Meet the French, strong supporters of regional languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jul 4 19:35:12 UTC 2008

  Meet the French, strong supporters of regional languages [image:
PDF] <javascript:void'',
Print] <javascript:void'',
E-mail] <javascript:void'',
- Brussel, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 by Davyth Hicks     [image:

Unity or diversity may be the question facing the French institutions, but
according to an opinion poll published on Sunday in the newspaper Ouest
France the French people want unity in diversity. The survey shows an
overwhelming majority (68%) are for the recognition of "regional" languages
in the Constitution.

Presented by the Breton UMP deputy Marc Le Fur, the amendment to include the
recognition of regional languages in the first article of the Constitution
has sparked heated exchanges in Parliament. Adopted by the National
Assembly, the text was strongly rejected by the Senate, France's second
chamber, and attracted the hostility of the ultra conservative Academie
Francaise, set up in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu to protect the "purity" of
French and to legitimise the exclusion of France's regional languages.

For an overwhelming majority of French people, however, the "languages of
France" are part of their linguistic heritage where they wish to celebrate
linguistic diversity rather than crush it . 68% welcome the initiative taken
by Parliament, although 45% of respondents are less enthusiastic with a
cautious "rather favourable". 16% are "not at all favourable."

Language supporters anticipate that, following the Senate's rejection,
the National Assembly will reintroduce the amendment and seek the Senate's
Young very favourable*

As has been shown by several previous studies and surveys, younger
generations are more open to France's linguistic diversity. Nearly 80% of
the under 30s support a revision of the Constitution, 58% of those over 50
years, while for those over 75 years those "for" and "against" are equally
balanced. A generational divide is also marked between students (80% in
favour) and pensioners (54% in favour).

Regional language supporters, who describe the Senate as "d'assemblies
gérontes" (an assembly of out of touch old fogies) and the Academy "a
ridiculous relic of outdated French nationalism", say that the opinion poll
illustrates how the two institutions defend a vision from a distant
centralist past far from the opinion of today's French.

Is the regional language a language of the people? Yes, says the survey.
Employees and workers are 75% in favour, and are more committed than
managers and professionals (65%) to protect linguistic diversity.

The draft amendment of Deputies in the National Assembly was rejected by the
Senate because it constituted, according to the Senate, a "violation of
national identity and a one and indivisible Republic ". However, the survey
finds that the Senate's opinion sits in stark contrast to that of French
people, as 70% of respondents consider that a reference to regional
languages in the Constitution would enshrine the importance of regional
languages as part of France's "heritage".

Politically all party supporters approved the amendment with Green, Liberal
and Socialist voters being more convinced of the need for reform and to a
slightly lesser extent the conservative UMP (65%). Although the sample of
respondents was limited, Communist voters appear to disagree with their own
senators - who opposed the constitutional amendment.

Finally, the survey asked whether regional languages are a provincial
matter? Not at all. Those in Paris and Ile de France (69% for) were more in
favour of Basque, Occitan and Breton than those in rural communes (65% for)
with less than 2,000 people.

The poll was conducted outside of regional language speaking areas on June
18th and 19th by phone on a national sample of 960 people representative of
the French population, aged 18 and older. (Eurolang 2008)

Ouest France article (in

Related article from the Guardian (UK) on the Academie

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or
sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree
with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list