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Review of  Sens et signification dans les espaces francophones

Reviewer: Komla Amegashie
Book Title: Sens et signification dans les espaces francophones
Book Author: Olga Galatanu Ana-Maria Cozma Virginie Marie
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): French
Issue Number: 26.2805

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


‘Sense and Meaning in the Francophone World: The Discursive Construction of the Concept of “francophonie”’ is co-edited by Olga Galatanu, Ana-Maria Miron Cozma and Virginia Marie published in “Gramm-R: Studies in French linguistics” (19).

In this book the concept of “Francophonie” is studied. What does “Francophonie” mean and how is used? What discourses feed and construct the francophone identity? The book brings together articles; presented at the conference: French and the Discursive Construction of the Concept of ''francophonie'' in the French-Speaking Space held in Nantes in April 2012. It represents diverse theories and disciplines, different perspectives and understandings on the word F/francophonie mobilized by the speeches of its defenders and by those of its detractors, of politicians and of the media. Prefaced by the co-editors, the book tackles three issues: 1) The founders and supporters of a unified Francophone world who generate discourses of “Francophonie”, 2) French-speakers’ identity as belonging to a ''francophonie'' and 3) Zones and collective identities in “francophonie”.

Olga Galatanu, in her: “Introduction to the Study of the Concept and the Lexical meaning of francophonie”, finds in the discursive construction of the concept, the designation of a social object and proposes to locate cultural and institutional “f/Francophone” zones, and the collective francophone and/or Francophone identities by defining the concepts “francophonie” and “Francophonie”. The first is a set of linguistic communities or people speaking French or even a socio-political movement in defense of French language and its culture; the second is more a socio-political, economic, cultural, and scientific zone whose members sometimes share a common history or simply share values and cultures related to the French language, social and political francophone contenders of francophone zones within the Francophone world. “Francophonie” is a concept in continuous reconstruction, whose new and voluntary construction by political and ideological theorists is the “Francophonie” which is analyzed through Semantics of Argumentative Possibilities, a description model of lexical meaning capable of accounting as well for the representations of the world perceived and ''modeled'' by the language as of the “argumentative potential'' of the words, potential that the pragmatic environment of the utterance or the context of the speech can activate, and even enhance, weaken, neutralize or even invert. In regard to the construction or the reconstruction of F/francophonie, the analysis is based on multiple convergent and divergent senses of words, discourses, and the “power of the verb” in the construction of both concepts: French-speaking identities and Francophone zone. The analysis of different definitions and meanings of the concept given or imposed by the founding and supporting discourses, on the one hand, and by detractors on the other, allow one to see the foundational role of the French language on identities within the francophone zones and the way both identities and francophone zones function. The question debated is: how is the word F/francophonie discursively constructed?

Part One: The concept of “francophonie” and its foundational discourses and the advocates of the French-speaking zones.

Four articles analyze the foundational discourses of the organization called “Francophonie” and the French-speaking identity built around France and its language, as well as the history of the ideological and linguistic feats referenced by the organization.

1. ''Constructing the Identity of Francophonie in the Opening Speeches of the Francophone Summits” by Anne-Laure Camus.

The author analyzes the discursive construction of ''Francophonie''. She makes a thematic and lexical reading of the supportive speeches and emphasizes the affective and evaluative word choices and the value systems that abound in the founding speeches, the opening speeches at francophone summits and the dialogues with French-speakers. Is there a francophone identity? If so, what common characteristics describe it? From the analysis, it appears that the identity builds itself in the course of the opening speeches that connect “f/Francophonie” with the colonial history in order to justify the French-speaking common identity. Quoting speeches of summits of the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF), she justifies her assertion by the references to a colonial history that is painful but unifying for the peoples of a common language. However, the countries referred to as “Francophonie”, do not all have a common language, and therefore the fundamental principle of linguistic unity becomes a pretext. Thus the speech changes and embraces the diversity of peoples no longer bound by language but by a common colonial history referred to as an ''identity base ''. Discourses of linguistic unity shift towards discourses of ''the unity in the diversity'' from 1995 and characterize the present day Organization, which groups countries of different regions and populations, different ethnicities and cultures, but also different languages, around the common values of freedom, democracy etc. “Francophonie” is built on different ideas sometimes contradictory to its foundation.

2- “The Semiotics of Francophonie” by Jean Pierre Fewou Ngouloure

Through the meaning of “La Francophonie”, the author wants to give the sense that carries this concept since for him the semantic essence of “Francophonie” constitutes a process of interruptions. He distinguishes “Francophonie” as an organization and “francophonie” as a concept. The former is the community represented by the IOF; the latter is tied to language and refers to people speaking French. However, many see in the former a return of the political domination of France, perpetuating colonial history through an organization whose foundation was French language and culture. This represents a linguistic francophonie born from a historical francophonie with different perceptions and meanings even within the same geographical areas. Northern Francophonie refers to countries that speak French as a native language and share with France an equal relationship and a defense of the language. However, the French language is an official, institutional language in most countries of the southern Francophonie. “Francophonie” does not have the same meaning even within itself. It is neither a homogeneous organization nor a uniform concept but simply a “sign” with multiple “signifiers” which only context can clarify.

3- “The Concept of “francophonie” in French Media in 2007 and 2009” by Delphine Giuliani

The concept of francophonie is analyzed through media discourses during two elections periods in France (2007 and 2009). To reach her goal, the author develops a lexical prototype related to the words “francophone” and “Francophonie” used in the media in France during two months, to show the positive meaning of the adjective “francophone in the French media. The author studies how the concept of “Francophonie” is constructed and deconstructed. The comparison shows that the adjective “francophone” refers to cultural, economic and political contexts. It is associated with knowledge and carries a positive connotation expressed by cultural, academic, and economic exchanges etc, while “Francophonie,” although a potential bearer of active meanings, is not free of controversy and contradictions.

4- “The Francophone Pathos: Argument and Emotions around Francodoxie'' by François Provenzano

The institutional discourses of “Francophonie” are analyzed here as representations that do not acknowledge a fact but suggest a vision on “francophonie”. According to the author, “francophonie” is built on a ''francodoxie '', and designates any process which is inspired to evoke Francophonie and is characterized by phobias. Speeches are still under analysis, with the focus on the arguments and emotions of the speakers as well as those of the audience. It is clear that the speeches are trying more to prove, propose and orient visions of the French language and all that rotates around it. The founding speeches show fear of the linguistic hegemony of English, labeled as the Anglo-Saxon invasion. “Francophonie” is then a counterweight to that invasion and to English, and thus enhances the purity of French language which English soils. The staining of French, the language of the Enlightenment and of universal civilization, implies the darkness and the death of humanist values. The founders of “Francophonie” make ample use of appeal to the emotions of the listeners. They advocated a common struggle for a new, humanistic world with a new balance and equity between peoples and cultures. The author finds arguments of flattery within the discourses that reveal the anxiety and the threat of French language’s destruction that the advocates of “Francophonie” attempt to combat.

Part Two: French Language and Francophone Identities
The five articles in this part discuss identities tied to the representations and uses of French language.

1- “The avatars of war and solar metaphor in the discourses of “La Francophonie”” by Romuald Berty

This contribution shows that the construction of “Francophonie” is marked out by avatars of conflict between endogenous languages ​​and French, the dominant language which is imposed upon the former. The author starts from the Renaissance to illustrate the genealogy of the struggle of French with Latin. The influence of French, which distinguishes the French national identity, is the same camouflaged struggle advocated in the attempt to bind and assimilate French language and nation to the Francophone identity. Francophonie is simply a linguistic imperialism born at the end of colonial imperialism in which France was the core around which revolved other ''peripheries,'' territories considered as children of its conquests. These children fight not only to impose their French-speaking identities within “Francophonie” “as a fight for the cultural prestige of France” but also to defend the existence of the French language.

2- “What Does it Mean to be a French-Speaker in Canada?” By Annette Boudreau

From an oral and written corpus, the author analyzes the importance of French and the representation of its use by French Canadians. The multiple meanings of “Francophonie” among French-speakers are manifested here by loyalty to the term “Francophonie” whether they are French, African, Canadian or other. This term is often meaningless, or at most has a negative connotation among the African French-speakers; it is a parameter for identification among French Canadians, especially Acadians in New Brunswick (a bilingual province that is the subject of this article). Among Acadians, ''Francophone'' refers to a stage of proficiency in the use of French; it has a positive connotation as compared to Acadian French or Acadia. The term Francophone in French Canada refers to a social category based on the form of French spoken. The status of francophone is linked to the use of the language of France, which is valued more than Acadian French (''chiac''). The author of this article sees in this attitude a linguistic insecurity of Acadians.

The corpus reveals, at least among the informants, a contradiction in the principle of ''diversity'' of “Francophonie”. By trying to erase any cultural or linguistic distinctions, they use “francophone” to show their desire to melt into a homogeneity which denies any form of heterogeneity.

3- “Representations of Francophonie among Future Teachers of French as Foreign Language in Vietnamese Universities'' by Phuong Lan Nguyen-Percher and Ngoc Lam Dinh

Defining modalisation as the process of registering the attitude of the speaker to the content of his statement and its function in the modification of his relationship with the recipient, and modality as the linguistic form of expressing this attitude, the authors want to study modalisation and modality among Vietnamese French teachers. They focus on the representations of French language and the f/Francophonie through the discourses of future teachers of French as a Foreign Language in Vietnam.

Discussing “Modal value,'' which is the linguistic result of modalisation process, they state that the francophone identity is collective and based on membership in an organization that shares positive and pragmatic values among its members. A zone of identification is formed by a group of countries with different languages, but united by history, heritage and a common vision of the world. They propose a reinforcement of “Francophonie” and French in Vietnam. However, their enthusiasm does not prevent them from expressing their concerns about the contradictions of the Organization.

4- “Identity Reconfigurations a Necessary Step in the Usage of French Language?” by Anne-Christel Zeiter

Using a corpus constituted by written and oral biographies of a bilingual female speaker (of Hispanic origin married to a French-speaker) living in Switzerland, the author of this article analyzes the group’s role in the informant’s use of French and studies how one’s primary identity is constructed and reconfigured in a linguistic community. Being a member of a linguistic group increases the usage of a language. The informant’s language choice comes from the fact that she lives with a Frenchman but also has formed a new identity by belonging to a francophone community. Identity and the linguistic appropriation are related.

5- “Representations of la Francophonie in Moldova” by Virginia Marie

The author examines the construction of francophone identities in Moldova, a non-French-speaking country. She semantically analyzes prototypes and categories of speeches by ten Moldovan students. Defining “Francophonie” and Francophilia from dictionaries, the author finds in these words a congruence of terms relevant to French and France. Her informants represent “Francophonie” through stereotypical discursive associations that show the assertion of an identity as part of a social self-realization and of professional success. Francophilia is associated with love and freedom as well as attributes of equality, civilization, knowledge and international ties related to France. These semantic representations display positive axiological values, aesthetic, ethical and moral values as well as pragmatic, hedonic, cultural, emotional and intellectual values. The speeches bear a deep affection for the culture and the language. Thus, Francophiles work for an expansion of the Francophone Zone.

Part Three: The Construction of Collective Spaces and Identities in Francophonie.
Four articles address this final part.

1- ''The AIU in the Francophone Zone: Rights, Humanism and Education” by James Archibald

The author analyzes the discourses on the “Alliance Israélite Universelle”, a Jewish cultural and educational zone creating both a French and Jewish identity. The Alliance, established in 1860, is a Paris-based International Jewish Organization that safeguards the rights of Jews and promotes the ideology of Jewish self-defense and sufficiency through education. It has satellites in Canada, Morocco, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland, and is intended to give instruction in French to the Jewish community abroad. The Universal Israeli Alliance finds in the French language a way, not just to be Jewish, but to be a useful Jew for the nation of Israel. The promotion of the language masks the expansion of Judaism over secularism. However, this secularization finds a new identity that is built on the modernity and openness within Francophonie. By funding French teaching, the Alliance has a way to train Jewish citizens and leaders with moral and humanistic values.

2- “Speeches and Acts, The Creation of the Francophone Educational Zone” by Jean -Pierre Cuq

The article shows the importance of school in the construction of francophone identities. Where non-didactic discourse is introduced in French language teaching, educational actors, especially teachers, transmit francophone identities in “Francophonie”. Although the language itself is unique, multiple identities are formed, even among those who teach with different methods. However, French and other languages currently defines the didactics to be followed by the teachers whose designations (second language, foreign language etc) do not affect the discourses and the construction of collective identities.

Traditional grammar is always present in their teaching of French. The school then becomes a place of individual and collective actions where French teachers become transmitters of varieties of French while defining their membership to institutions such as the International Federation of Teachers of French around the goals and values of their profession and the language. “Francophonie” is not only geopolitical but didactic because, in every classroom, where interactions between learners and teachers of French take place, a francophone space is created.

3- “The Concept of a Second Language in Francophonie and its Validity in non-Francophone Context: The Example of Galicia” by Carlos Valcarcel Riveiro and Laura Pino Serrano

This article demonstrates that the construction of collective identities depends on the collective representations of the language in Galicia. It attempts to assess the relevance of the concept of second language in the Galician educational context with a representative corpus of writings by educated youth 5 to 29 years old. In Galicia (Community of Northwest Spain) where Spanish and Galician are the two co-official languages of education, most young people have learned either Spanish or Galician as a second language but with a slight preference for Spanish.

Galician is dominant in the urban environments and Spanish in the rural areas while the peripheral municipalities opt for bilingualism. The use of Spanish among participants is increasing even though Galician is the most studied second language in the schools. The linguistic policy promoting Galician, and its recent standardization, encourage bilingualism, especially among young people, although Spanish has become the preferred language of trade. Evaluation of the linguistic competence of urban youth shows that most Galicians feel more comfortable writing in Spanish.The Second Language is the original language of the entire school population of Galician origin, yet this language suffers from a lack of policy initiatives and teacher training. Second Language policies unsuccessful in Galicia and should be reformulated through a review of the multilingual context of Galicia.

4- ''Francophonie Told by Those who Practice It: The Case of Certain Polish Students'' by Benedicte Leduc Penot

This article analyzes the construction of a f/Francophone space as expressed in and by the discourses of non-native speakers. For the author, as for many others, “Francophonie” is a complex object. It is a representation in official and institutional discourses as well as in ordinary discourses of individuals claiming to be francophone. Their discourses do not give a unified, common representation. The corpus collected by the author from individual and group interviews with students of different levels in Roman philology at the University at Torun in Poland in 2012, allows her to say that there is a distance between the meanings of the concept of “Francophonie”: the linguistic meaning, the geographic perspective, the institutional sense and the spiritual and mystical meaning. The students have a current and reformulated representation of “Francophonie” which they associate with a set of francophone cultures, a group of countries where ''French'' is spoken and a community with common axiological values, objectives and visions. However, all do not share the same vision, even if all seem to know the francophone ideal. “Francophonie” is first and foremost a creation in relation to French language and France. French culture is always highlighted. Some students combined French language with specific universal values, but exclude sharing those values with French-speaking countries outside of France. The presence of France’s culture in “Francophonie” is officially serving the purpose of providing access to Universal Ideals, but also is a defense against Anglo-Saxon and English expansion.


Through many different points of view and lexical approaches, this book shows that f/Francophone identities are built and rebuilt through many intersecting discourses. ‘Francophone space’ refers to the social groupings designated by the word “F/francophonie”, including the members that self-identify as part of this geopolitical and linguistic community. With each member attempting to build meaning into the concept through discourse, “Francophonie” can only be polysemic. The book shows the plural identities that are found in the francophone world and can nourish other scientific reflections on the organization called “La Francophonie.”
Graduated with MA in French, I am a Ph D student at University at Albany. My research is in Second Language Acquisition, Lexicology and Lexicography.

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