Meet Abbé Grégoire   Leave a comment

Henri Jean-Baptiste Grégoire, otherwise known as the Abbé Grégoire, was a French Catholic priest, Constitutional bishop of Blois and a leader during the French Revolution. His good points are that he was an ardent slavery abolitionist and supporter of universal suffrage. He believed in equality.

On the other hand, this is his major flaw IMO:

The Abbé Grégoire is also known for advocating a unified French national language, and for writing the Rapport sur la Nécessité et les Moyens d’anéantir les Patois et d’universaliser l’Usage de la Langue française (Report on the necessity and means to annihilate the patois and to universalise the use of the French language), which he presented on 4 June 1794 to the National Convention. According to his own research, a vast majority of people in France spoke one of thirty-three dialects or patois and he argued that French had to be imposed on the population and all other dialects eradicated. This conclusion came from a common view at the time within Jacobin circles that the linguistic diversity of France had been purposely used by the nobility of France to keep the various linguistic groups of France separated from each other and from the political institutions, which primarily spoke French. Because of this Grégoire saw the various patois as limiting to the ability of French citizens to practice their individual rights.However, his work was still influenced by the rising sense of French linguistic superiority that had been started by Bertrand Barère with Rapport du Comité de salut public sur les idiomes (1794). Due to this he classified, Corsican and Alsatian as “highly degenerate” (très-dégénérés) forms respectively of Italian and German, while Occitan was decomposed into a variety of syntactically loose local remnants of the language of troubadours, mutually unintelligible, and should be abandoned in favour of the language of the capital. This began a process, expanded dramatically by the policies of Jules Ferry a century later, that led to increasing disuse of the regional parlances of France.

Alsatian is pretty much the language of my ancestors with the exception of my Great-grandfather who came from Saxony. Anyway, I sort of agree with the idea that the language should be unified, but I am not of the opinion that is should be petrified. In fact, the quote above links to language policy in France.

Of course, it makes sense to have one standard language than 75 different dialects, or even speaking other languages, in a nation. Some countries require immigrants to demonstrate some proficiency in the official language for residency and citizenship. I understand this.

Being multilingual isn’t as problematic as is having multiple, competitive, monolingual cultures.

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