In 1635, Cardinal Richelieu founded the Académie française with the mission of giving the French language certain rules and making it pure, eloquent, and capable of treating arts and sciences. Behind the language unification project, contaminated by regionalisms and dialectalisms, was a political purpose: to unify France. The members of the Académie were then tasked with developing a reference dictionary, providing guidance on what was correct or incorrect, and proposing French equivalents to foreign terms.
The Académie française was established during a time when France was divided into numerous regions, each with its own distinct language and culture. This diversity created significant challenges for the central government, which sought to unify the country and create a sense of national identity. By standardizing the French language and eliminating regional differences, the Académie helped to foster a sense of unity among the French people.
One of the Académie’s most significant accomplishments was the publication of the first edition of the French dictionary in 1694. This dictionary became the authoritative reference for the French language, providing clear definitions and spellings for thousands of words. The Académie also played an important role in promoting the use of French in literature, diplomacy, and other areas of French culture.
Today, the Académie française remains an important institution in France, with a mandate to preserve and promote the French language. The Académie’s work continues to be influential, with many French speakers looking to the institution for guidance on language usage and grammar.