanations, are then discussed.

Examples of lexically specific items:

Quebec French Metropolitan French English gloss
abrier couvrir to cover
astheure (à c't'heure) maintenant now
chum (m) copain (m) friend (m) or boyfriend
chum (f) amie (f) friend (f)
magasiner faire des courses to go shopping/do errands
placoter papoter to chat/chatter
pogner attraper, prendre to catch, grab

Examples of semantic differences:

Lexical item Quebec French meaning Metropolitan French meaning
blonde (f) girlfriend blonde-haired woman
char (m) car chariot
chauffer to drive (a vehicle) to heat
chialer to complain to bawl, blubber
dépanneur (m) convenience store (and also repairer) mechanic
gosse gosses (fem pl): balls (testicles) gosse (masc sg): child/kid
suçon (m) lollipop hickey/love bite
sucette (f) hickey/love bite lollipop
éventuellement eventually possibly

Examples of grammatical differences:

Lexical item Quebec French grammar Metropolitan French grammar English gloss
autobus (noun) autobus (f) (colloquial) autobus (m) bus
pantalon (noun) pantalons (pl) pantalon (masc sg) trousers

Examples multi-word or fixed expressions unique to Quebec:

Quebec French expression Metropolitan French gloss English gloss
avoir de la misère avoir de la difficulté to have difficulty, trouble
avoir le flu avoir la diarrhée to have diarrhoea
avoir le goût dérangé gouter une saveur étrange to taste something strange, unexpected
en arracher en baver to have a rough time
prendre une marche faire une promenade to take a walk
se faire passer un sapin se faire duper to be tricked
parler à travers son chapeau parler à tort et à travers to talk through one's hat

Some Quebec French lexical items have the same general meaning in Metropolitan French but are used in different contexts. English translations are given in parentheses.

In addition, Quebec French has its own set of swear words, or sacres, distinct from other varieties of French.

Use of anglicisms
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One characteristic of major sociological importance distinguishing Quebec French from European French is the relatively greater number of borrowings from English, especially in the informal spoken language, but that notion is often exaggerated.[24] Québécois have been found to show a stronger aversion to the use of anglicisms in formal contexts than do European francophones, largely because of what the influence of English on their language is held to reveal about the historically-superior position of anglophones in Canadian society.[25] According to Cajolet-Laganière and Martel,[26] out of 4,216 "criticized borrowings from English" in Quebec French that they were able to identify, some 93% have "extremely low frequency" and 60% are obsolete.[27] Despite this, the prevalence of anglicisms in Quebec French has often been exaggerated.

It is worth noting that various anglicisms commonly used in European French informal language are mostly not used by Quebec French speakers. While words such as shopping, parking, escalator, ticket, email and week-end, are commonly spoken in European French, Quebec French tends to favour French equivalents, namely: magasinage, stationnement, escalier roulant, billet, courriel and fin de semaine, respectively. As such, the exaggeration of anglicism use in Quebec French could be attributed, in part, simply to the fact that the anglicisms used are different, and thus more noticeable by European French speakers.

French spoken with a number of anglicisms viewed as excessive may be disparagingly termed franglais/"Frenglish". According to Chantal Bouchard, "While the language spoken in Quebec did indeed gradually accumulate borrowings from English [between 1850 and 1960], it did not change to such an extent as to justify the extraordinarily negative discourse about it between 1940 and 1960. It is instead in the loss of social position suffered by a large proportion of Francophones since the end of the 19th century that one must seek the principal source of this degrading perception."[28]

Borrowings from Indigenous languages
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Ouaouaron, the Canadian French word for bullfrog, a frog species native to North America, originates from an Iroquois word.[29]

Additional differences

The following are areas in which the lexicon of Quebec French is found to be distinct from those of other varieties of French:

Recent lexical innovations

Some recent Quebec French lexical innovations have spread, at least partially, to other varieties of French, for example:

Linguistic structure

Phonology

Main article: Quebec French phonology

For phonological comparisons of Quebec French, Belgian French, Meridional French, and Metropolitan French, see French phonology.

Vowels

Systematic (in all formal speech)
Systematic (in both informal and formal speech)
Unsystematic (in all informal speech)

Consonants

Systematic
Unsystematic

Sociolinguistic status of selected phonological traits

These examples are intended not exhaustive but illustrate the complex influence that European French has had on Quebec French pronunciation and the range of sociolinguistic statuses that individual phonetic variables can possess.

Syntax

Main article: Quebec French syntax

Like any variety of French, Quebec French is generally characterized by increasingly wide gaps between the formal form and the informal form.[49] Notable differences include the generalized use of on (informal for nous), the use of single negations as opposed to double negations: J'ai pas (informal) vs Je n'ai pas (formal) etc.[50][51] There are increasing differences between the syntax used in spoken Quebec French and that of other regional dialects of French.[52] However, the characteristic differences of Quebec French syntax are not considered standard despite their high-frequency in everyday, relaxed speech.

One far-reaching difference is the weakening of the syntactic role of the specifiers (both verbal and nominal), which results in many syntactic changes:

Other notable syntactic changes in Quebec French include the following:

However, these features are common to all the basilectal varieties of français populaire descended from the 17th century koiné of Paris.

Pronouns

Verbs

In their syntax and morphology, Quebec French verbs differ very little from the verbs of other regional dialects of French, both formal and informal. The distinctive characteristics of Quebec French verbs are restricted mainly to:

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Source: 2006 Census of Canada. Includes multiple responses. The simplifying assumption has been made that there are no native speakers of Quebec French in Atlantic Canada (see Acadian French) but that all native speakers of French in the rest of Canada are speakers of Quebec French.
  2. ^ "Joual - Definition of Joual by Merriam-Webster". merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  3. ^ Entry for joual in Dictionnaire du français Plus. "Variété de français québécois qui est caractérisée par un ensemble de traits (surtout phonétiques et lexicaux) considérés comme incorrects ou mauvais et qui est identifiée au parler des classes populaires."
  4. ^ Karim Larose (2004). La langue de papier: spéculations linguistiques au Québec, 1957-1977. Presses de l'Université de Montréal.
  5. ^ a b Jean-Marie Salien (1998). "Quebec French: Attitudes and Pedagodical Perspectives" (PDF). The Modern Language Journal.
  6. ^ "L'Eté Indien".
  7. ^ Agence France Presse Québec (7 October 2014). "La chaîne France 24 diffusée au Québec par Vidéotron". The Huffington Post.
  8. ^ "TV5 Canada".
  9. ^ "Allociné".
  10. ^ Henri Wittmannn, "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). [1]
  11. ^ Martel, p. 99
  12. ^ Ostiguy, p.27
  13. ^ a b L'attitude linguistique Archived November 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Martel, p. 77. Original text: "Le français standard d'ici est la variété de français socialement valorisée que la majorité des Québécois francophones tendent à utiliser dans les situations de communication formelle."
  15. ^ Ostiguy, p. 27.
  16. ^ See for example Ostiguy, p. 68, on the perception as "pedantic" of the use of the tense allophones [i], [y], [u], where [ɪ], [ʏ], [ʊ] would be expected in Quebec French. "En effet, l'utilisation des voyelles tendues peut avoir allure de pédanterie à l'oreille d'une majorité de Québécois."
  17. ^ a b Ramat, Aurel; Benoit, Anne-Marie (2012) [First published 1982]. Le Ramat de la typographie (in French) (10e ed.). ISBN 978-2-9813513-0-2.
  18. ^ "La typographie: Espacement avant et après les principaux signes de ponctuation et autres signes ou symboles" (in French). Office québécois de la langue française. Archived from the original on 2014-10-05. Retrieved 2 June 2014. Ce tableau tient compte des limites des logiciels courants de traitement de texte, qui ne comportent pas l’espace fine (espace insécable réduite). Si l’on dispose de l’espace fine, il est toutefois conseillé de l’utiliser devant le point-virgule, le point d’exclamation et le point d’interrogation.
  19. ^ The Académie française has taken strong positions opposing the officialization of feminine forms in these cases. See Martel, p.109. Lionel Jospin's female cabinet ministers were the first to be referred to as "Madame la ministre" instead of "Madame le ministre", whereas this had been common practice in Canada for decades.
  20. ^ Grand dictionnaire terminologique, "chercheuse", "Grand dictionnaire terminologique". Archived from the original on June 4, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
  21. ^ Martel, pp. 97,99
  22. ^ Poirier, p. 32
  23. ^ Poirier pp. 32 - 36
  24. ^ Martel, p. 110.
  25. ^ Martel, p.110.
  26. ^ "Le français au Québec : un standard à décrire et des usages à hierarchiser", p. 386, in Plourde
  27. ^ That very low frequency was confirmed in a corpus of two million words of spoken French corpus from the Ottawa-Hull region by Poplack et al. (1988)
  28. ^ "Anglicisation et autodépréciation", pp.204, 205, in Plourde. Original text: "En effet, si la langue parlée au Québec s'est peu à peu chargée d'emprunts à l'anglais au cours de cette période, elle ne s'est pas transformée au point de justifier le discours extraordinairement négatif qu'on tient à son sujet de 1940 à 1960. C'est bien plutôt dans le déclassement subi par une forte proportion des francophones depuis la fin du XIXe siècle qu'il faut chercher la source de cette perception dépréciative."
  29. ^ "English Words Borrowed into Quebec French as Expressions Québécoises Modernes from Bill Casselman's Canadian Word of the Day". billcasselman.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  30. ^ "chat / clavardage". gouv.qc.ca. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  31. ^ "e-mail / courriel". gouv.qc.ca. Archived from the original on 2017-10-10. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  32. ^ spam / pourriel Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine on the Office québécois de la langue française's website.
  33. ^ podcasting / baladodiffusion Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine on the Office québécois de la langue française's website
  34. ^ Dumas, p. 8
  35. ^ Dumas, p. 9
  36. ^ Ostiguy, p. 68
  37. ^ Ostiguy, pp. 112-114.
  38. ^ Ostiguy, pp. 75-80
  39. ^ For example, while The New Cassell's French dictionary (1962) records gâteau as [ɡɑto] and Le Nouveau Petit Robert (1993) gives the pronunciation [ɡato].
  40. ^ Ostiguy, p. 80
  41. ^ Dumas, p. 149.
  42. ^ Ostiguy, pp. 71-75
  43. ^ Ostiguy, pp. 93-95
  44. ^ a b Ostiguy, p. 102
  45. ^ Dumas, p. 24
  46. ^ Les causes de la variation géolinguistique du français en Amérique du Nord Archived December 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Claude Poirier
  47. ^ Ostiguy, pp. 162, 163
  48. ^ Ostiguy, p. 164
  49. ^ Waugh, Linda. "Authentic materials for everyday spoken french: corpus linguistics vs. french textbooks" (PDF). University of Arizona. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 24, 2014.
  50. ^ Laura K. Lawless. "French Subject Pronouns - Pronoms sujets". Lawless French. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  51. ^ Laura K. Lawless. "Informal French Negation - Pas without Ne". Lawless French. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  52. ^ as found in P.Barbaud, 1998, Dissidence du français québécois et évolution dialectale, in Revue québécoise de linguistique, vol. 26, n 2, pp.107-128.
  53. ^ Gaston Paris, «Ti, signe de l'interrogation.» Romania 1887, 6.438-442.

References