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Pluricentric Languages and Non-Dominant Varieties Worldwide

Part I: Pluricentric Languages across Continents. Features and Usage


Edited By Rudolf Muhr

This is the first of two thematically arranged volumes with papers that were presented at the "World Conference of Pluricentric Languages and their non-dominant Varieties" (WCPCL). It comprises papers about 20 PCLs and 14 NDVs around the world. The second volume encompasses a further 17 papers about the pluricentricity of Portuguese and Spanish. The conference was held at the University of Graz (Austria) on July 8th-11th 2015. The papers fall into five categories: (1) Theoretical aspects of pluricentricity and the description of variation; (2) Different types of pluricentricity in differing environments; (3) African pluricentric languages and non-dominant varieties; (4) The pluricentricity of Arabic and Asian languages; (5) The pluricentricity of European languages inside Europe (Austrian German, Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, Hungarian, Belgium Dutch, French, Greek, Swedish, Russian).

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Linguistic Legitimacy among Pluricentric Languages: The Case of Belgian French



The purpose of this paper is to discuss the social legitimacy of the non-dominant variety of French that is used in Belgium (henceforth ‘Belgian French’). As will be detailed, Francophone Belgians’ attitudes have shifted from early 19th c. – late 20th c. purism and subsequent linguistic subjection to France to more recent acceptation of endogenous traits and increasing distance from the Hexagonal model. Nevertheless, these attitudes remain characterized by a “double distance” from both Hexagonal and Belgian French. The idea that French is viewed by Francophone Belgians as a pluricentric/polynomic language will thus be questioned: do they really consider that there is a legitimate Belgian variety of French? What is the relevance of the national criterion in the way they define linguistic norms? What other criteria lie behind the definition and legitimization of their linguistic norms?

1.   Introduction

Despite being one the smallest countries in Europe, Belgium is home to a remarkable linguistic diversity. Located between the North Sea, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg, Belgium straddles the cultural and linguistic boarder between Germanic and Latin Europe. The country counts three official languages: French, Dutch, and German. Unlike in other multilingual countries, however, the contact zones between these three languages are strongly limited. Indeed, they are granted the status of official languages only within well-defined language areas (see figure 1):

Figure 1: Map of Language Areas in Belgium.

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