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Determinants of Linguistic Retention: The Case of Ontario’s Francophone Official-Language Minorities

Tue, August 15, 12:30 to 1:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 517B


With the implementation of the Canadian Official Languages Act in 1969, the federal government sought not only to ensure an equality of status and rights between the country’s two official languages (English and French), but also to support the development and maintenance of official-language minority communities. Despite various efforts to ensure the development, promotion and maintenance of Ontario’s minority Francophone community, the proportion of individuals with French as a mother tongue within the province has been in steady decline. Francophone minorities’ bilingual linguistic practices have generally been subtractive in nature – having a negative impact on individuals’ first language identity and practices. This contributes to the minorization of ethnolinguistic communities, notably through a shift in the language spoken at home and therefore transmitted to the next generation. Through an analysis of Statistics Canada’s Survey on the Vitality of Official-Language Minorities, this paper contributes to the literature on ethnolinguistic vitality as well as language and culture retention through an examination of the demographic, institutional and individual-level factors contributing to differences in language retention rates among Ontario’s Francophone minorities. Following the literature in the field, I find that couple composition, self-reported identity and demographic structure are among the strongest predictors of language retention in Ontario’s minority Francophone community. However, subjective measures of linguistic community vitality as well as key sociodemographic indicators often cited as significant predictors of language retention are not associated with linguistic continuity when examined in more complex models.