France in shock as dictionary Le Petit Robert relaxes language rules

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Schoolchildren are celebrating, commentators are astonished and purists are fuming over what they describe as a scandalous attack on 500 years of French history.

In the most sweeping linguistic reform in France for centuries, Le Petit Robert, the nation's premier dictionary, has cast aside tradition to allow alternative spellings for thousands of words. Accents have become optional, consonants can be doubled on a whim and hyphens will float in and out of literary texts under the changes imposed by Alain Rey, the linguist responsible for the opus.

He says that the reform has been necessary to enable a rigidly codified language to move forward in a society of slang and multi-ethnic innovation. “We have to make spelling simpler,” he said. “It's too complicated and it's not surprising that schoolchildren have trouble learning it.”

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