Quebec English is a broad term used for the dialects (both foreign and native) spoken in North America’s great Francophone province. There is a cultural divide between Quebec and English-speaking Canada, making it tricky to suss out what marks a “Quebec accent.” So we’ll start with a specific question: what is Quebecois English’s relationship to “Anglo-Canadian” English?
For clarity, I’m going to focus on one obvious feature of Canadian accents: the Canadian raising of the diphthong in “about” before voiceless consonants (resulting in the notorious “aboot” parody). Let’s look at this vowel in the speech of three natives of Quebec, each with different relationships to the English language.
First up is this interview with former Canadian PM Jean Chrétien. (No need to listen to the whole thing.) Chrétien grew up a good 130 km Northeast of Montreal, and as such, was raised away from the Anglophone communities of Western Quebec. As such, his accent is quite “foreign-sounding,” particularly notable in his occasional omission of /s/ at the end of plural words.* Likewise, at 1:48 in the video he says the word “about” in a manner which doesn’t strike me as typical of Canadian raising. I would deem the marked Canadian English influence on his accent minimal, at best.
Then there is this interview with musician Regine Chassagne, a native of Montreal. Chassagne’s accent is clearly influenced by her native language (note the interesting assortment of /r/ pronunciations), but I find her speech much closer to that of a native English speaker than Chrétien’s. Turning to “about,” however, her pronunciation of the word at 1:12 in the video doesn’t exhibit Canadian raising.
But what about Anglophone natives of Montreal? This interview with music legend Leonard Cohen (who was raised and still resides in Montreal) clearly indicates the presence of Canadian raising — note the various pronunciations of “house” and “about” in the first three minutes of the video. So it would be inaccurate to say that Montreal is entirely divorced from Anglophone Canadian English.
I have no conclusions to offer, of course, since we’ve only looked at three examples and one phoneme. But my tentative impression is that “native” English speakers in Quebec are likely to have features of Canadian English. “Non-native” Quebec speakers, even if they speak the language with near-native fluency, are likely to adopt an accent that, while recognizably North American, is less markedly Canadian.
Interestingly, after doing this quick comparison, I read something on Rick Aschmann’s dialect map site that is quite similar:
For a while I had thought … I had found an area in Southeastern Quebec where Canadian raising did not apply, Specifically the cities of Montreal and Sherbrooke. However, the samples I had selected were ethnic French speakers, and even though their English showed no trace of a French accent, Chris Harvey says that ethnic French speakers are not the best samples of the native English Montreal accent … It seems my entire idea was wrong that, because the Stanstead area was settled by Americans, they would still speak like Americans rather than Canadians. Apparently the “Badge of Identity” applies here, too!
My knowledge of Quebec French itself, I should mention, is quite shaky. If anybody knows anything about Quebec French and how it influences the English spoken in the province, let me know!
*An obvious point to many readers, but the French language differentiates between singular and plural nouns. However, as plurality is often indicated through vowels or contextual clues in spoken French, this can result in some curiously s-less plurals when French speakers learn English.