International Review of Education

, Volume 47, Issue 3–4, pp 235–251 | Cite as

Discourses of Linguistic dominance: A Historical Consideration of French Language Ideology

  • Keisuke Kasuya


The paper offers a historical perspective on the linguistic and cultural imperialism embedded in the struggle to maintain French as a leading international language. France was the nation-state where the ideology of national language was first clearly formulated and directly extended to overseas colonies. This shows the close relationship between linguistic nationalism and imperialism. It was believed that French was the language of universal human reason and had the power to civilize people who spoke it. This myth of the "clarté française" and the "mission civilisatrice" had a strong influence on various kinds of metalinguistic discourses that created the taken-for-granted representation of French as dominant language. It is the essential strategy of language dominance to establish the hierarchy of languages as if it were natural order of things. When French was obliged to yield the status of international language to English, there emerged the ideology of "Francophonie" which tried to defend its privilege against the monopoly of English, but the same ideology is also directed against minorities' claims for their own linguistic human right. It could be said that these discourses form a recursive prototype of language dominance whose variations are to be found in other shapes almost all over the world.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keisuke Kasuya
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of Language of SocietyHitotsubashi UniversityKunitachi, TokyoJapan

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