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Open and closed languages in the postcolonial era

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In the global language system that is likely to emerge, the struggle between English and French seems to be in favour of the former language. The present article argues that the foreseeable receding of French internationally can be explained by the correlation between language and nationalism. The article is divided into four parts. The first one describes the evolution of ex-colonial subjects' attitudes towards the ex-colonial languages. The second part shows how English has adapted to new postcolonial contexts by liberating itself from its national origin and imperial past, while French has not. The third part examines French linguistic culture which is grounded in linguistic purism, assimilation and the refusal to accept non-white language users. The use of notions such as littrature francophone is an expression of the exclusive nature of this ideology which makes French a closed language. The fourth and final part presents some recent (nationalist) reactions towards ex-colonial languages in former colonies.
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Keywords: assimilation; de-ethnicization; language attitudes; language competition; linguistic culture; nationalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Universit Stendhal Grenoble III.

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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