Loïc Depecker was born on March 20, 1954 in Northern France. He studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (1976-1982) where he worked on comparative grammar in ancient languages. He passed his agrégation in Grammar and defended his first dissertation at the Université de Paris VII (1994) in Theoretical and Formal Linguistics (honored with the Pierre Larousse Award in 1995). His second dissertation, which he defended at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle (2000), discussed questions of the history of vocabularies and the structure of languages (Award from the Ministry of the Economy and of Finances – APFA 2002). His two theses were inspired by his experience in the Terminology Service, which he directed first within the services of the Prime Minister and then in the Ministry of Culture (1984-1996). Today he is Professor of Linguistics and Terminology at the Université de Paris Sorbonne, where he holds the Chair of Terminology. He is the founding president of the Société Française de Terminologie (1999) and holds several international positions, notably within the ISO (International Standardization Organizaton) and the Latin Union. Chevalier des arts et lettres (2002), he also won the Poetry Award of the RATP in 1998. He is the author of a dozen books and over a hundred articles treating questions of scientific and technical vocabularies.
1. FRENCH, A LANGUAGE OF MANY LANGUAGES
The French language appears homogenous in dictionaries. But in reality it is extremely diverse. This diversity is due to:
- geographical dispersion: the French spoken outside of France is a good example. It is interesting to pick out linguistic variants that are specific to different French-speaking countries or areas within a country. The same is true of the local dialects of different regions of France. We tend to think of France as a uniform whole, but from one end to the other the accents, words, expressions, and mentalities change, which we can easily see today as the TGV carries us from North to South in three hours. Moreover, there are geographical continuities that cross national boundaries, such as the North of France and Belgium.
- different registers: words and expressions vary according to social level, age group, education...
- divergence between everyday language and technical languages. Even technical languages differ immensely, depending on the level of specialization (a general practitioner versus a specialist, etc.)
Thus do contours of not one but many French languages appear. How does one define Francophonie along these lines? What is the opinion of the Académie française?
2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH
LANGUAGES DURING THE 20th CENTURY : AN AMAZING KINSHIP
The French language has developed astonishingly in the 20th century. During this period, it was faced with the necessity of finding equivalents for thousands upon thousands of technical terms, the greater part coming from United States. There is an age-old passion for English in France: many of the revolutionary terms of 1789 come from English, for the revolutionaries had been in part inspired by the political structures of England, and the two world wars of 1914 and 1939 accentuated the presence of English in France. Today the French language must find ways to designate modern technical realities, most of which come from the United States.
This lecture aims to demonstrate concretely how English words have been assimilated into French in the 20th century, either popularly or by governmental measures. Terms such as logiciel (software) and baladeur (Walkman) were imposed by governmental measures in France and in certain Francophone states. How were they originated, and are they actually used? How does the population react to such linguistic intervention? Do we now have to define a kind of "Neo-French," a language willfully holding to tradition yet pushed to rapidly develop by the Anglo-American tide?