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Manifesto for the recognition of the principle of linguistic and cultural diversity in language research

Petition to Those in charge of Higher Education and Research
Didier de Robillard
Traduction de Karen Ferreira-Meyers

Manifesto for the recognition of the principle of linguistic and cultural diversity in language research

Preamble

Over the years, and for several decades now, higher education institutions have been gradually and increasingly urging teacher-researchers to increase their international visibility. It is normal for these teacher-researchers to participate in international debates in their disciplines. This is done during conferences and in the course of article writing, not for advertising purposes, but to confront and exchange points of view and theoretical postures in order to improve the quality of their work. The independence of these teacher-researchers, which is essential and constitutive of their functions, makes trying to exert influence on this process not only unnecessary, but above all inappropriate.

English and its position

In this situation, the most questionable position is probably that the increasing visibility can only be done in English. In the field of education, teacher-researchers are well aware of the need for students to read in English, as in other languages depending on the field, or even to write or translate in English. But it is not up to political authorities to decide and impose courses in English. It is the teacher who must decide whether to offer courses in English, as, for example, in international law, or in other languages. As for the argument that the imposition of courses in English is done to attract foreign students, this seems to ignore that what attracts many of them to France is precisely the fact that teaching and sharing of culture, references and theories occurs in French, which is not common elsewhere, for example in the United States.

Moreover, many colleagues in different countries, probably more in the humanities than in other domains, are concerned about the hegemony of English to the detriment of other languages and fields of knowledge, and about the risk of losing a scientific discourse - and therefore a thought process - for lack of appropriate linguistic resources, which requires a mastery that cannot be limited to ordinary linguistic competence, even if it is very good.

Intellectual traditions and editorial formats of English-speaking civilisations

  • 1 These legacies must obviously be subjected to historical criticism, particularly for Francophone tr (...)

The problem of evaluating articles submitted to English-language journals and publications is primarily a political one. Throughout the long history of the human and social sciences (HSS), intellectual traditions linked to languages and cultures have been transmitted and influenced, backed by a contradictory approach. The legacies of French, German, American … traditions1 constitute as many different and fruitful ways of dealing with human science phenomena. The contradictory exchanges between these traditions constitute a strategic asset for the human and social sciences in general, and language studies in particular. Among the greatest linguists and language philosophers of the 20th century (not to mention earlier Greek, Arab, Indian, etc. research) there are a considerable number of French, Germans, Italians and Russians (to name but a few), each expressing themselves in their own language, and British or Americans using in English. To abandon these sources and the languages in which they were expressed in favour of English alone is to lose any chance of making a useful contribution to global research in our disciplines.

Journal’s editorial formats are not the same; they depend on cultural traditions, and, an article which is accepted without difficulty in a French journal, could easily be rejected by an Anglophone journal, not on the basis of scientific quality criteria but on the basis of editorial formats often linked to philosophical and cultural traditions and alternative approaches to research; or because epistemologies and research questions, although relevant, are unknown or misunderstood, or simply not "bankable".

Is there a better way to do research?

Thus, in the current situation, the language policy choices of research organisations are not methodological and epistemological. Most of the reasons underlying what must be called a commercial struggle in the field of science are geopolitical, economic and industrial. It cannot therefore be argued that research or higher education in English is of better quality. These policies lead to a progressive impoverishment of research through the increasing scarcity of the cultural components of research, which is in itself the result of short-sighted policy.

Risks of discrimination

As argued by teacher-researchers in Management Sciences (Le Monde, 20.02.2019) in their discipline, this situation poses real risks of discrimination when it comes to teacher-researcher activities, since, without this being linked to the quality of the work, Francophone researchers are disadvantaged in this competition.

Promoting a wider linguistic and cultural diversity

Numerous human and social science studies have shown that, in this field, linguistic and cultural diversity is a fertile breeding ground. It is therefore necessary to reflect, beyond the English-French competition, on the place of the world's languages on the research scene, without this simply meaning promoting publication in all the world's languages, a challenge to which this question is often reduced.

The present manifesto is intended to alert national and international authorities in the Francophone research sphere and in the various environments in different languages, and to encourage them to promote the principle of linguistic diversity in the human and social sciences in general, and for language studies in particular, following the example of the DORA declaration (https://sfdora.org/) with regard to bibliometrics. This call also aims to encourage these authorities to design, in consultation with teacher-researchers, a plan to support Francophone research and its dissemination, as a first step towards a broader ambition that raises the question of culturally and linguistically diversified contributions to the necessary cross-cutting contradictory debate.

« Usage manual » of this text:

This text is intended as a means to stimulate reflection and action. It can be found online on the Mesopinions.com website (https://www.mesopinions.com/petition/art-culture/manifeste-reconnaissance-principe-diversite-linguistique-culturelle/63600) for all those who want to show their support by becoming co-signatories. We also give permission to anyone who wishes to distribute, publish, translate to do so, but any modification must be explicitly indicated as such. We encourage scientific journals and the general press, on- or offline, Francophone or in other languages, to publish it in their pages.

First signatories:

Didier de Robillard

Professor, University of Tours, sociolinguist, expert in language contact and the francophonie. Co-editor of Le français dans l'espace francophone, co-author of Ile Maurice, une francophonie paradoxale.

Sylvie Wharton

Professor, Sociolinguistics and Didactics of Languages, Aix Marseille University

Sociolinguistique du contactDictionnaire des termes et concepts  (co-editor).

Marc Arabyan

Honorary Professor, Director of Lambert-Lucas Publishing. Latest publications: La mise en page des pages de publicité et Des lettres de l’alphabet à l’image du texte.

Véronique Castellotti

Emeritus Professor, University of Tours, Latest book published: Pour une didactique de l'appropriation. Diversité, compréhension, relation.

Patrick Charaudeau

Emeritus Professor, University of Paris XIII, Researcher at CNRS-LCP-Irisso. Latest books published: Le débat public. Entre controverse et polémique ; Grammaire du sens et de l'expression (reedition).

Notes

1 These legacies must obviously be subjected to historical criticism, particularly for Francophone traditions, which cannot now conceal their past in order to suddenly praise diversity, which forms part and parcel of linguistic and cultural diversity, for all traditions, including Anglophone ones.

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