LINGUIST List 14.1816

Mon Jun 30 2003

Disc: NYT Essay on Endangered Languages

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Steve Hewitt, NYT Essay on endangered languages

Message 1: NYT Essay on endangered languages

Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003 17:25:57 +0200
From: Steve Hewitt <>
Subject: NYT Essay on endangered languages

In response to Michael Newman (Linguist 14.1809): 

France also contains a number of highly endangered languages, which
are victims of its singularly effective policies of linguistic
homogenization. At the same time, it is, being France, particularly
sensitive to its intellectual reputation.)

Yes, I think France would be sensitive to international academic
pressure. My feeling (having been involved with Breton now for the
best part of 30 years) is that the general French public is no longer
antagonistic to the lesser-used languages of France, but most of the
political elite lag well behind public opinion, and remain vehemently
opposed to any promotion of regional languages. The same officials who
appropriate large sums of French public money to support moribund
French-speaking pockets in the US oppose the provision of funding for
regional languages spoken natively by French citizens on the grounds
that such support would be "ethno-communitarian" "identity-based" and
hence "anti-republican". In France, it's simple: when you are in
favour cultural difference, you call it "universalisme" and
"l'exception culturelle fran´┐Żaise"; when you are against, you call it
"le ghetto culturel" and "le repli identitaire". French linguists, on
the whole, do not appear to be very concerned about changing their
country's abysmal record on this score.

Steve Hewitt
Paris, France
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