• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month


Extracts from this document...


FR4151 11.04.05 Emma Douglas Examine the process of language / dialect death and illustrate its working in twentieth-century France Language death refers to the process of extinction or obsolescence of a language or dialect because it no longer fulfils the social and political needs of the community who speak it. Despite the continued importance given to the regional languages and dialects in France (and France's recent signing of la charte europ�ene des langues regionale et minoritaires in 1999)1, the history of political centralisation, which is unique to France, has led to irreversible situations of diglossia where the regional dialect or language lacks in prestige and becomes marginalised. For the purpose of this paper I will discuss the two processes of language death, which Aitchison describes as 'language murder' and 'language suicide'.2 The process of 'language suicide' will be defined and in turn illustrated in an examination of la langue d'O�l dialects. Likewise I will refer to the dramatic decline in the use of regional languages in France in order to demonstrate the process and consequence of language murder. This paper will also seek to challenge McMahon's view that Aitchison's terms to describe the processes of 'language death' do not refer to the attitudes of the speakers of the dying language and are therefore inappropriate. Language suicide is a process caused by unstable diglossia, defined as a situation where the old language which is similar in origin and structure to the new language, gradually merges with the dominant language until it is no longer identifiable. ...read more.


These dialects are linked by a chain of mutual intelligibility. The similarity of the origin of the dialects and the consequent continuum ensure that there is no linguistic barrier to prevent them from being absorbed into the dominant language. Furthermore, the northern dialects are enclosed and isolated and receive no support from linguistic neighbours (as is the case of Dutch for Flemish and German for Alsatian). Aitchison would view these dialects as committing 'an act of suicide'. But from the perspective of the speakers' attitudes, is this in fact the case? Arguably, contrary to McMahon's opinion, the speakers' attitudes do play a role in the demise of a dialect. Although speakers often change their speech habits subconsciously, there is a stigma attached to patois as being le mauvais fran�ais and speakers deliberately adopt more 'prestigious' styles of pronunciation. 'Les locuteurs cherchent, dans une certaine mesure, � d�pouiller leur langage de ce qu'ils resent comme des indices d'appartenance � des groupes sociaux peu valoris�s.' 8 The term, 'language suicide' is therefore an appropriate one because the speakers themselves play a role in killing the language. Language murder is the process caused by a situation of unstable diglossia, where the old language, which is not similar in origin or structure to the new language, is simply ousted by a new more prestigious language. Nancy Dorian, to whom the study of language death owes its name, was the first to observe this phenomenon in her ...read more.


The regional languages in France are therefore in the process of being 'murdered' by Standard French. With regard to the attitudes of the speakers, speakers do not voluntarily abandon their regional language although there is a marked reluctance to use the language because of the increased limitations of its usage. Contrary to McMahon's view, the speakers of regional languages are therefore, in some cases, playing a role in 'murdering' their regional dialect in favour of Standard French. Consequently, Aitchison's term 'language murder', in making reference to this, is not necessarily an unsuitable one. To conclude, it is evident that the regional languages and dialects of France are currently undergoing a gradual process of language death caused by the promotion of Standard French. 'Language suicide' is presently happening amongst la langue d'O�l dialects which are experiencing a dialect continuum and converging with Standard French. 'Language murder' can be observed in the six regional languages in France. These dialects are becoming increasingly obsolete. Contrary to McMahon's criticism of Aitchison, language suicide and language death can refer to the speakers' attitudes. Speakers can consciously climb a dialect hierarchy or show reluctance in using their regional language. In this respect there is no danger of misinterpretation. The situation of diglossia in France is irreversible. Attempts to standardise regional variants goes against regionalism itself by ignoring the importance of other dialects within that region. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Anthropology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Anthropology essays

  1. Rhetorical analysis on Redfern speech.

    Keating uses "imagine if" as the sentence heading at the beginning of each of the six successive utterances. By breaking up the lengthy contents under the sentence heading "imagine if..." into six individual sentences has its effect to maintain and to keep up audience's attention.

  2. Extended Essay on Mimicry in Humans

    These suitable mimicries help individuals adapt to the social environment more efficiently. When the information provided by schemas is not consistent with the situation, other social regulators come into play subtly and assist the individual in performing a meaningful social interaction (Cheng and Chartrand, 2003).

  1. AS levelEnglish language coursework

    This poses another health threat and also demonstrates how girls are becoming worse than boys are and proves the backlash to traditional feminism is there. This sort of behaviour is often associated with problems such as unwanted pregnancy and means that girls are under high risk when drunk and trying to impress others.


    a name not associated with the profile of customer to whom it was expected to be sold.

  1. Minority languages - The situation of Romansh in 2002 Switzerland.

    Furthermore, the report explains that "this is a consequence of historical processes whereby the formation of states has not taken place on purely language-related lines and small communities have been engulfed by larger ones." Sussex linguistics professor R.L.Trask (1999:187-188) agrees with this approach in that he defines a minority language

  2. Destiny of Tsatsloba in Mountainous Regions of Contemporary Georgia.

    This folk verse conveys subtle beautiful feelings and soul movements embodied in tsatsloba in Pshavi and Khevsureti region (Maglaperidze, 1983). While speaking about the shortness of the beauty of Pshavi woman, Vaja Pshavela has in mind harsh life situation in mountainous regions in Georgia where women were subjected to heavy physical working conditions that would eradicate their beauty rapidly.

  1. Manipulating the Personal Journeys of Identity: Westernization and the Ottoman and Republican understandings of ...

    With its patriarchal social structure, the Ottoman Empire is assumed to have exercised its male hegemony over the female specifically in the family, which surfaces as an essential place to search for definitions of individual identities and gender relations. G�le, in her examination of the relationships between modernism, religion and

  2. "Sociolinguistics" - Language Loss - Language Revival.

    identify our society mainly by our language as well as we do it for ourselves. The main point is: When matters of culture are discussed (even in our globalized modern world), language plays a very important part in it. 2.2 Pro and contra "People in command of 3 languages are

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work