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European Francophonie

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


Edited By 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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6. The Use of French among the Dutch Elites in Eighteenth-Century Holland



In order to show how French was used among the Dutch elites in the eighteenth century, it will be useful to begin by defining the broader historical and linguistic context in which this phenomenon should be seen.1 The use of French was not confined to the elites – in fact, the so-called ‘French schools’, which developed from the end of the sixteenth century, reached the merchant classes – but it did, in the case of the elites, take on particular features which we shall bring to light below.

The use of French in the Low Countries (hereafter the Netherlands) goes back a very long way, for the language penetrated Dutch linguistic space from the fourteenth century through the Court of Burgundy, which increasingly contrived to seize the Dutch provinces. In the sixteenth century, during the reign of Charles V (1515–55), the territorial grouping which ← 145 | 146 → brought the northern and southern Netherlands back together numbered seventeen provinces and thus restored the territorial unity that had disappeared with Charlemagne.

At the end of the sixteenth century the northern Netherlands, which had joined the Protestant Reformation, rebelled against their Catholic sovereign, the King of Spain, Philip II. In signing the Union of Utrecht in 1579 (which represents the legal foundation of a new state), they gave birth to the Republic of the [Seven] United Provinces, which was officially recognized in 1648 at the Peace of Westphalia2 and which foreigners who travelled through its territory often referred to as Holland,...

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