The plurality of norms in the Francophonie

How are the various varieties of French that are constitutive of the Francophonie treated on a hierarchical basis? Which of these function as varieties of prestige? Which are promoted to the rank of norm? The answers to these questions depend on the perspective one adopts.

  1. The dominant position, in normative institutions (academies, offices or services of the French language, dictionaries, grammars, school...), although sometimes expressed with nuances, consists in regarding as being «good» French only the language used in France. It is noted however that reference works, in the past few years, have opened themselves more and more towards the Francophonie; they accomodate a growing number of extra-hexagonal particularisms. As for the school, it lives its use of a norm with a certain confusion, not adopting necessarily the same standards for the oral as for the written language, or preaching uses which the majority of the teachers do not respect.

  2. In their epilinguistic speech, the French-speaking people outside of France value the French used in France, often conceived as united and single, and they stigmatize the local practices thus testifying to their linguistic insecurity. But on the other hand, they hardly appreciate that the members of their community adopt the French standard, viewing this as a refusal of their identity.

  3. With regards to the community, the French-speaking people outside of France regard as the best the language that corresponds to that used by their cultural elite. This use is superimposed on the norms of France, in particular for the morphosyntaxic phenomena and for most of the lexicon, but it differs somewhat by certain lexical particularisms and phonic features : those which allows to perceive identified differences concerning «accent» and which are markers of identities, primarily national.

The confrontation of these various positions leads to a certain number of considerations with regards to linguistic policy.