The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, August 08, 2004

Language fascists in retreat somewhere, at least

Quebec, Ireland, Wales are [1] today's homes of this insidious evil: the use of language as a tool of politics, with the force of the state behind it.

Now, I'm pleased to say, a popular revolt against the process has arising from a most unlikely source: the Germans. The absurd tinkering of the neue Rechtschreibung, a proposition as sensible as straightening the coastline, is sliding gently into oblivion - as described by the Observer today.

One may contrast the French - who have their own génie for direction from the centre: around the turn of the last century, the government issued what are known as tolérances, allowing teachers and students a free pass from some of the well-known rules of French, such as agreement of past participles with antecedent direct objects. To the best of my knowledge, though the tolérances decree (or whatever it was) is regularly reprinted in the likes of Grévisse's Le Bon Usage, no one has ever taken the blindest bit of notice of it. Except to point out that no one was taking, etc.

Agreement of past participles with antecedent direct objects, as any fule kno, is one of the glories of French culture, as like irksome and authentic as the meanders of the River Seine. And, so far as I'm aware, not even the très perpendiculaire Baron Haussmann proposed straightening the Seine.

  1. So far as I'm aware: I expect there are incidences elsewhere in the world. India is a notable counter-example: where, during the first couple of decades from independence, a major cause for internal rebellion was the (perceived) imposition of official languages against the will of the population in the parts of the country affected. Such that - I believe - state boundaries had to be redrawn, and new states created.

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