The pro-reform movement led by Avenir de la Francaise
: a point of leverage in the French political process?

  • Lynne Wilcox

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The study examines factors influencing language planning decisions in contemporary France. It focuses upon the period 1992-1994, which witnessed the introduction of two major language policy measures, the first an amendment to the French Constitution, in 1992, proclaiming the language of the Republic as French, the second, in 1994, legislation to extend the ambit of the loi Bas-Lauriol, governing the use of the French language in France. The thesis posits a significant role for the pro-reform movement led by the French language association Avenir de la Langue Francaise (ALF) in the introduction and formulation of the policy measures concerned. The movement is depicted as continuing the traditional pattern of intellectual involvement in language planning, whilst also marking the beginning of a highly proactive, and increasingly political approach. Detailed examination of the movement's activities reveals that contextual factors and strategic strength combined to facilitate access to the levers of power, and enabled those involved to exert an impact on policy initiation, formulation, and ultimately implementation. However, ALF's decision to pursue the legislative route led to the expansion of the network of actors involved in language policymaking, and the development of counter-pressure from sectoral groups. It is suggested that this more interventionist approach destabilised the traditionally consensual language policy community, and called into question the quasi-monopoly of the intelligentsia in respect of language policymaking. It raised broader questions relating to freedom of expression and the permissible limits of language regulation in a democracy such as France. It also exposed ongoing ambiguities and inconsistencies in the interpretation of the tenets of language planning.
Date of Award1998
Original languageEnglish


  • pro-reform movement
  • Avenir de la Francaise
  • French political process

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