The French-speaking world is a rather ‘monocentric’ linguistic community and prescriptivism has been an important part of the discourse on the French language for centuries. My contribution to this blog will be to share some information about purism in France and in other Francophone countries, especially in Canada and in Québec (since a lot of my research deals with linguistic representations among Quebeckers).
But today, I would like to begin with a question to the specialists of the English language : how do you see the Francophone world in sociolinguistic terms ? Do you see it as more puristic than other major linguistic communities (English or Spanish, e.g.) ?
Personally, and I think it goes for many scholars in historical sociolinguistics of English, I do have this view of the francophone world, primarily France itself, as being more purist than the anglophone world. We often constrast the two, especially in a historical context, we talk about the establishment of the Academie Francais in the 17th century and the fact that though a British counterpart was proposed, it never got off the ground.
But thinking about it now, I realise that this is to a large extent a prejudice: I confess that am not intimately familiar with the degree of purism in the francophone world, while at the same time I know that English prescriptivism has spawned an entire industry of usage guides across the anglophone world. But perhaps the main difference is rather less in the degree nature of prescriptivism and/or purism than in the nature of it: the institutionalisation of purism in the francophone world versus the popular/commercial tradition in the anglophone world.