20 Pages

The Jacobin Republic and Language Rights. Ethnolinguistic Mobilizations in France

ByAlistar Cole, Jean-Baptiste Paul Harguindéguy

France is usually considered as the symbol of cultural unification and homogeneity. It is commonly (and, in part, correctly) assumed that the process of political centralization in France profoundly shaped the language preferences of citizens. Nevertheless, sociological surveys reveal a tension between the Jacobin Republican drive for uniformity and a more fine-grained empirical reality in the field of the governance of regional languages. Through the comparison of three case studies (Corsica, Brittany and Picardy), this paper reveals that the defence of lesser-used languages and regional dialects has produced an asymmetrical form of ethnolinguistic mobilization by social movements and political parties, which has been more or less credible depending on processes of institutionalization, actor-accommodation and the official recognition of the lesser-used language in question. Through focusing on the specific case of regional languages, the article leads us to examine not only the recent transformations of the French language policy model, but also to reconsider the nature of the contemporary French state.