The Social, Political and Cultural History of an International Prestige Language
Geographical, historical, religious, social, political and cultural circumstances make each of the linguistic cases examined in this volume unique. Individual contributors have taken pains to establish such distinctive context, and we should not lose sight of it. Nonetheless, our collection of accounts of francophonie, over a long period and in as many as twelve different countries or regions in Europe or on the periphery of the continent, enables us, we feel, to make some cautious generalizations about the history of this phenomenon in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What general points about the domains in which French was used and about its functions and effects, then, emerge from the totality of our surveys?
First, the court was generally an important agency in the spread of French in early modern Europe. This was the case from medieval England and sixteenth-century Piedmont to seventeenth-century Poland and Sweden and eighteenth-century Parma, Prussia, Russia and Wallachia. Usually, French was adopted by courts because of its association with the splendour of Versailles and the cultural life that had begun to flower in France in the age of Louis XIV. A further attraction of the language, in the eighteenth century, was its association with the Enlightenment, with which several European monarchs (Frederick II of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia, Gustav III of Sweden) wished to be identified. (It is somewhat ironic that the writings ← 435 | 436 → of such major representatives of the French Enlightenment as Montesquieu, Voltaire and Diderot would serve in the...
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