France: deputies vote for ?regional? language recognition amidst strong UN criticism
Siegel, Jason F.
siegeljf at indiana.edu
Mon Jun 2 15:05:08 UTC 2008
I'm aware that this reply is late, but it took me a while to find the
reference. Jean-Marie Pontier points out in a 2003 book chapter that in
the discussion of the Loi Toubon, which established French as the
official language of France, there was at least one parlementarian who
wanted to add the phrase "avec le respect et la considération pour les
langues régionales" (with respect and consideration for regional
languages). So the idea of recognizing the regional languages in French
law is not new.
Jason F. Siegel
Ph.D. Student, Linguistics & French Linguistics
Department of French & Italian
Ballantine Hall 642
1020 East Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103
siegeljf at indiana.edu
Quoting Harold Schiffman <haroldfs at gmail.com>:
> France: deputies vote for 'regional' language recognition amidst
> strong UN criticism
> Bruxelles - Brussel, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 by Davyth Hicks
> The French National Assembly proposed an amendment last Thursday that
> the clause "Les langues régionales appartiennent à son patrimoine"
> (regional languages are part of (France's) heritage) be added to
> Article One of the Constitution. However, the UN's Committee on
> Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, has lambasted France stating
> that the lack of linguistic rights is leading to regional language
> decline. Commentators suggest that moves by France in support of
> regional languages may be made during their forthcoming Presidency of
> the EU so as to ward off any criticism of their domestic language
> policy. The amendment will now be examined by the Senate then senators
> and deputies vote on the matter at Congress in Versailles in July.
> The clause, proposed by the Breton deputy Marc le Fur (UMP), may be a
> small step towards some recognition for regional languages if it is
> successful. But it is a weak statement and any mention of "heritage
> language" often reflects the idea of a language in a museum rather
> than a living language that should be nurtured. Speaking to Eurolang,
> the editor of the Breton Ar Men magazine Yann Rivallain, said:
> "Basically I think that it is an important development, and that yes,
> it would make any opposition to a language law look even more absurd
> than before. There is a high chance that a law will be drafted by the
> same people who put that amendment and this will be of great help to
> justify that proposal. It does not make those languages "languages of
> the Republic", which means that it doesn't necessarily make it easier
> to ratify the Charter - which is why I think they chose to mention
> languages in Article 1.
> "However, given the state of matter in France, it is an achievement
> for those fighting for recognition. It shows too that the question is
> still second to most other issues for MP's who would have fought this
> very hard just a few months ago and accept it this time because it is
> needed to pass another change in the constitution. We're lucky that
> the general constitutional reform was not supported by many, otherwise
> regional languages would barely have been mentioned.
> "As far as I know the law still has to go through the Senate, which
> can amend and ask things to be redrafted until there is a
> consensus?There's a high chance it will get through."
> Language campaigner Pierrick le Feuvre added: "Whatever happens, the
> amendment adopted is a positive development." But that, "It is also
> probably an opportunistic choice by the Government a few weeks before
> the French Presidency of the European Union. A breakthrough, yes. But
> it will take a 6th Republic before things are really changing in
> The language issue had some coverage in the press with the
> conservative newspaper Le Figaro running an opinion poll, it showed a
> majority in favour of reform.
> UN: France must revise its Constitution
> Meanwhile, in Geneva on May 16th members from EBLUL France heard the
> UN expert Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights once again
> deplore "the lack of official recognition of minorities within the
> According to the Committee "the right to use a minority language,
> which can only be exercised in common with other members of the
> minority group" are not respected in France.
> The Committee regretted that "the absence of official recognition of
> regional and minority languages has contributed to the decline in the
> number of speakers of these languages. "
> The Committee recalls in France that "equality before the law and the
> prohibition of discrimination does not always ensure equal and
> effective enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and
> cultural rights by persons belonging to minority groups. "
> The UN Committee called on France to revise its Constitution to
> "officially recognize the need to protect cultural diversity and all
> minority groups under the jurisdiction of the State party".
> The Committee reiterated its requests to France to lift its
> reservations on articles 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and
> Political Rights and Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the
> Child (right persons Part of minority groups), and that it ratifies
> the Framework Convention for Protection of National Minorities, as
> well as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and
> Protocol No. 12 of the European Convention human rights against all
> forms of discrimination.
> The Committee said that France must "increase its efforts to preserve
> and promote regional languages and cultures, particularly in public
> education, television and radio and calls for official recognition of
> these languages in the Constitution."
> EBLUL France, who have worked with the UN on the issue, welcomed the
> French National Assembly's amendment on the recognition of regional
> languages in the Constitution. But "we also find that many more steps
> are needed, France is still catching up in comparison to other
> European countries and in relation to the principles it has ratified
> in the Treaty of Lisbon in particular." (Eurolang 2008)
> The National Assembly debate
> Ya d'ar Brezhoneg, Breton activist site, various articles
> Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights State reports, see France
> Tangi Louarn, EBLUL, interview at the UN
> Harold F. Schiffman
> Professor Emeritus of
> Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
> Dept. of South Asia Studies
> University of Pennsylvania
> Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
> Phone: (215) 898-7475
> Fax: (215) 573-2138
> Email: haroldfs at gmail.com
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