April 12, 2024


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[L’ENTRETIEN] For renowned linguist Julie Auger, you shouldn't be afraid of English words

[L’ENTRETIEN] For renowned linguist Julie Auger, you shouldn't be afraid of English words

LE French, Moliere's language. There is something strange about periphrasis. Few of us can actually understand a text from the 17the century, even though it was written in the language imposed by François 1 in 1539RBy command of Villers-Gaudret.

The editorial board advises you

French is growing. Incessantly. From Gallo-Romance to Langue d'Ole, it depends on mistakes made in official acts. Do we have to admit that plurals in x (owls, knees, etc.) are an error in the first place, literally corresponding to an x?

Should French continue to evolve? Some are already criticizing the abuse of English, saying it endangers the language. The English language has about 60,000 words of French origin, or about one-third of its vocabulary, while French has only 2% of English-derived words. For example, words like bacon and toast do not appear across the channel.

French will continue to evolve as Aya Nakamura delivers today. This is exactly what bewildered linguists want, except to simplify the rules and ban exceptions. Almost a revolution.

Why did you release this flap at this time?

Julie Auger: I wasn't there at the beginning of the project, but I think it was an accumulation of failed and decadent ideas in French. So, Maria Candea and Anne Abele decided to take the bull by the horns and bring a group together so that people are not just linguists alone expressing these ideas, but it's actually our position. As these questions arise in all French-speaking communities, we have assembled an international team. And Our proposals Appears in a linguist's pamphlet on the Internet where all people are called Sign up to become a member. Because what I find most deplorable from my North American point of view among others is that all these ideas that condemn the decline of the French language or are linked in favor of using a more stable language, a more literary, a more standard language, lead people to abandon it. French. Some may be tempted to switch to English, where these judgments are minimal, by saying 'not like that, but like this'.

We are always afraid of the English languages, of the anglicized French. Is this a bogus debate?

Englishmen, we fear them as much as we feared the Italian religions of the 16th century.e century Actually, English words are not that common. There are some times when. They enter the language and are popular for a certain period of time, but if companies intervene and propose a French word that can replace them, we often use this French word. For example, we used the word computer, but when computer was proposed, it was quickly adopted. The remaining English words are assimilated into French. Verbs are conjugated the French way, nouns take gender because it is imperative in French. So it has French elements.

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A standardized language helps impose the same rules on everyone, be it orthographic, semantic or grammatical. Doesn't changing it mean losing it?

I think there is flexibility and, at the same time, choices. We need school textbooks, grammars, dictionaries but, for the most part, there are variations that need to be listed and described. There are many ways to say things. Even if we don't speak the same French we can understand each other very well. If I go shopping, if you go shopping, we understand each other. It may take a little effort when you hear shopping for the first time, but you can easily guess what it is.

Spelling and grammar rules are notorious for their exceptions. Doesn't that make it elitist to want to protect all these privileges?

I think there is indeed an elitist basis in this insistence of some who do not want to change, in rejecting the spelling reform of 1990. These rules, subject to exceptions, are consolidated if they grow up in important families. Where life is somewhat smooth, we can take the time to study and master all these subtle rules. But it keeps economic, political and cultural power in the hands of a few. If we want to open the door to all children, regardless of social background, and give them access to the careers they want when they grow up, I think we need to remove some of these contradictions, complications, elements. Not really necessary for good communication. For example, why teach that “I know” is not just a spin-off of “He knows”? This may be seen as an intellectual exercise, but I think there are few more interesting and useful than this.

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If we don't want to develop language, aren't we moving toward a more simplistic vocabulary, toward George Orwell's Newspeak?

No, because we're not talking about reducing vocabulary. Orwell's idea was to control thought, control action, and thus eliminate words and structures that could be critical of the state, as in France, when trying to combat regional languages ​​after 1789. Languages ​​that those in power do not understand. Orwell's Newspeak was early. And we do not propose to eliminate terms and limit structures. Instead, more words are welcome. We welcome these words coined by young people, for example, Verlon, borrowed from all kinds of languages, incomprehensible to old people, and coming against our customs. Likewise for proposed forms to try to include people of all gender identities. So no, we're not trying to limit expression, rather, we're trying to open up expression.

This brings me to the concrete proposals you made in the pamphlet, such as the use of the 1990 spelling reform?

In France, it is used at primary level, but no longer at secondary level. So it can be a problem for children. But it's a very minor reform, because I think those who proposed it knew that French speakers are very attached to their spelling. If we push it too hard, the risks of failure are too high. However, even this minor reform is resisted. I like to tell people that I write well in French, but sometimes I rewrite sentences because I don't know if the past participle agreement is needed or not.

When we listen to you or read the pamphlet, we realize that the French Academy does not seem to be fulfilling its role and that linguists have no place there.

The French Academy should welcome a certain proportion of linguists. In that case, we will not really be there, taking into account the French reality in its application. But we are not confident that we can really make our voice heard within this organization. The solution we are proposing, and one of our most important projects in my opinion, is to create a real college of French-speaking people with linguists from many French-speaking states. So, there, we can work together and see what each other is sensitive to and what is ultimately acceptable. For past participants' agreement, for example, not all members of the bewildered linguists hold precisely the same opinion. Currently, we are proposing to make the agreement optional, including structures where we do not have a contract.

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Punctuation is less and less respected. Do you have an opinion on this?

A personal view. It's a convention, punctuation. There's no common connection with intuition, but generally speaking, it says, “Okay, here's a clause that ends, we have a sentence, or we have a subjunctive.” Intrinsic spaces serve to separate the oral chain. This is what commas, semicolons and different punctuation marks try to convey in writing. Like you, I notice that punctuation marks are being used less and less. Personally, I condemn it because I see why punctuation marks exist. For example, when placing a prepositional complement at the beginning of a sentence, it is useful to place a comma at the end of this complement. We know that this proposal is really taking off. Punctuation helps in reading texts and avoids some misunderstandings. And one point I would like to make in this connection is that if we spent less time teaching that “I know” does not have a circumflex accent, but “He knows” does, we could spend more time teaching. Teaching punctuation. I repeat, the speaker is not a linguist.

Clearly, for you, a living language is an evolving language?

Absolutely. Language can change and young people can make it their own and I think that's very important. In southeastern New Brunswick, Canada, there is a predominantly English-speaking variety of Acadian French called Siac. For example, Chiac was condemned by Christian Rioux, publishing for Le Devoir, and many others who felt the decline of French in these Anglophone genres. But really, what we should see is a win for the French, because in southeastern New Brunswick, roughly one-third of the population is French-speaking and two-thirds English-speaking. Nowadays, all young people speak English as well as French. They may have chosen to switch to English, but there is this kind of Acadian French, enriched in English, that has developed that captures the francophone identity of this new generation of Acadians and 'Acadians.