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Lingua francas have been adopted to unite peoples within a country (e.g., Mandarin Chinese in China or Modern Hebrew in Israel), but I'm curious to know more of the political implications when lingua francas expand opportunities for international communication (or their abandonment reduces them).

I've asked for economic implications at https://economics.stackexchange.com/questions/3270/economic-consequences-of-a-lingua-franca which of course can tie into politics, but I'm specifically interested here in asking about social ramifications.

I'd be interested both in positive examples in which a lingua franca is attributed as having improved relations by an increased opportunity for cultural sharing, exchanges, etc., but also any challenges, such as providing the masses with an increased exposure to values which contradict theirs (e.g., being made more acutely aware of another country's differing religious beliefs) and increasing tensions as a result.

Also welcome would be any instances in which a country closed itself from a lingua franca (as for anti-colonial reasons), leading to perhaps poorer relations with countries that formerly shared the common language.

Although I'm most interested in precipitous changes brought by the adoption of a new official language in modern times, I'd also be interested in analyses on the ongoing effects of how a shared language impacts disparate cultures such as Commonwealth of Nations countries.

  • That's a very broad question. One starting point would be to read on language planning but there are entire treaties written on the topic. – Relaxed Feb 5 '15 at 0:46
  • On the topic of language planning or on the topic of the repercussions between countries? Most language planning articles I have come across pertain to within-country effects. – Brett Zamir Feb 5 '15 at 1:40
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A lot of countries of the former French colonial empire now have large french speaking populations especially in Subsaharan Africa: Cote d'Ivoire, Sénégal, Cameroun, Gabon, Tchad, Niger, Mali, Mauritanie, République Centrafricaine, Burkina Faso... moslty have french as a lingua franca (but not always as an official language). Higher institutions of learning tend to be in french, it's also the language of the government. Learning the language creates opportunities. It is easier to make business or to make connections with other people form other parts of the world.

L'Organisation internationale de la Francophonie is an organism that help building cultural and economic ties between the different french countries. The organization help to increase the presence of the french language worldwide. Viet Nam is participating in the summits of the organization even if it's not a french speaking countries because an international summit is a great opportunity. There is also TV5, a plurinational tv station mostly financed by France but with content from all the french countries. They present news from Africa that no one else care to talk about.

In my University (Montreal) we had a lot of students from France but also from Africa. For many students, it's a possibility to study in good Universities including La Sorbonne in Paris. While I don't think a lot of Westerners will go study in Africa many will favor french speaking countries when compared to other African countries when it comes to foreign aids or economic investments. If you know someone that is Nigerian, you will feel closer to him and more affected by the problems of his country. That's what can happen if a lot of people develop connection overtime.

I think it's important to explain why these country came to be mostly french. Because it's a natural process. The newly independent states had mostly french institution and french elites. The wealth was in the hands of the french. Unlike in the Maghreb, there was no other language that could counter the attractiveness of french. These countries were made of many different cultures that had different languages. In Morocco, the french language is still important but the Arabic language is taking a more important role. Mostly because the opportunities with the rest of the Arab world are growing and the influence of France is getting smaller. The growth of the African economies in the south might balance that in the future but the Arabic language will not be endangered.

The downside of the french attractiveness is the disappearance of the local languages and cultures that goes with it. Since it's a slow process, it's painless for most people but from a cultural point of view, it's a mass extinction.

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