Conrad Ouellon, President
Conseil supérieur de la langue française (Québec)
In September 2008, an international conference on the varieties of French used around the world was held in Quebec City. Among the topics addressed was the common reference standard. A few weeks earlier, at the World Congress of the International Federation of Teachers of French (FIPF), I had the opportunity to share our thoughts on the same topic. Following these events and the ensuing discussions, we felt the time had come to provide an update on the linguistic standard issue as it relates to Quebec. We also believe that priority must now be given to language proficiency.
The statement issued by the Conseil supérieur de la langue française, entitled La question de la norme linguistique, will be posted online at the CSLF Web site (www) (Available only in French) in October. The statement contends that the varieties of French used around the world are expressions of one and the same language. They share essentially the same grammar, phonology and vocabulary, that is, the same operating rules. Since these communities are increasingly in contact with one another, each variety of French also builds at least to a fair extent on similar sociocultural models. Each variety also shares a secular literary corpus that is a universal Francophone cultural heritage, to which are added the various national French-language literatures. French is what is taught in Quebec, Belgium, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere. In this shared grammar, phonology and vocabulary, we see a central standard of good usage, a common reference standard that welds all the varieties of French into one language, giving it some stability and maintaining intercomprehension.
The common reference standard is something "constructed," the result of centuries of evolution and codification. We could call it a basic standard or an international standard. Although it originates mainly from France, the common reference standard is now "stateless" and belongs no more to one Francophone community than to another. Nor can the common reference standard be identified entirely with the Franco-French standard, sometimes called the hexagonal standard, which refers to a geolinguistic concept, despite the clear influence French from France continues to have on the evolution of the common standard.
The Conseil's statement addresses many other aspects of the relationship between the varieties of French and the standard. You can read this document on the Conseil's recently revamped site and discover the wealth of information it contains.