Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Presence of French on Store Fronts and Language Attrition

This interesting comment on my preceding post, from That Nerdy Girl Who Is Skinny, seems to have mysteriously disappeared. I hereby reproduce it:

The prominence of French takes another degree of importance when the process of language attrition is taken into account.

Language attrition happens when a speaker becomes more exposed to a language than another or certain words over others. Eventually, the most used language and vocabulary starts affecting the use of the lesser used languages and vocabulary by causing word retrieval problems and structural changes. This happens because the brain is plastic and reorganizes itself to make the most used language and vocabulary easier to access. This happens at the cost of making the lesser used languages and vocabulary harder to access. Language attrition, like language acquisition, is a matter of EXPOSITION and USE.

L1 attrition is often seen in bi(tri, etc)linguals and especially in people who move abroad and don't get to use their L1 often.

The most blatant manifestation of language attrition we can see here is Frenglish speakers. Next time you converse with a Frenglish speaker, ask them to redo the whole sentence in French and watch them struggle to retrieve the proper words even though French is their L1. Frenglish speakers foster Frenglish speakers by increasing and solidifying the EXPOSITION and the USE of English words over their French counterpart. That's aside from the fact that the rules of communication dictate that to be understood, 2 people have to use the same code, which encourages further the use of Frenglish among Frenglish speakers. That's why, dozens of years later, we still use English terminology for all things mechanic and tools. It has become harder to understand what people refer to when they use the French terminology for those things. Again, a matter of exposition.

Over generations, this causes permanent language loss.

So where does French prominence on signs come into play? It's about exposition. French prominence on signs ensures that French is the language the most readily seen and as such, increases the chances that it will be the one used. People want a name for things, they will pick the first thing they see, because people are lazy. That's how we got English speakers to use "Dépanneur" over "Convenience store" ;)

        – That Nerdy Girl Who Is Skinny

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