Louis-Jean Calvet

Born in Tunisia, Louis-Jean Calvet obtained his "doctorat de troisième cycle de linguistique" at the Sorbonne in 1970, and his "doctorat ès lettres et sciences humaines" at the University of Paris V, Sorbonne, in 1978. A professor at the Sorbonne (Université René Descartes), where he taught socio-linguistics until 1999, Calvet is presently at the University of Provence (Aix-Marseille 1).

Calvet has been a visiting professor in many countries for periods ranging from a few weeks to several months: in the universities of Algiers (Algeria), Rabat (Morocco), Maputo (Mozambique), Canton (China), Tulane (New Orleans), Niamey (Niger), Brazzaville (Congo), Bamako (Mali), Vigo (Spain), La Coruña (Spain), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Louisville (Tennessee).

Calvet's more than twenty books (classics that have been translated into many languages) include studies on Roland Barthes and signs (Payot, 1973), Saussure (Payot, 1975), linguistic politics (Payot, 1987), Roland Barthes (Flammarion, 1990), European etymologies (Payot, 1993), European languages (Plon, 1993), the French singer/composer George Brassens (Payot, 1993), urban socio-linguistics (Payot, 1994), the history of writing (Plon, 1996), the ecology of world languages (Plon, 1999), and linguistics and colonialism (Payot, 2002).




This is a talk that looks at what the francophony is from a sociolinguistic point of view (the countries in which the French language plays a real role) and also from the geopolitical (the institutions of the francophony). As far as the first part of the talk is concerned, songs provide an excellent example of linguistic variation. From Europe (France, Belgium) to French-speaking Africa, not to mention Louisiana and French-speaking Canada, we can hear the voices of this diverse group and we can hear, too, just beneath the surface the changes that are occurring (African French, Quebecois French). The lecture will, of course, provide numerous musical examples showing the relationships of some of the trends, and showing as well the exchanges effected among the artists serving as examples.
(For all audiences)


Definition of the notion of linguistic policy (intervention of the state into language or into the relationship among languages). A typology exists in these kinds of interventions, which can be placed into two main groups: action taken on a particular language (on the form the language takes) and actions on languages in general (on the function of languages). Examples are taken from several countries : Turkey, Norway, China, countries of Africa, etc. And to conclude, consideration of the relationship among languages and societies that these linguistic policies illustrate.
(For audiences well acquainted with the issues, in a university setting for instance)


There are over 6,000 languages in the world today and only 200 countries, meaning that there is an average of 30 languages in each country: the world is obviously pluralistic in terms of its languages. To make some kind of sense of this Tower of Babel, we will introduce the « gravitational model » (cf Calvet, Pour une Ecologie des Langues du Monde—For an Ecology of the World’s Languages), which constitutes a modelization of the linguistic aspects of globalization. Then we will give some thought to the future of these languages, to ways to preserve a certain diversity, to linguistic policies that can be developed, both within the framework of aiding development (Africa) and of management of international  institutions (the European Union, the UN, etc.).


Within the framework of linguistic diversity, these three spheres (French-, Portuguese-, and Spanish-speaking) developed a common policy in 2000. After giving a recap of the modelization of the linguistic situation within the framework of globalization, the lecturer (who presided over the study group formulating the linguistic policies these groups have in common) will discuss the potential options, while using the theory of games and decision as a starting point, and will show to what degree a reasonable management of the world’s many languages is possible. But this “alliance” of the three great languages runs the risk of joining into a “linguistic Yalta,” given the hegemony of English if the other languages (African, South American Indian) that co-exist with them are not taken into consideration. The question becomes: how can diversity be truly defended from now on in every area?

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