Leger, Catherine

Assistant Professor, Honours advisor


Phone number: (250) 721-7369
Email: cleger@uvic.ca
Department: French

Research description:

-French varieties in North America
Expertise Profile
We condemn racial discrimination, but we often ignore language discrimination, and assume some French dialects are naturally better than others. Linguist Catherine Leger wants to demonstrate that all dialects are equal.

Dr. Leger studies the syntax-semantics interface within a particular area: complementation in French; she looks at the relationships between sentence structures and meaning to uncover and explain the rules of spoken French, making it easier for students to understand the logic that governs French structures.

Dr. Leger also studies Chiac, the French dialect she grew up speaking, to demonstrate that it is not a "corrupted" French. Chiac, a variety of Acadian French spoken in southeastern New Brunswick, is significantly different from Quebecois French and other French dialects. For example, Chiac borrows extensively from English because it is a minority language in an Anglophone region. Since many assume Chiac is a form of corrupted French, its speakers often struggle with linguistic insecurity. "We were told over and over again that we spoke bad French," Dr. Leger says.

Dr. Leger shows that, since Chiac uses French syntax, it is simply a variety of French spoken in a specific area that has its own particular characteristics, not a "bad" variety of French. She says, "One of the tasks of linguists working on stigmatized languages or dialects is to destroy myths about them."

She teaches that various French dialects exist, and that their differences do not make them inferior to standard French. This is one reason why Dr. Leger loves teaching her 400 level course Varieties of French. "It is my favourite class," she says. In it, she teaches students the unique characteristics of different Canadian French dialects, and helps them understand French as people actually speak it in their daily lives.

Countries lived or worked in:

United States



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