Being conservative, even the most moderate, is not easy in the digital age. History, culture, religion, and language cross boundaries at the speed of thought, and even the proudest societies are subject to outside influences that force them to change and develop. The French Academy has a very difficult task in this regard. Created in 1635 during the reign of King Louis XIII, its mission was to protect “pure French” as a language. In a report released earlier this month, the organization cited threats to “social cohesion” and “language decline”.
Academics are outraged by the increasing use of English words in entertainment, fashion and even advertising on government-run trains. “California,” due to the fact that most tech companies hail from the west coast of the United States, also angered him. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a pandemic, thanks to terms like “cluster” and “test” coming into everyday use. Because these words are “often distorted” to fit French grammar, the report says, they lead to “the creation of hybrid forms that are neither English nor French.”
The insecurity of French-speaking policing seems to stem from the statement by British theorist Terry Eagleton: “Language is the root of all identities. To spoil it is poetry or betrayal. The good people of the French Academy seem to have forgotten that when the organization was formed, there was no “pure French”. It was only after decades of state-imposed standardization that a single French language emerged in all of France. Perhaps the new hybrid is just historical revenge for all the lost “French” culture. Or, perhaps, there’s a lesson the French can learn about incorporating “deviant sentences”—as evidence of their linguistic and cultural adaptability—from the Indians. Take the phrase “Train late hi” – mostly English words, entirely in Hindi structure. Since hybrids are not traitors, just think of them as hair.
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