Multilingual Capability Is Essential In The Global Science Community

It was disappointing to learn that linguistic chauvinism has reared its head once again in the form of a law proposed several months ago by Jacques Toubon, France's Minister of Culture. Ostensibly, the measure promoted the purity of the French language. Among its sillier provisions, the law banned in official communications thousands of words such as "weekend" that are in common use throughout France, but are not etymologically hom

Eugene Garfield
Sep 18, 1994

It was disappointing to learn that linguistic chauvinism has reared its head once again in the form of a law proposed several months ago by Jacques Toubon, France's Minister of Culture. Ostensibly, the measure promoted the purity of the French language. Among its sillier provisions, the law banned in official communications thousands of words such as "weekend" that are in common use throughout France, but are not etymologically home-grown.

Not so silly in its implications is the suppressive spirit of the law, an irony in a nation so traditionally identified with democracy and the "Rights of Man."

Particularly galling (no pun intended) was another of the lawUs implications, which--if the statute had remained in effect--would require all scientific papers based on publicly funded research to be published in French. Considering my past involvement with this matter, I was pleased when FranceUs Constitutional Council overturned the law (which had, in fact,...

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