Linguistic Landscape and Language Awareness by Young Children

A Case Study in Montreal

Essay, 2011

15 Pages, Grade: 1,3



In this term paper I want to present a case study done by Diane Dagenais, Canièle Moore, Cécile Sabatier, Patricia Lamarre and Françoise Armand from 2005 – 2008 in Montreal and Vancouver. In doing so, I will give a background of Montreal, followed by a description of their research method. I will also offer criticism. At the end I will summarize the findings.


Montreal is the second largest city of Canada and the largest city of Quebec. It was founded in 1642 and called 'Ville-Marie', meaning 'City of Mary' (cf. Manzagol 2001: 15).

According to Canada Statistics (2006 Census) the Montreal metropolitan area had a population of 3'588'520 and only 8.96 percent of it could not speak the official language of the city, namely French.

Most of the immigrants who arrive in Quebec settle in Montreal (cf. Manzagol 2001: 24). “The immigrants form 45 % of the population of Montreal-City” 1 (Manzagol 2001: 25). Statistics show that the number of immigrants (to Quebec) who can speak neither English nor French in the years from 1996 to 2000 has quintupled in the years from 2001 to 2006 2.

Montreal is also a city of growing economy, especially in 'high tech' and pharmacy (cf. Manzagol 2001: 15-17). These facts, together with the good gross domestic product of Canada 3, show that Montreal is an ever-growing, multicultural city.

Linguistic Landscape and Language Awareness

It is for the reasons which were mentioned above that Montreal is interesting to study from the perspective of linguistic landscaping, which “is emerging in various domains of inquiry” (Dagenais et al. 2009: 253). Especially the field of education in the study of linguistic landscape is of much interest because there has not been much attention in that field (Ibid. p. 253).

Dagenais et al. paid much attention in that field. Their general aim of their longitudinal study in the years 2005 to 2008 was “to document elementary school students' contacts with a variety of languages in their communities” (Ibid. p. 259). Their study was

“based on an action-research project aimed at changing pedagogical practice” (Ibid. p. 260) in order to know which pedagogical tools to use (and how to use them) to raise the language awareness of students.

One of the reasons for their focus on the pedagogical domain is the population shift in Canada which “has led to an increasing number of children in schools who also speak languages other than French or English” (Ibid. p. 259), the two official languages of Canada. According to 2001 census

13.9 percent of children between ages 5-14 living in the Montreal metropolitan area and 29.5 percent of children in the same age range living in the Vancouver metropolitan area had a mother tongue other than English or French. (Ibid.)

The participants of this study were students in grade 5 (age 10-11) of two schools: one in Montreal, Quebec, and the other in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Vancouver participating students received instruction in both French and English since kindergarden. So, all of the participating students were at least bilingual, some were also multilingual. The school is also part of a school-district “in which 40 percent of the student population speaks a language other than English at home” (Ibid. p. 260).

The participating school in Montreal is part of a large school-district “in which 44 percent of students speak a language other than French and English” (Ibid). Many of the Montreal students were bilingual or multilingual.

The longitudinal study was divided into three time sections: each section was one year. In the first year, researchers gathered data from two geographical sections (called zone 1 and 2) that were near to each of the two schools. In the second and third year they worked together with students and teachers who were collecting their own data on the linguistic landscape in language awareness activities.

In Vancouver zone 1 was a quadrangle formed by four streets surrounding the school which was situated in a residential suburb. Zone 2 was roughly 1 km away from the school and was a larger quadrangle with streets inside. It included three commercial streets that were known by the students and their parents.

In Montreal zone 1 consisted of two residential streets: one street where the school was located and an intersecting street with many community/religious organizations and several warehouses bordering a train track. Zone 2 was a quadrangle covering about a square kilometer with commercial streets.

In the first year researchers took pictures of 132 signs in zone 1 and 2 in Vancouver: one

electoral/political, seven personal/home made, 105 commercial, 13 official and six community/religious signs. Unilingual signs in English were not photographed 1.

In Montreal 221 pictures 2 of electoral/political, personal, commercial, community/religious and public signs were taken. Unilingual signs were also photographed without the restriction of unilingual signs that were not English 3.

The comparison of the two data sets raise several questions about the total number of signs and their categorization. The difference of the total number of signs is 89. A difference which is significant and complicates a comparison. Although both studies have the same categorization in unilingual, bilingual and multilingual signs, the subcategorization of unilingual signs in both cities differs: where in Montreal unilingual signs in the official language, namely French, are included, the unilingual signs in English are excluded in Vancouver.

In both cities signs were also categorized according to their function and/or author 2. Here too, it is very difficult to compare these categorizations. In Montreal as well as in Vancouver the signs were divided in five categories: 'electoral/political', 'commercial', 'community/religious' and two other categories. In Vancouver were the categories 'personal/home made' and 'official' and in Montreal 'personal' and 'public'. Are the categories 'personal/home made' and 'personal' the same? 4 And what does the categories 'official' and 'public' mean? Are these names of the two categories replaceable? 5 These facts cause problems to really compare these two sets of data and come to an adequate solution. Although the focus was on multilingualism and language diversity, not considering the English unilingual signs will inevitably alter the perception of language diversity which cannot be the aim of the project.

Nevertheless, these sets of data also give an interesting inside. In both cities multilingual signs are not common. In Montreal there are more unilingual signs than bilingual ones. Within the category of unilingual signs French is dominant. Within bilingual signs those with French as one of the two languages make up over 90 percent. It is interesting to see that


1 Quote translated from French into English by the author of the term paper.

2 Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population. Retrieved the 4th of February 2011, at 6:12 PM. See also Appendix Table II, p. 8 with complete reference.

3 International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, October 2010. Gross domestic product, constant prices. Retrieved the 4th of February 2001, at 8:17 PM. See also Appendix Table III, p. 9-13 with complete reference. 1 See also Appendix Table IV, p. 13.

2 It is also problematic for comparison that the number of signs of each category function/authorship is only mentioned in the research in Vancouver and not in the research in Montreal.

3 See also Appendix Table V, p. 14.

4 It seems that the category 'personal/home made' implicates the way of production of the sign, whereas the category 'personal' does not have that implication in which case these two categories are not replaceable.

5 In my essay “Linguistic Landscape and the Crucial Differences between Public and Private Signs” I have shown that public signs are signs in the public sphere. All signs which were considered in this study were in the public sphere. So, what constitutes the category 'public' that it is different from the other categories? Does it mean 'official'? I personally doubt that because of the different naming.

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Linguistic Landscape and Language Awareness by Young Children
A Case Study in Montreal
Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald  (Amerikanistik)
Linguistic Landscape
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
558 KB
LL, Linguistic Landscape, Linguistic landscaping, language awareness, language awareness of young children, young children, Montreal
Quote paper
Ronny Paeplow (Author), 2011, Linguistic Landscape and Language Awareness by Young Children, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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