Traces of monolingual and plurilingual ideologies in the history of language policies in France

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French is often quoted as the forerunner and model of a very normative and top-down managed language, following the language policy of an archetypal monolingual nation-state, be it France, Quebec or other French-speaking communities in the world. This particular contribution is not going to prove the contrary. However, we will try to show that even the French language and the French-speaking nations are not as much of a monolithic block as they are frequently perceived to be. At different moments in history other ideologies on the French language appeared. They concerned, on the one hand, the relationship between “French” and other languages – historical minorities and immigrant languages – and, on the other hand, the attitudes towards different varieties of French. In other words, the history of French must take into account three different elements: (a) the elaboration, over the centuries, of the endoxa, that is the official ideology, fixed in the dominant discourse; (b) the existence and, at some moments in history, prioritization of other types of discourse, manifesting more or less opposite opinions; (c) the fact that different beliefs may co-exist, that contradictory voices can be heard simultaneously at certain moments and also struggle in the arena of public discourse, enabling the (en)doxa to be polyphonic.


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