From September 21 to 23, 2008, a symposium entitled “La langue française dans sa diversité” was held in Montréal. This scientific gathering brought together some thirty researchers and specialists and was organized by Secrétariat à la politique linguistique du Québec in collaboration with Conseil supérieur de la langue française and Office québécois de la langue française.
According to the introduction, “The French language is part of the history of many states where it continues to be used as a mother tongue, second language, or partner language. As the common language of the Francophonie, it is shared by diverse cultures and reflects different social realities. It is pluralist in its very essence. All French speakers, be they French (from Paris or Marseille), Belgian (from Brussels or Namur), Québecois (from Montréal or Sherbrooke), or African (from Dakar or Abidjan), speak French using words, accents, and expressions from the country or region in which they live. Like other geographically diffuse languages, French also diversified over time, producing a number of distinct and original varieties worthy of recognition and promotion. That diversity contributes to the vitality of French. In recent years, research has been carried out on the phenomenon of linguistic variation common to all languages and into the various ways French is used. Recognizing and valuing the diversity of French raises questions that should be examined in greater detail. Greater openness to variation also encourages us to examine how francophones see the phenomenon and to consider the hierarchy of the varieties of French as well as the relationship that should be developed between standards, the use of different varieties of French, and comprehensibility between speakers of these variations. Variation also has major implications in the fields of French language teaching and competency evaluation, and in the creation and use of tools to promote French. We need to reevaluate ways of taking into account these variations on the sociolinguistic, linguistic, didactic, and cultural levels (in dubbing, for instance).
These questions are very significant to discussions on the future of French, and professionals from a variety of backgrounds where invited to the symposium to discuss them further. The texts collected in this work address the phenomenon of variation, the manifestation of those variations in French, and the issues related to recognizing them and taking them into account.
The full texts of the symposium proceedings are available in French on the Secrétariat à la politique linguistique website.