By Dennis E Ager

This article is set the connection among language and the society that makes use of it. It in particular goals to find what drove and drives the French to pay attention quite a bit on language, on what it really is that characterises their technique, and at the motives for the rules governments have pursued long ago and current.

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Extra info for Identity, Insecurity and Image: France and Language

Sample text

The 1694 Academy dictionary, and the comments of court poets, dramatists and salon experts are not policy in the strict sense; but since strictures on language use emanated from the highest social and political element of French society, it was incumbent on those who wished to make their way in society to observe and adopt the new norms. Indeed, the special role of the Loire valley, whose speech is still today regarded as at least as 'good' as that of Paris, derives from the fact that it was a favourite area for kings and courtiers from the sixteenth century.

It also considered the question of regional languages and made some suggestions for their increased use such as allowing an increase to three hours of teaching per week and the inclusion of elements of local culture and civilisation in the programmes. But there was general and widespread opposition at the official level within the Ministry of Education to increased access to regional languages or to any promotion of their teaching by making them part of official examinations. Indeed, Occitan was withdrawn from some examinations (Caldwell, 1994: 298) and there was very lukewarm support for experiments with bilingual classes in Brittany.

The pressure intensified and, as one response, Giscard d'Estaing as President in the late 1970s started to set up 'cultural charters' or 'contracts' with the regions. The 'Cultural Charter for Brittany' for example, signed in 1977, promised state support for a number of cultural organisations and activities, including language pressure groups, although many considered it to be an attempt to put language on the same level as bagpipe playing and to turn the language into one more piece of local colour.

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