Codification and reallocation in seventeenth-century Paris | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 65, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0039-8691
  • E-ISSN: 2215-1214


This paper takes issue with the traditional (standard-oriented) account of codifi cation in French commonly presented in . In them the seventeenth-century grammarians are portrayed (a) as being engaged, in a detached and rational way, in a programme of intellectual and aesthetic perfection of the language, and (b) as being the country’s linguistic legislators, working (teleologically) to design and set up a standard variety of French for the benefi t of future generations. Our paper tries to show, fi rst of all, that when we set the process of codifi cation in French within its broad sociolinguistic context, we see the extent to which it was contingent on wider social concerns: codifi cation did not happen in an atmosphere of serene detachment and rationality but was conditioned throughout by the social tensions endemic in a city the size of Paris. The paper then looks at the particular role of grammarians, notably Vaugelas, and notes that he himself makes no claim to be initiating or directing the process of linguistic change, but merely to be refl ecting usage. While the grammarians give preference to salient variants possessing the highest social value (bon usage), it cannot be said that they actually set those values. These emerge from a consensus involving directly or indirectly the whole community. The development in the speech of a big city the size of Paris is traditionally seen in terms of top-down standardisation, but it is preferable to see it in terms of dialect-mixing and koineisation. What we see refl ected in many of Vaugelas’ is one of the processes involved in koineisation isolated by Peter Trudgill and labelled as ‘reallocation of variants’: the community tacitly accommodates linguistic variants left over from earlier instances of dialect-contact within its overall scheme of socio-stylistic variation.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): codifijication; histories of languages; koineisation; reallocation; standardisation
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error