Langue coloniale, langue globale, langue locale

Rue Descartes 58 (4):26-36 (2007)
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This paper is mainly about situating the French language within (its) history. It analyzes the nostalgia for a linguistic and cultural imaginary global dimension of French. Although there are different globalities for different purposes, the one most widespread global language is English. English works internationally as an international language, even where it was once the colonial language, now left in heritage to once colonised countries. But the situation of the French language is quite different, its "globality" being much more discrete and more locally circumscribed. (Yet the French often refer to French as a once diplomatic language, which it is not anymore, except for the French and for the "Francophonie"). This is not to deny the different global outreach (and different publics) of such languages as Mandarin, Arabic, or Spanish. In this paper, i compare French as a mainly local, and English as a global/international language in their different and divergent postcolonial configurations. Having access to a global language does not preclude the local dimension, which has several tracks. Contrary to the monolinguistic dream, languages actually inhabit each other. Since languages inhabit one another, plurilinguism is an asset, but it is also quite accessible to anyone. The French often have an inbuilt difficulty and complex (which comes with the way the first language is taught and transmitted) about not being able to speak another language, which inhibits them right from childhood. Crying over the fate of small languages or of languages "divested" of their universal claim seems useless. Language is a living organism subject to transformations and to decay.

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