Banning “Glottophobia”: French Legislators Move To Ban The Mocking Of Accents

libertyWe have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).  Now the French parliament is considering the making of jokes or mockery over accents a form of prohibited discrimination. It is a ban on “Glottophobia”, the French term for discrimination based on pronunciation and tone.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the opposition France Insoumise (France Unbowed) political party, has proposed outlawing mockery of accents after a controversial statement by former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon when asked by a reporter about  an anti-corruption investigation of his political party.  Melenchon mimicked the journalist’s accent and told her she was “talking nonsense” before turning away and saying: “Has anyone got a question in more or less comprehensible French?”  The reporter was from the southwestern areas of France.

The term “glottophobia” was coined by sociolinguist Philippe Blanchet as “linguistic discrimination of all kinds” which he defines as “contempt, hate, aggression, rejection. exclusion, of people, negative discrimination actually or allegedly based on the fact of considering incorrect, inferior, bad certain linguistic forms (perceived as languages, dialects or uses of language) used by these people, generally by focusing language forms (and without always being fully aware of the magnitude of the effects on people).” The term appears to be based on the Greek glossa for tongue.

The proposal reflects the fear of many of us in the free speech community about the slippery slope of speech criminalization.  Once politicians are allowed to ban or regulate speech, new limitations become impulsive and the desire for greater regulation insatiable.

Melenchon tweeted “Do people have to endure humiliation if their pronunciation is not of the standardized kind?” The answer appears to ban jokes or mockery.  Presumably, the next step will be jokes or mocks over cultural or regional habits or dishes or appearances.  The point is not that such mockery is appropriate but that the criminalization or regulation of speech comes at a much higher cost for society.


76 thoughts on “Banning “Glottophobia”: French Legislators Move To Ban The Mocking Of Accents”

    1. Loup.601
      They may not ignore American tourist, but they may have a bit of an attitude, like the one displayed in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

  1. Around Biarritz there is the influence of Basque and Gascon. That is further west than the Catalan/Occitan speakers.

  2. French was imposed on the French outside of Paris basin and points northwest. For example, the people of Brittany spoke Breton, a Gaelic dialect from Cornwall. In southwestern France the original language is almost indistinguishable from Catalan, spoken on the other side of the Pyrenees.

    The Pariseans have always looked down on the provincials. School instruction insists upon Parisian French everywhere.

    1. you really go back a long time. you know, the Franks who overran the Gauls, like the AngloSaxons over ran the Britons in Britannia now “England” too.
      oh and then the evil English oppressing the Scots and Irish.
      are you going to try and gin up a celt versus german fight now.?
      talk about old beefs. ….always the left hates the Teuton!

    2. And the Cathars were tactless enough to have their own form of Christianity and of French. That ended in the most infamous order issued by a Papal legate in history –

      “Kill them all. The Lord will recognize His own.”

      Ordering the indiscriminate killing of over 20,000 men, women and children, Catholic or Cathar.

  3. Europe differs from the US in that their governments are not based upon the rigorous protection of individual rights. Instead, they empower their government to manage them. The government gets to decide what you are allowed to say. It might be a supercilious bureaucrat, who decides that mocking accents should be against the law. Or it could be an official who declares that criticizing the government is sedition. We all know how this goes. The question is, when they tire of this, will they create another Terror?

    1. Europe differs from the US in that their governments are not based upon the rigorous protection of individual rights.

      Neither is ours.

  4. Es quilia une toilet sil vous plait? This spelling represents a bad French accent. You hear bad French accents all over France. It is all about “the wages of sin”. That phrase pertains to the colonial period. France lorded over places like
    algeria. After the colonial period they allowed their former slaves to come into France. Some of this was from regret or shame. France is full of Muslims and they don’t speak the King’s French.

    1. I loved Pepe le Pew. Did he ever get the girl? They could never make this show today. It’s like Mel Brooks – the antithesis of PC. The kitty would be wearing a #MeToo T-shirt today.

      1. Karen S – I always felt bad for both Pepe (who was smitten) and the kitty (who was panicked).

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