Minority glottopolitics in the European context of governance
: a case study of French-Corsican glottopolitical relations

  • Adrey Jean-Bernard

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Various scholarly traditions have contributed to document the multifaceted relations between language planning and the distribution of political power in conflict-laden nation-building processes. With the construction of the European Union (EU), these relations are re-contextualised because the EU project aims to create a supra-national polity by integrating nation-states. This involves deciding on an approach to the constitutive linguistic diversity resulting from gathering many polities and languages. This dissertation looks at sociolinguistic issues of Regional and/or Minority Language (RML) status and planning in this European context. It explores the links between competing political and linguistic ideologies and RML policy making in the EU at supranational, national, and regional levels, concentrating on how political and/or linguistic ideologies are enshrined and operationalized in various legal/institutional and policy frameworks. Its ultimate objective is to examine whether the EU glottopolitical construction has affected one particular case of RML planning: the conflict-laden glottopolitical relationship between France and Corsica, and, if so, whether this happened in ways that may contribute to reversing French-Corsican diglossic hierarchies and language shift.

Language policy formation is examined at three different levels and the analysis takes account of the fact that, at all levels, actual policy outcomes result from the complex negotiations between actors possessing varying discursive and/or legal and/or institutional powers. Since each level has been historically constructed sui generis and involves a specific pattern of distribution of policy powers amongst varying numbers of actors, each level interacts with other levels in specific ways. Consequently, different theoretical and methodological frameworks are used to identify what players - with what respective powers - interact at each and/or across levels, and how.

At supranational level, the theoretical/methodological tools used to analyse language policies are governance theory and power dependency theory, the concept of policy networks and the critical discourse analysis method. The analyses ultimately show that, on RML-related decisions, it is nation-states that remain largely sovereign. At national level, RML policy-making processes vary according to the brand of linguistic nationalism that prevailed during nation-building processes. I explore these through competing theories of linguistic nationalism and their respective conceptions of the nation and of language, focusing in particular on the complex ways in which these notions interrelate in French linguistic essentialism. I show how French ‘traditional’ linguistic nationalism and its constitutive ideology of monolingualism have been historically translated into legal/institutional provisions and then why and how, in recent years, a more liberal, national RML policy has emerged that has altered France’s diglossic profile, albeit minimally. In Corsica, this has coincided with an experimental devolution plan through which a new RML policy network could surface. The dominant actors in that network have since attempted to reverse diglossic hierarchies through language-in-education planning, but in such very unorthodox and contested ways as to sign away language revitalisation.
In that connection, this dissertation shows that whilst legal issues of language status predominate in negotiations at, with and between other levels, in Corsican regional- local interactions, disputes between policy makers and their addressees largely revolve around corpus management issues. In turn, the strong emphasis on corpus issues means that language policies devised at the other levels, with their main focus on status issues, have less relevance to Corsica’s RML policy developments and elite and popular attitudes to language plans at grassroots level.
Date of Award2005
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTony Chafer (Supervisor)

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