Interview with Alain Pentolila, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Paris-Descartes.
Should we worry about the British, as the French Academy warned in its latest report?
Languages are not intrusive. Borrowing is interesting when enriching the French language. In other words, when an English word expresses an object that is not in French accurately and clearly, it is not covered by our dictionary and covers the actual need. A technological, scientific innovation, a new social behavior … Why, for example, should the French academy condemn the “cluster” as it does? The “epidemic focus” is too long, and the language will always require minimal effort. In addition, it is a word that means something very precise.
So, most of the time, one of the springs for English words to enter the French language is to say the things we need with very few words placed one after the other. This is the evolutionary code of languages.
I think the French academy should clearly distinguish between the natural dynamics of languages and the dynamics of communication, and the importation of words that actually attract very different meanings and always two opposites of inaccurate things.
Does this second point seem too worrying to you?
Absolutely. There is a kind of fashion, it is necessary to find English words that cover a great background. For example, the word “lover” means everything and nothing. We know this is a positive rating. Do we need a word that brings up a massive object that is diluted (I like, I like …) that includes many things? This is worrying because language is thought. And thinking requires precision. Adjectives, paradigms of ideas We have a language that is highly rendered and accurate. They should not be replaced by something infinitely inaccurate and saying nothing more. We end up with a vocabulary that divides people into what I like / dislike, good / good.
Academics are at war with the wrong. Today’s struggle is not against English, but for a strong, precise language that allows you to say what’s in your head and protect your vision. If the emptiness of the borrowed words creates a vacuum in the mind of the user, then the alarm should go off.
What do you recommend?
Vocabulary learning. According to a recent survey, out of 1000 children enrolled in preparatory classes, 20% of them know less than 250 words. Those who have more know 2000. I.e. the inequalities are significant. It predicts deceptive, compliant and vulnerable citizens. From the nursery school, it is necessary to take very strong measures to enrich the vocabulary of the children systematically.
The more vocabulary we have, the less space there is for foreign words to “hack” us. Just because we leave the room, we leave the real work on lexical enrichment, words coming from other places fit these gaps so easily and quickly.
Who is in the inclusive writing?
Another hotly debated topic is cover writing. The French Academy qualified for the French language in 2017 as “Danger of Death”. He believes that in 2021, inclusive writing will be “not only reactionary”, “detrimental to the practicality and cognition of the French language”. Last May, Jean-Michel Blanquer officially banned its use in school in a circular, describing its “complexity” and its “instability” as “barriers to language acquisition and reading”. Legal proposals also want to ban it in administration.
“I am personally well aware that sexual discrimination is unacceptable, but choosing a linguistic landscape that mixes grammatical rule and social identity to wage this necessary war is confusing social struggles and saloon parodies,” says Alan Pentolila.
For its part, since 2015, the High Council for Equality between Women and Men has been promoting the use of inclusive writing. For example, he recommends amending the Constitution to change the term “human rights” to “human rights.”
“For a School of Resistance” by Alain Pentolila, Edition Odell Jacob, was released on February 23.
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