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Talk: The Character of the French Language
Date: 14 April 2010 

The School’s French Programme invites you to attend the following talk:

The Character of the French Language

Dr. Alain Le Pichon
Honorary Research Associate
School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Date: 14 April 2010 (Wednesday)
Time: 1:00 to 2:30 pm
Venue: Room CYC-A, Chow Yei Ching Building, HKU
Language: English

The talk will be given in English. The many illustrations will of course be delivered in the original French. It is a personal attempt at characterizing the salient features of the French language as it developed from the Renaissance to the present day. It investigates the different forces at play, from the practice of writers and poets to that of vernacular speakers, from the desire for freedom expressed by many to the enforcement of linguistic rules and regulations decided by a central authority. It also investigates the unusual dichotomy found in the French language between two forms of orality - the spoken language and the prosody found in poetry and in the “Chanson francaise” – both functioning in structurally different ways, though allowing interplays between them as markers of class, education or humour. Finally, it will consider the differences in mental attitudes hidden in the architecture of French sentences compared with sentences produced by the English language.

Alain Le Pichon was born and educated in France. After graduating from the Ecole Normale Superieure at St Cloud, and from Oxford (Christ Church), he took his Agregation in English and went on to teach at Eton. He subsequently joined an English merchant-bank in the City and later in New York. He now lives in Hong Kong and Paris and, until his retirement at the end of 2009, he taught British Cultural History at the Sorbonne . He has published books and articles on British trade in the East and on Hong Kong's colonial history and society. His China Trade and Empire was published by Oxford University Press for the British Academy. It is the first edition of letters written during the period 1825-1843 by the founders of Jardine, Matheson & Co. This latest work – Bethanie and Nazareth, French Secrets from a British Colony – recalls the presence and activities of the French missionaries in Hong Kong. He was recently appointed Honorary Research Associate in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures of the Universiy of Hong Kong.

All are welcome. No registration required.

For enquiries, please contact Mr. Sylvain Holtermann (

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