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The discursive pathway of two centuries of raciolinguistic stereotyping: ‘Africans as incapable of speaking French’

  • Cécile B. Vigouroux (a1)


This article is about the discursive pathway of grammatical structures such as y'a bon ‘there's good’, documenting how, in Hexagonal France, it has become an ‘enregistered emblem’ for indexing sub-Saharan Africans and, by extension, any African as allegedly incapable of speaking French competently. I argue that tracing pathways makes it possible to unveil the intricacy of the historicities of production, circulation, and interpretations of such racially based linguistic stereotypes. One of the central questions addressed in this article is: What are the sociohistorical conditions of the emergence and maintenance of these linguistic stereotypes? I show that these are grounded in long-standing linguistic ideologies of French as an exceptional language and of African languages and, therefore, their speakers, as primitive. I demonstrate how the rise of first age mass culture in the nineteenth century contributed to both the entextualization and the circulation of these stereotypical representations. (Stereotypes, mediatization, enregisterment, language ideology, France, Africa)*


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Cécile B. Vigouroux Simon Fraser University, Department of French, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby British Columbia V5A1S6, Canada


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* I would like to express my gratitude to Adrienne Lo and Joseph Sung-Yul Park as well as Angela Reyes and the anonymous reviewer of Language in Society for their constructive comments that helped me strengthen my arguments. I am solely responsible for the remaining shortcomings.



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The discursive pathway of two centuries of raciolinguistic stereotyping: ‘Africans as incapable of speaking French’

  • Cécile B. Vigouroux (a1)


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