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Tells of spectacular failures and unexpected success of the French language - second only to English for the number of countries where it is officially spoken. This work is written in a chronological narrative spanning more than 10 centuries, from ancient French dialects of the 8th century to the French spoken in Quebec, Algeria, Beirut and more.

About the Author

Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1964, Jean-Benoit Nadeau holds a bachelor's degree in political science and history from McGill University. A journalist since 1987, he has been the recipient of 17 journalism awards.


That major historical moments affect a language's development seems to be self-evident. But in the case of French, as Canadian authors Nadeau and Barlow (Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong) exhaustively illustrate, this notion shouldn't be taken for granted, since an insistence on linguistic purity influences how French is taught, spoken and written. What began as a loose confederation of local dialects became mired in a particularly French obsession with linguistic propriety. Despite the natural development of French over time, "[in] the back of any francophone's mind is the idea that an ideal, pure French exists somewhere." Nadeau and Barlow traveled the world to research what they call "the mental universe of French speakers" from its center in France to such places as Canada, Senegal and Israel. "French carries with it a vision of the State and of political values, a particular set of cultural standards," the authors write. They have managed to corral what could be an ungainly subject both the history and the present day in a clearly written, well-organized approach to the lingua franca of millions of people. Francophiles will be well-served by the care and detail with which the authors handle their subject, while English speakers will find an illuminating portrait of Gallic sensibility. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

This excellent book surveys the development of the French language from its beginnings, explains its expansion and adaptation throughout the world, and closes with four chapters on the language's future. Nadeau and Barlow (coauthors, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong) acknowledge that their approach is sociolinguistic, although they discuss linguistics in the first four chapters. By 1265, people spoke French in the modern sense; by the late 19th century, the French realized that their language needed to be cultivated and maintained. The French government therefore invented cultural diplomacy by establishing numerous branches of the Alliance Fran?aise worldwide, which opened large schools to teach French. The Francophonie, a French commonwealth made up of 53 countries, was also formed. Today French ranks second as the world's diplomatic language, a testimony to the French government's past efforts. As for the language's future, the world looks to Quebec, which has worked to protect French from outside North American influences. The authors conclude that the survival of French depends on francophones' desire to promote and spread it. An engaging and well-conceived book with broad appeal; highly recommended.-Bob Ivey, Univ. of Memphis Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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