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Langues et sciences

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

Last Updated: 3 Apr 2019

Translated with www.DeepL.com and verified and corrected by Arlette Kircher


Over the years, and for several decades now, higher education institutions have been gradually and increasingly urging the academics who are both teachers-researchers to increase their international visibility. It is normal for teachers-researchers to be concerned about participating in international debates relating to their own disciplines. This is done during conferences and in published articles, not for advertising purposes, but to confront and exchange points of view and theoretical positions with a view of improving the quality of their work. The independence of teachers-researchers, which is essential and constitutive of their offices, renders any pressure to influence this process not only unnecessary, but above all inappropriate.

The place of the English language

Among these injunctions, the most questionable is probably the lack of reflection with the understatement that this visibility could only be achieved in the English language. In the field of Education, « teachers-researchers » are quite aware of the need for students to read publications in English, as it is done in other languages depending on the field, or even to write or practise translating. But it is not up to political authorities to decide and impose courses in English. The teacher is the one who must decide whether it is appropriate to offer courses in English or in other languages, as this can be done, for example, in international law studies . The argument which wants to justify the imposition of courses in English to attract foreign students is totally unaware of the fact that what attracts many of them to France is precisely the practice of courses in French, which is not common elsewhere (culture, references, theories...), for example in the United States.
Moreover, many colleagues in all the countries, probably more in the field of humanities than elsewhere, are concerned about the hegemony of English to the detriment of other languages and fields of knowledge, and about the risk of impoverishment of a scientific discourse - and therefore a thought - for lack of appropriate linguistic resources, which requires a command that cannot be limited to ordinary linguistic competence, even though it were very good.

The filter of intellectual traditions and editorial formats of English-speaking civilizations

The problem of evaluating articles submitted to media and publications in English is primarily a political one. Throughout the long history of human and social sciences (SHS), intellectual traditions linked to languages and cultures have been transmitted and influenced, reinforced in a contradictory dialogue. The legacies of French, German and American traditions...all constitute many different and fruitful ways of approaching the phenomena of the human sciences[Note: These legacies must obviously be submitted to historical criticism, particularly for French-speaking traditions, which cannot now hide their past in order to suddenly become the eulogists of diversity, this being part of the work of linguistic and cultural diversity, for all traditions, including English-speaking ones]. The contradictory exchanges between these traditions constitute a strategic asset for the SHS in general, and language sciences in particular. Among the works of the greatest linguists and philosophers of the 20th century language (to say nothing of earlier Greek, Arab, Indian, etc. works) there are as many French, Germans, Italians and Russians (to name but a few), speaking in their own languages, as British or Americans speaking in English. To give up these sources and the languages in which they have been expressed in favour of English alone is to lose any chance of making a useful contribution to global research in our disciplines.

The editorial formats of disciplinary reviews are not the same according to cultural traditions, and, if an article is accepted without difficulty in a French review, it will be clearly rejected in an English-language review, not on the basis of scientific quality criteria but of editorial formats often linked to philosophical and cultural traditions and different conceptions of research; or because epistemologies, problematics although they are relevant issues are unknown or little known, or simply not "bankable".

Is there a better way to do science?

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

Risks of discrimination

As argued by « teachers-researchers » in Management Sciences (Le Monde, 20.02.2019) in their field, this situation poses real risks of discrimination on the activity of « teachers-researchers », since, although this cannot be correlated to the quality of their work, French-speaking researchers are at a disadvantage in this competition.

The promotion of a wider linguistic and cultural diversity

Numerous studies in SHS have shown that, in this field, linguistic and cultural diversity is a fruitful breeding ground. It is therefore necessary to reflect, beyond the English-French-language competition, on the place of the world's languages in the scientific concert, without this simply meaning promoting publication in all the world's languages, a problem to which this question is often reduced.

This call is intended to alert national and international authorities in the French-speaking sphere and in the various x-speaking circles and to encourage them to promote the principle of the richness of linguistic diversity in the SHS in general, and for language sciences in particular, following the example of the DORA declaration (Link: https://sfdora.org/) with regard to bibliometrics. This call also aims at encouraging these authorities to design, in consultation with teachers-researchers, a plan to support French-speaking 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 contradictory cross-cutting debate.

"Instructions for use" of this text

This text is intended as a means to stimulate reflection and action. On the one hand, it is online on the Mesopinions.com website (Link: https://www.mesopinions.com/petition/art-culture/manifeste-reconnaissance-principe-diversite-linguistique-culturelle/63600) for all those who want to show their support by a co-signature. On the other hand, we give permission to anyone who wishes to distribute, publish, translate.To do so, all modification must be explicitly indicated as such. We encourage scientific reviews and the general press, online or offline, French-speaking or in other languages, to publish it in their pages.

First signatories

Didier de Robillard

Professeur, Université de Tours, sociolinguiste des contacts de langues et de la francophonie. Co-éditeur de Le français dans l’espace francophone, co-auteur de Ile Maurice, une francophonie paradoxale

Sylvie Wharton

Professeure, Sociolinguistique et Didactique des Langues, Aix Marseille Université, Dernier ouvrage paru : Sociolinguistique du contact. Dictionnaire des termes et concepts (co-direction).

Marc Arabyan

Professeur honoraire des universités, directeur des éditions Lambert-Lucas. Dernier ouvrage paru : Des lettres de l’alphabet à l’image du texte

Véronique Castellotti
Professeure émérite, université de Tours, Dernier ouvrage paru : Pour une didactique de l'appropriation. Diversité, compréhension, relation

Patrick Charaudeau

Professeur émérite, université de Paris XIII, chercheur au CNRS-LCP-Irisso. Derniers ouvrages parus : Le débat public. Entre controverse et polémique ; Grammaire du sens et de l'expression (réédition).


Véronique Castellotti

professeure émérite

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