Changes to spellings of over 2,000 French words sparks outrage

The new spellings will be published in school books and dictionaries this September

Outrage has erupted in France after a language moderator approved changes to the spellings of thousands French words in an attempt to simplify the language.

The alterations were approved by the country’s official language moderator, Académie française in 1990, but are due to come into effect this year and will be published in school books and dictionaries this September, The Local reports.

At least 2,400 spelling changes will be implemented, however the change that has sparked the most fury is the removal of the traditional circumflex accent (^), which will disappear above the vowels "i" and "u" in certain words.

The word coût (cost) will lose its accent to become cout, as will s'entraîner (to practise), maîtresse (teacher) and, ironically, disparaître (to disappear).

The circumflex will not disappear entirely, however, still being present above the letter "o", in words such as hôtel. It will also be kept on certain words like sûr, where removing the accent would change its meaning entirely from “certain” to “on top of”.

Other changes include removing hyphens in words such as week-end, which will change to weekend, and porte-monnaie (wallet).

The French onion will also fall under the changes as the “i” is removed from oignon to become ognon.

The modifications will not mean an immediate end to the old spellings. According to Le Monde, publishers will have the option of whether to use the new spellings or not and teachers will not punish students who continue to use the old spellings.  

Despite this, the changes have sparked outrage in France with thousands despairing of the alterations on social media.

#ReformeOrthographe or “spelling reform” was the top trending Twitter topic in France on Thursday; #JeSuisCirconflexe or “I am the circumflex” was also shared.

Many users argued the changes were “dumbing down” the French language. One Twitter user said the reforms were a “paroxysm of dumbing down”, while another claimed: "To simplify, is to become poorer. A language is rich and beautiful precisely because it is complex.”

Others claimed French spellings should not be made easier for pupils. One user said: “We had to learn to write properly, they can too”.

Politicians have also waded into the debate. The vice-president of France’s far-right Front National party said, “the French language is our soul” and the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, dubbed the reforms “absurd”.

It is not all doom and gloom for French traditionalists, however. Under the changes some more modern words will be made to adhere to French grammar rules in an effort to “Frenchify” words borrowed from the English language.

Des misses and revolver will become des miss and révolver and leader will become leaduer.

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