Of the many situations of language contact worldwide, minority language maintenance is quite rare. Cases that do exist provide a unique perspective on language contact phenomena. In addition to the intrinsic value of such studies in providing information on how languages change, an investigation of such situations may provide important data helpful to those engaged in language revitalization efforts in minority communities elsewhere.
The present study explores the survival of French in the town of Hearst, Ontario, Canada, where the ethnolinguistic vitality of French has increased in spite of the fact that French is a declining minority language in the province as a whole, spoken in fewer than 4% of all households as of 1996. Although immigration to Hearst from Quebec is in large part responsible for this increase, as we shall see, French language use has spread even to some ethnic anglophones.
The study is divided into two parts: an overview of the macrolinguistic situation, based on a survey of 292 residents who provided self-reports of language use, and an analysis of certain lexical features of Hearst French, drawing on data from a corpus of oral French collected in 34 interviews and through participant observation.
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