Nigel J. Ross

Academies and Attitudes

All too often the roles, the activities and the attitudes to English of language academies are ignored. All too frequently passing reference is made to the French Academy and its presumed anti-English stance, and all other academies are put into the same pot. This paper is an attempt to shed some light on the matter. It takes a closer look at some of the worlds' academies (focussing on the French, Italian and Spanish academies, as well as the English Academy of Southern Africa). It considers why there is no academy in Britain or America, and examines foreign academies' attitudes to English. While the Academie Francaise still proves to be fairly conservative, though not without openings towards English borrowings, the Italian Accademia della Crusca is much more liberal, while the Real Academia Espanola lies somewhere in between. Attempts in Britain and America to set up academies almost succeeded (and in the United States the dream did temporarily become a reality in the 1820s), while Philological Societies have partly filled the gap. The English Academy of Southern Africa stands out for its pragmatic attitude towards promoting English, an attitude being adopted more and more frequently by other academies in promoting their own languages.

published in English Today (Vol 20/3, July 2004), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

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