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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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15. Conclusion



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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