Je propose cet extrait de l'article «Cultures in conflict: the imperative of language», par Raymond Gagné (chef de la direction de la linguistique au ministère fédéral des Affaires indiennes, à l'époque, et expert en langues Inuit), publié dans la numéro d'août-septembre 1969 de la revue Canadian Dimension, à Winnipeg. Ce magazine de la gauche anglo-canadienne existe depuis 1963 et publie toujours en 2015.
La situation évoquée dans cet article décrit fort bien le vécu linguistique d'une forte proportion des francophones de la région d'Ottawa et de Gatineau, et de la région montréalaise. Même si le texte remonte à plus de 40 ans, et que l'avènement de la Loi 101 a quelque peu modifié la donne au Québec, l'essentiel de la dynamique linguistique et culturelle perçue par l'auteur n'a pas fondamentalement changé.
Si Canadian Dimension mettait en ligne certains de ses textes pré-Internet, dont celui-ci, j'ai la certitude qu'ils trouveraient un auditoire, et qu'ils contribueraient à alimenter nos débats en ce début de 21e siècle.
Voici donc l'extrait:
«Bilingualism as a phenomenon usually relates to the individual, and not the society at large. (…) Collective bilingualism presupposes two sets of sociodynamics at work within one society, each keeping alive, functioning and developing its particular set of culture, language and personality structures. Wherever this is found, especially where two sets of social forces are closely intermingled, one set of structures must necessarily dominate the other.
«The predominance of one set of structures over another has been shown to be the case in every study of individual bilinguals, no matter how they acquired their two languages. There are no exceptions, here, not even for prime minister Trudeau. But where the unconscious processes of two different sociodynamics of unequal strength are intermingled and in free and open competition in the shaping of linguistic-cultural personalities of the people living in their midst, the stronger one always remains intact, while the weaker one is transformed willy-nilly.
«Montréal and the Ottawa-Hull region are excellent testing grounds for the study of languages and cultures in contact. This situation has strong effects on the individual who belongs to the less stable set of linguistic and cultural structures. The effects of massive infusion of English into French permeates every structure - mostly the vocabulary, but also the grammatical and syntactic patterns, the phonological as well, including vocalic length and stress, intonation and rhythm.
«But the most serious invasion and perhaps the most sinister one is at the semantic level. It is subtle and devastating. The semantic confusion in the mind of most French Canadians is beyond description. The average bilingual, not the elite, is literally mutilated, as he can very seldom express himself well and with accuracy and confidence in either language.
«Social scientists agree that the basic patterns of culture, language and personality are acquired by a child by the time he goes to school. In varying degrees, it is a hybrid linguistic-cultural milieu which shapes the mind of the French-Canadian child. When he enters school, over and above the normal psychological array of a school beginner, he faces the additional psychological burden of having most of his speech patterns challenged by a new set of rules which are tantamount to his learning a different language.
«It is as if he are being subtly told that all he stands for is after all not worth very much, and that he must now submit himself to what is literally a personality transplant. The minute he leaves the schoolroom, he feels psychologically ill at ease at using these radically different patterns which are not a reflection of his milieu.
«In a very real sense the French Canadian is being asked to perform the impossible duty of playing the hero every day of his life, in a valiant personal defense of his mother tongue. This task is beyond his powers as a simple individual, because no single person can withstand the minute-to-minute struggle of swimming against the heavy tides of his linguistic cultural milieu, which in all normal societies is there to support the individual and not to drown him.
«As a result, the French Canadian wastes the better part of his creative energies trying to consciously remake and recreate his own language, that is, trying to do something that in all societies comes naturally. The burden often becomes so heavy that many French-Canadian bilinguals eventually prefer to speak English, even among each other. In this way the French-Canadian, like poor Sisyphus, is condemned to a never-ending, wasteful and fruitless struggle.
«Until very recent times (l'article date de 1969…), the power elite in Québec thought that the school alone could undo all the evils brought about by an unhealthy and hybrid linguistic-cultural milieu. The independentists, however, are interested in a fundamental restructuring of the sociodynamics in Québec in favor of the French culture and language. For them, it is the total milieu that must be restructured, not just the school.»