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European Francophonie

The Social, Political and Cultural History of an International Prestige Language


Vladislav Rjéoutski, Gesine Argent and Derek Offord

This volume examines the use of French in European language communities outside France from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The phenomenon of French language usage is explored in a wide variety of communities, namely Bohemian, Dutch, medieval English, German (Prussian), Italian, Piedmontese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. Each chapter offers unique insight into the existence of francophonie in a given language community by providing illustrations of language usage and detailed descriptions of various aspects of it. The volume as a whole explores such sociolinguistic matters as bilingualism and multilingualism, the use of French as a lingua franca and prestige language, language choice and code-switching, variations in language usage depending on class or gender, language attitudes and language education. The sociohistorical and sociocultural matters considered include the association of a variety of language with the court, nobility or some other social group; the function of French as a vehicle for the transmission of foreign cultures; and the role of language in the formation of identity of various kinds (national, social and personal).
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1. European Francophonie and a Framework for Its Study



From the late seventeenth century to around the mid-nineteenth century the French language served within Europe as an international lingua franca, as Latin had in the Renaissance and as English serves, on a global scale and across a wider social range, in the modern world. From the age of Louis XIV, whose personal rule began in 1661 and who died in 1715, French became the European language of diplomacy, aristocratic society, science, learning and literature. (We use the word ‘literature’ here as it will frequently be used in this volume, in the broad sense of ‘letters’.) French was spoken at the courts of enlightened monarchs of cosmopolitan outlook, such as Frederick II of Prussia (reigned 1740–86), Catherine the Great of Russia (1762–96), Joseph II of Austria (Holy Roman Emperor, 1765–90) and Gustav III of Sweden (1771–92). Its spread was assured by the importance, in its time, of the body of letters written in it. This corpus included both the influential neo-classical artistic models provided in the late seventeenth century by Boileau, Corneille, Racine, Molière, La Fontaine, La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère and others and the social, political, moral and philosophical works produced in the eighteenth century by Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, d’Alembert and other encyclopédistes [Encyclopaedists] and representatives of the Enlightenment. The French language was also carried abroad (for instance, to England, parts of Germany, the Netherlands and Russia) by refugees from the France of the Sun King, that is to say by Huguenots...

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