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Standard French

Standard French (in French: le français standard, le français normé, le français neutre [Neutral French] or le français international [International French], the latter being a Quebec invention) is an unofficial term for a standard variety of the French language. It is a set of spoken and written formal varieties used by the educated francophones of several nations around the world.

As French is a pluricentric language, Standard French comprises various linguistic norms (consisting of prescribed usage). The syntax, morphology, and orthography of Standard French is explained in various works on grammar and style such as the Bescherelle, a reference summary of verb conjugations first compiled in the 19th century by the Bescherelle brothers from France, and Le Bon Usage written in the 20th century by Belgian grammarian Maurice Grevisse.

In France, Standard French is based on the pronunciation and vocabulary used in the formal registers of French in Metropolitan France.

In Quebec, Standard French is more often called "international French" or "Radio Canada French" owing to decades of a foreign, European pronunciation dominating both news and cultural broadcasts up until the 1970s. In the rest of Francophone Canada, the spoken and written varieties of formal Quebec French as well as language in Government of Canada documents and speeches are viewed as Standard French. Linguists have been debating what actually constitutes the norm for Standard French in Quebec and Canada on a lexical level since research to date has concentrated much more on the differences from informal varieties of Quebec French and Acadian French. Since French-speaking Canadians use reference works written by the French, by Belgians, and by reputed Canadian linguists and lexicographers alike, the answers concerning an endogenous norm are not always apparent.

Although Standard French has in fact undergone centuries of human intervention and language planning, popular opinion contends that Standard French should consist solely of the rulings by the Académie française in France, or in standardization from terminological work by the Office québécois de la langue française in Quebec. There is further perceived or actual linguistic hegemony in favor of France by virtue of tradition, former imperialism, and a demographic majority. Such notions hinge on linguistic prestige rather than on a linguistic norm. Also, despite the existence of many regional varieties of French in the Francophone world, Standard French is normally chosen as a model for learners of French as a foreign or second language. The standard pronunciation of Metropolitan French is, out of concerns for comprehension or social stigma, sometimes favored over other standard national pronunciations when teaching French to non-native speakers in Francophone nations other than France.

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