Managing France's regional languages: language policy in bilingual primary education in Alsace

Harrison, Michelle
Managing France's regional languages: language policy in bilingual primary education in Alsace. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The introduction of regional language bilingual education in France dates back to the late 1960s in the private education system and to the 1980s in the public system. Before this time the extensive use of regional languages was forbidden in French schools, which served as ‘local centres for the gallicisation of France’ (Blackwood 2008, 28). France began to pursue a French-only language policy from the time of the 1789 Revolution, with Jacobin ideology proposing that to be French, one must speak French. Thus began the shaping of France into a nation-state. As the result of the official language policy that imposed French in all public domains, as well as extra-linguistic factors such as the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars, a significant language shift occurred in France during the twentieth century, as an increasing number of parents chose not to pass on their regional language to the next generation. In light of the decline in intergenerational transmission of the regional languages, Judge (2007, 233) concludes that ‘in the short term, everything depends on education in the [regional languages]’. This thesis analyses the development of language policy in bilingual education programmes in Alsace; Spolsky’s tripartite language policy model (2004), which focuses on language management, language practices and language beliefs, will be employed. In spite of the efforts of the State to impose the French language, in Alsace the traditionally non-standard spoken regional language variety, Alsatian, continued to be used widely until the mid-twentieth century. Whilst Alsatian has been spoken, the traditional language of writing and reference has been standard German. Today Alsace is a region of north eastern France, but it has existed under the political control of Germany for prolonged periods of time in the past, changing hands between the two countries five times between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. Since the mid-twentieth century a significant language shift away from Alsatian has occurred in the region, with estimates that over 90% spoke the language variety in 1946 in comparison with only 43% of the population in 2012 (OLCA 2012a). Regional language bilingual education programmes were introduced in Alsace in the early 1990s in the private and public education systems. In both systems the language-in-education policy supported has primarily promoted the learning of and through French and standard German. The case study that forms the central part of the thesis seeks to examine current language policy in practice. It will analyse the place of Alsatian in the modern regional language bilingual classroom and examine the language beliefs of the key actors in the bilingual education programmes (namely parents, teachers and policy-makers at regional level). Finally, it will discuss what this means for efforts to reverse the language shift in twenty-first-century Alsace.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2012-09 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Language policy, language-in-education policy, sociolinguistics, regional languages, Alsace, Alsatian
Subjects: ?? LF ??
?? PB ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2013 10:54
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:39
DOI: 10.17638/00011315