#JeSuisCirconflexe: The French spelling reform of 1990 and 2016 reactions

Emma Humphries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In February 2016 the French spelling reform of 1990, which introduced changes to approximately 2,000 words, became the object of discussion online, after it was announced that the new spellings would be included in textbooks from September. Analysing a corpus of tweets, containing key terms from the online discussion, JeSuisCirconflexe; ognon and réforme orthographe, this study gives an insight into the reactions to this governmental linguistic intervention, the recurring themes in their discourse and how this can be interpreted as prescriptive or purist behaviour. Although previous studies have extensively analysed reactions to the 1996 spelling reform in Germany, little research has considered online lay-reactions to the French reform. Given observations that online interactions differ in many ways to equivalent offline interactions, this study can form a point of contrast to previous studies conducted in offline contexts, thereby enriching the existing literature in this field. It is also often claimed that France is a country in which linguistic purism is deeply entrenched; this article will seek further evidence for these claims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305 - 321
JournalJournal of French Language Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • language intervention
  • metalinguistic discourse
  • prescriptivism
  • purism
  • spelling reform
  • Twitter


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