Date: Wed, 16 Mar 1994 12:16:28 CST From: Mike Picone Subject: French Linguistic Legislation Some more thoughts in reaction to previous comments on this subject: Contrary to popular belief, linguistic legislation in not always an exercise in futility. This is one of the things that Claude Hagege argues forcefully. The present English-only controversy in America certainly has serious implications for administration and education in various parts of the country, and the policies set will have real consequences. This is the first time modern America is having to face this kind of situation. In most parts of the world, however, the presence of competing languages is a longstanding reality that, like everything else that is social, inevitably enters into the political arena and becomes the target of legislation. As in many other things linguistic, American myopia leads many of us to dismiss linguistic legislation, but the truth is it has been around for a very long time and has changed the course of many a language. Now, as to the efficacy of attempting to inforce specific vocabulary replacements in a modern, international environment where it is hard to keep English out, success will be, at best, mitigated. Even here, however, there are more successful cases than some would make us believe. It depends, too, on the register one is operating in. Computer specialists in France continue to use a lot of English vocabulary, but replacement terms like _informatique_ `computer science', _logiciel_ `software', _materiel_ `hardware', _lecteur_ `drive', etc. have been quite successful in popular usage. The French can be very rude to Americans who don't speak French well. True enough. They can also be equally rude to fellow Frenchmen who speak French most eloquantly. The point is that rudeness can be misinterpreted to be a means of singling out Americans for abuse when this may not be the case at all. My situation in France was not typical of the tourist because I speak French well and resided there for almost nine years. It should be noted, however, that during that entire period of time, I can count on one hand the number of times that I was given any kind of abuse for being an American. Still, it cannot be denied that the French feel (and have been taught to feel) that there language has special merit. It is more than just a utlilitarian means of communicating. For a period of about ten years, the most widely watched TV show in France was "Apostrophe," a sort of forum for authors of books to get together and talk and debate (it finally went off the air, still at the pinacle of the ratings). People didn't watch it just because they were interested in books, but because they took such pleasure in witnessing the skillful manipulation of the language and the artful exchange of conversation that was almost always a hallmark of that show. Mike Picone University of Alabama