A qualitative investigation of the experience of accent stigmatisation among native and nonnative French speakers in Canada


  • Nathalie Freynet University of Ottawa
  • Richard Clément University of Ottawa
  • John Sylvestre University of Ottawa




accent stigmatization; native accent; non-native accent; ethnolinguistic vitality; nonstandard accent, accent stigmatization, native accent, non-native accent, ethnolinguistic vitality, nonstandard accent, pronunciatioin


Decades of language attitudes research have documented negative evaluations of non-standard speakers. However, fewer studies have investigated the experience of stigmatization from the perspective of the non-standard speakers themselves. The study aims to explore the following questions: (1) What perception do speakers hold of their accent? (2) What does perceived accent discrimination look like? (3) How do stigmatized speakers respond to discriminatory experiences? Semistructured interviews were conducted among 36 (native, n=18; non-native, n=18) French-speaking participants in Canada. Participants were systematically selected from three regions in Canada for each group, capturing the experiences of nonstandard speakers from areas with varying levels of French ethnolinguistic vitality. The results show that (1) attitudes towards one’s accent often appear to reinforce or diminish pride in one’s way of speaking, and feelings of belonging or language competency; (2) accent stigmatization among French speakers in Canada is perceived by many non-standard speakers, and discrimination is perceived to occur in various settings and to take multiple forms; (3) behavioural, cognitive and affective responses to and consequences of discrimination are identified.

Author Biographies

Nathalie Freynet, University of Ottawa

Nathalie Freynet, MA is completing her PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa. Recent publications include “Bilingualism in minority settings in Canada: Integration or assimilation?” (Freynet & Clément, 2015).

Richard Clément, University of Ottawa

Richard Clément is professor of psychology as well as Director and Associate Dean of the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute at the University of Ottawa. His current research interests include issues related to bilingualism, second language acquisition and identity change and adjustment in the acculturative process, topics on which he has published extensively. He is an elected Fellow of both the Canadian and the American Psychological Associations as well as of the Royal Society of Canada.

John Sylvestre, University of Ottawa

John Sylvestre, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Psycholgy, and Director of the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services. Recent publications include “The Study of Service Use among Homeless Persons with Mental Illness: A Methodological Review” (Kerman, Sylvestre, & Polillo, 2016) and “How Different Approaches to Taking Pictures Influences Participation in a Photovoice Project” (Bendell & Sylvestre, 2016).


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How to Cite

Freynet, N., Clément, R., & Sylvestre, J. (2018). A qualitative investigation of the experience of accent stigmatisation among native and nonnative French speakers in Canada. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 2(1), 5–31. https://doi.org/10.1558/jld.32226