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HomeLanguagesFrenchAcadémie Française Rails Against ‘Californisms’

Académie Française Rails Against ‘Californisms’

France’s official authority on the vocabulary and grammar of its language has targeted a new threat: “les Californisms.”

That’s the name the Académie Française (or in English, the French Academy) has come up with to describe the many tech-related loanwords from English that have entered the French language. In a 30-page report that the academy recently published online, six members of the academy identified and denounced the use of several widespread English-derived loanwords, including, but not limited to, Californisms.

“Many anglicisms are used in place of existing French words or expressions, inevitably leading to the gradual erasure of the French equivalents,” the report reads. Californisms that the academy has shunned include words that are particularly prominent on the internet, such as cookies, hashtag, and millennials. Additionally, the report notes that the use of many English loanwords has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report shows particular disdain toward the French government’s active use of many of these terms in official government communications.

There are also claims that many words’ use is not “justified by any necessity” as there are already existing French-language equivalents. Examples of these words include mix, post, and network. The academy sees the use of such words as a sign of the French language’s “degradation,” which it argues is avoidable.

Still, linguistic experts generally regard language change—whether that means borrowing new words from other languages or gradual shifts in certain phonological features—as natural and inevitable.

The Académie Française has served as the official authority on the French language for centuries—it was created in 1635, with the explicit goal of “(fixing) the French language, giving it rules, rendering it pure and comprehensible by all.” It’s notorious for taking a conservative stance on language shift.

For example, in 2017, it claimed that the French language was in “mortal danger,” due to the growing use of non–standard, gender-inclusive language in certain written contexts.

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