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Sorry – je ne suis pas circumflex

What’s going on in France? I’m talking about the way some people are reacting to the modest spelling reforms put forth by the Académie Française. According to a New York Times report, no sooner had the Académie proposed removing the circumflex from some words (only in cases where there would be no ambiguity), than Je…

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I like Larry Kunz’s article here. Language does evolve, and sometimes rules make sense to keep (like Oxford commas), but in this case, I can understand how the circumflex would be useful in some words, and not in others. But that’s what’s amazing about language, as Larry points out. It’s not just English that evolves, but all languages evolve.


The French and the Spanish, I know, have academies that closely monitor the French and Spanish languages very carefully. Interestingly enough, I am not aware that the English language has such an academy, other than style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style and similar folks. (Let me know if I’m wrong!) Could this be that the French are starting to have a better understanding of global implications of their language? Perhaps. 


The first thing I thought of, even though this is a very small adjustment, is how is this going to effect translational work, especially if it’s machine translation? Ah…there’s a big adjustment right there. Time will tell if this is, indeed, a bold move on the part of the French academy or not. 


What do you think? Include your comments below. 

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Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who currently employed at Cox Automotive, Inc., and freelances as her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog,, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. She is very active in the STC, as a former chapter president for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter, and is currently serving on three STC Board committees. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog. All content is the owner's opinions, and does not reflect those of her employers past or present.

2 thoughts on “Sorry – je ne suis pas circumflex

  1. Thanks for the shout-out to my article, Danielle. There is an Academy of English — and it consists of you, me, and the billion or so others who speak and write English in their daily lives. Should there be an Oxford comma? Should the short form of microphone be spelled mic or mike? We all get a say, and the language moves forward, often in messy and chaotic fashion, driven by consensus.

    It works differently in French and (as you pointed out) in Spanish….Although I suspect that at least some of the Academies’ recommendations are descriptive — bowing to changes in popular usage — rather than prescriptive. I don’t know for sure, as I’m not a regular user of either language.

    1. You’re welcome, Larry. I think my point is that yes, as you pointed out, WE are the “academy” to help steer the English language, unlike the French and Spanish who have the “language police”, if you want to call it that. I think another thing to take into consideration–that perhaps only now are the Spanish and French taking note of, is that just like there really isn’t such a thing as “international English”–a super-standardized English that ALL English speakers speak, there isn’t a standard French or Spanish spoken worldwide either. Having a husband from Ecuador who is also interested in language (not as much as us, but he has an interest), he has noted to me that traditional Castilian Spanish (or “Spanish” Spanish) is very different from Mexican Spanish, which is different from the Spanish he speaks from Ecuador. Just as we Americans can tell an Australian accent from a British accent (and we know there are variations of these in all of those dialects), there are in Spanish, and I would assume French as well. But, they have the official language police in France and Spain controlling language. We don’t have that–all dialects of English are evolving on their own that we might end up with different languages altogether at some point. Perhaps France is figuring that out now in how French is used around the world.

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