French linguistic politics


Language Log today has an example of amazing French official duplicity, arrogance, ignorance and dishonesty.

A representative of the Académie Française claims that the minority languages of France are nothing more than debased dialects, unworthy of being recognised as languages at all, having failed to produce writers of the calibre of Balzac, Montesquieu, etc. On top of that, the European initiative to recognise minority languages is all a German plot! Germany being the only EU state to have no minority languages (is that even true?)

So Basque, Catalan, Occitan, all with long and eminent literary histories, are to be consigned to the  dustbin of history because a few narrow-minded French chauvinists (rightly is that word borrowed from French!) can’t be bothered to find out anything about them.

There are surely more Catalan speakers, for instance, than Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonians. Does the Academy not want to recognise these languages either, as being not worthy of notice? And yet they are national languages.

I think the French state feels very insecure. Inferiority complex?


  1. “Germany being the only EU state to have no minority languages (is that even true?)”
    Germany recognises as indigenous minorities Sorbian, Danish, Friesan and Roma, all of whom have their own languages.

  2. Germany does have a language minority – the Sorbs in Sachsen (Saxony) down the south east, on the borders with Poland and the Czech republic. They even have all the street names and other public language notices in both German and Sorb (a Slavic language).

  3. The French have always had contradictory language policies. Just think of the francophonie one the one hand, and Chirac’s call for preserving diversity in the world one the other hand. However, judging from the behavior of Catalan speakers in Spain, for example, it does not always seem to be a wise policy to give full support for minority languages. It all depends on the context.

  4. Why is the Catalan speakers’ behaviour so horrible? I think it isn’t so bad taking into account that during different periods of the history you could have been jailed just for speaking Catalan…

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