French spelling reform of 1990

Hi !

I am a French-speaking student (in a lycée, the French equivalent of a High School, to give you an idea) near Paris, and this evening, I had decided to try to take the French placement test.

I noticed that my answers using the NO (Nouvelle Orthographe, New Orthography) were considered as typos. I think the French course should at least accept words written according to the French spelling reform of 1990, as it is the reference in French Education (as of 2008) and the French Academy said « Aucune des deux graphies ne peut être tenue pour fautive » («Neither spelling can be held as erroneous »). Furthermore, using it could make the course easier, as the new spellings are easier to learn (some diacritics are removed), easier to pronounce and more logical, since some words have been modified to be spelled as they are pronounced (such as ambiguïté, which becomes ambigüité).

In short, I think that the French course should, if not use it as default, at least accept the NO spellings as correct answers.

PS : If the course already does, I guess I had to do the only sentence which doesn't accept NO, and in that case, I'm sorry to have bothered you. PS2 : Sorry if my English is bad, as I said, I'm French.

October 1, 2015


Sorted by top post

Good point, and your English is very good.

October 2, 2015

Thanks !

October 2, 2015

I think you are correct and you raise a very good point. However in some cases the NO is accepted, for example there is a recent thread about whether it should be "plaît" or "plait" since Duo was suggesting both as acceptable.

So I think Duo is doing the right thing but I bet there are plenty of examples where the NO is not accepted yet and we should be reporting them as we find them so they can get fixed.

October 2, 2015

Yes, I've seen it, but after I posted my message.

I am French, so I didn't take the entire course, and I don't know where it is accepted or not. The word which wasn't accepted was « connait ». I didn't think of reporting it, but I encourage those who have it to report it.

October 2, 2015

You are right, both orthographs sould be accepted. Indeed the Academie Française mention that "Aucune des deux graphies ne peut être tenue pour fautive" , but if you take a look a the "Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française", or in the Larousse, you will notice that this reform is not always taken into account (just search for 'chaine' in dictionnaire de l'Académie or "Nenufar" in the Larousse, or ambigüité in both). These books should also mention the two possibilities. So, it is very hard, even for a native, to follow the reform, and I understand this is a very hard task for the contributors of the course. One thing we could do would be to try the new orthograph in DL and to report it any time it is not accepted.

October 2, 2015

I completely agree with you (it's hard for me too, I personally mostly write with the old orthography, even though I try to switch), and I know it's often overlooked. However, in the French dictionary I own (the 2009 edition of the Hachette dictionary), when you look at the word chaîne, it reads, at the end of the definition, « VAR chaine », same for nénuphar (I for one think that nénufar is really ugly, but, eh, why not), so the reform is mentioned, not totally overlooked. There is even 2 pages about the NO at the beginning of the dictionary !

According to Wikipedia, the Dictionnaire de l'Académie uses 30% of the new spellings, and mentions the remaining 70% at the end. As of 2012, the Larousse includes the modifications too. So, even if there is not much recognition from people, the dictionaries at least includes them.

But we should definitely stand up for its recognition. In my opinion, French orthography needs another reform. If you can read French, I suggest you read that, it's interesting :

October 2, 2015

Thanks for the link, it is very interesting.

Concerning the Larousse, the Internet version seems to ignore the new spelling.

October 2, 2015

You're welcome.

Well, I don't know, I don't own a Larousse (actually I do, but it belonged to my uncle, and was published before 1990), so the only thing I can tell is what is written on the Wikipedia page. I know it is mentioned on the online version of Le Robert, but it isn't free.

You can use Wiktionary (or if you want the French version, Wiktionnaire), which includes them, they even have their own pages.

October 2, 2015

Can you give some examples of the changes that were made? I have never heard of the Nouvelle Orthographe.

October 2, 2015

Some examples of changed rules :

  • Compound numbers always have an hyphen (quarante et un becomes quarante-et-un)

  • Compound words' plurals are way easier. Now it's the last word which takes the plural's mark when the first is a verb or a preposition (un après-midi, which was pluralised as des après-midi before, becomes des après-midis, un chasse-neige, which pluralised as des chasse-neige, becomes des chasse-neiges)

  • The acute is replaced by a grave accent, according to the pronunciation (événement, which is pronounced évènement, is now written évènement)

  • The circumflex is removed from all u et i (except in the historical past, subjonctive, and in case of homonym). For example, coût becomes cout, s'il vous plaît becomes s'il vous plait, s'entraîner becomes s'entrainer, dîner becomes diner, etc …

  • Borrowed words are accented according to the French rules, and are pluralised according to the French rules too (sandwiches becomes sandwichs, revolver becomes révolver)

There are other changes. If you can read French, you can read them here : . If you can't, I don't know where you can find them, but I'm sure someone translated the changes somewhere. I believe they simplify the pronunciation a lot, as many words are now spelled as they read, such as réglementaire, which is pronounced règlementaire, and written règlementaire in the NO, or, as I said in the OP, ambigüité.

October 2, 2015

Thank you for the explanation and link. Your English is superb and impressive.

October 2, 2015

You're welcome. Thank you for the compliment, hopefully the IELTS examiner will deem my English as you do.

October 2, 2015

Another couple of links on this subject:

(The first one is the French wiktionary entry and the second one is the corresponding article in English.)

October 3, 2015

Very interesting, thank you. it explains why I sometimes have been told there is no circumflex on words I am sure had one (I started learning French in 1981 and I have refreshed it now going through the lessons here and with other material). Have a Lingot!

October 2, 2015

I first came across this a while ago in some heated discussions between some French speakers - also some of them on Duolingo. This lead me to do some research and put up a post on The French Spelling War - here

In the research that I did at the time (over several days - it was the wiktionary that stated the reforms most simply for me.

I do love CoiledSpring's summary, and have added this discussion to mine about " the war " ;P

Thank you for this discussion.

October 4, 2015

Note that there is a similar issue in Germany. They started a reform in 1996 to remove the ß and the umlaut (ä,ö,û), but many people are still reluctant (including me, who spent 10 years learning how to use this signs, and who do not want to waste this ;) ).

October 4, 2015

wow, thanks for expanding my knowledge!
It is great that you can talk about it so calmly. I have seen people get so hot under the collar with people who have different views to them - about this whole issue.
I also love history, so I have a liking for both sides of the argument.
However for me - the one that for me that won for me (and for about 20 years I argued the other) was the advantages for new learners - both native speakers and those for whom this is their second language.
Since I first joined this argument - I also have friends - that for all sorts of reasons - are more challenged - especially at language acquisition - in various ways. And because while I like the depth of understanding and stories that understanding the history about a word brings, I have finally realized it is the acquisition that is most important.
Then part of the history of the word also involves spelling changes. And simplify and standardizing the written codes we use - to be able to communicate - according to how we pronounce the words (... generally ...) today, has much greater wealth and enabling more of us to communicate, learn, share and support.
So I am for spelling reforms - while also retaining the knowledge and stories behind the words. :)

October 4, 2015
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