Centrism: control from the center
- Top-down decision making, rather than bottom-up, decentralized authority.
- Federalism is bad; centralism is good and democratic!
- Paternalistic: the monarch, the revolutionary committees know
Dirigisme control everything (even things that can't be
controlled? Control Freakism?)
- Standard French is lucid, rational, clear and other forms of
language (idiomes, patois, jargons, argots) are muddied, irrational, unclear,
inadequate. Speech by Barrère
to the Convention on the 27th of January, 1794:
"La langue d'un peuple libre
doit être une et la même pour tous. Nos ennemis
avaient fait de la langue française la langue des cours; ils l'avaient avilie. C'est
à nous d'en faire la langue des peuples: elle sera
Le fédéralisme et la superstition parlent bas-breton; l'émigration et la haine de la
république parlent allemand; la
contre-révolution parle italien et le fanatisme parle basque. Brisons ces instruments
de dommage et d'erreur.
(...) [Federalism and superstition speak Breton; emigration and hate for
speak German; counterrevolution speaks Italian, and fanaticism speaks Basque. Let us
destroy these instruments of damage and error.]
Citoyens, vous détestez le fédéralisme politique. Abjurez celui du langage. La langue
doit être une comme la république." [citizens, you hate political
linguistic [federalism]. Language ought to be one, like the republic.]
- Task of education is to replace the muddy, murky language with the
and thereby instill a clear rational language in the heads of students (and eradicate
the other, useless, inadequate 'language'.)
- Mission civilisatrice: Task of French (language and culture) is
to civilize the world, bring rationality to the poor irrational hordes, whether it be
in the colonies, the schools, the marginal areas, the gutters...
- Rayonnement: metaphors of light are rampant: French
civilisation and language 'radiate' out from the center, illuminating the
darkness of the world. They are brilliant and glorious.
French Revolution: tried to change everything!
- Eliminate the monarchy, religion, privileges, slavery, injustice...
- Bring in justice, rights of man, progress, citizenship for all...(but
did not eliminate slavery in the colonies).
- Used language as both a vehicle and an object
- Goal: Standardize the language, rationalize it
- Teach it to all, in all communes, in all schools
- Use it to democratize, and to usher in democracy; eliminate `bad' forms
of language (idiomes, patois, etc.) which were counterrevolutionary
barriers, vehicles of hate, retention of privilege, elitism, hereditary advantage,
irrationality, injustice, etc.
- Grégoire and his survey: the revolution could not be furthered
unless language itself changed; language had to be the vehicle but also had to be
purged. Otherwise rights would not be extended to all, the revolution would
not be available to all, would fail.
"Vous avez voté des lois à toutes les communes de la République, mais ce bienfait
est perdu pour celles des départements du Morbihan, du Finistère, des Côtes-du-Nord,
de la Loire-Inférieure. Les lumières portées à grands frais aux extrémités de la
France s’y éteignent en y arrivant, puisque les lois n’y sont pas entendues.' [ You have voted laws for all the communes of the Republic, but this
benefit is lost for those of the departments of Morbihan, Finistere, Cotes du Nord,
and Loire Interieure. The lights carried at great expense to the extremities of
France extinguish themselves when they arrive there, because the laws there are not
(See more on this
- Terrorism ( la terreure a.k.a. 'the Reign of Terror.')
If people resisted, they were `counterrevolutionaries' and had to be
eliminated: chop off their heads! Some people 'knew best' and people who resisted
them had to be eliminated; Power was usurped by Robespierre, others; by the month of
Year 2, terror was out of control. Robespierre went too far, then was
guillotined himself, ending the rein of terror. ("The revolution devours its
Jacobinisme was the French name for this tendency to try to control
everything. Still a feature of French life. (More here.)
- Other problems: Bonapartisme or 'great man will fix it'; great
man then makes things worse. Solution: bring in another great man, to fix THAT. The
revolution rolls on, rolling over its children (la révolution dévore
ses enfants) : constant revolution needed to clean up the
messes of the
jackasses who went before.
- Law of unintended
REALLY happened during the French Revolution as far as language
was concerned? Did every wonderful thing they say happened, really happen?
- The Monarchist language policy was finally triumphant (sic!)
- Jacobiniste language policy clearly got a foothold
- Myths of various sorts got started...such as the idea that France has
"the oldest official language policy in the world" (Balibar).
Other pertinent stuff...
colorful clickable map depicting the regional languages of France and all their
- Read what the French say/"think" about their earliest history:
Serments de Strasbourg (the earliest document in "French" (i.e. lingua
romana dating from 842.)
- Read the Chapters (4 and 5) on France in Schiffman 1996
- A handout that raises more questions than it answers.
France showing expansion since around 1100.
- The Constitution of France, 1958 the Fifth Republic
- An article explaining the French Revolutionary Calendar.
- And the amendments of 1995 (English text) regarding language
(Is this explicit or what?)
recent (2002) article of my own about French assumptions about controlling
- An article questioning whether the recent
the orthography really did anything, or was DOA. (Just for fun, see
about the circumflex accent and its use in 'branding' of the Lancàme
company. And for more fun, here's an even more egregious
example of spurious umlaut manipulation.)
- A page for la Francophonie
the French-speaking community in the world.
- A page from a regional French government, declaring the local dialects (langues régionales de la
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) to be equal, and ought to be promoted
taught. (Translation by me, hfs, with help from Philippe Blanchet; original
was in French.)
- A nice page summarizing
French language policy from Université Laval, in Canada.
- Some interesting clippings from the world
- A recent flap over requirement that pilots and air-traffic
controllers speak English! and how it was resolved.
- Reports about granting some autonomy to Corsica, including
linguistic rights for Corsican and the
- A recent article in the Guardian about the future of French in the
A web document about
abbreviations in French.
- An article from 1989 describing how the
Institut Pasteur decided to change
the title of its journals to English, and publish henceforward only in English!