FRANCE: Linguist to lead francophone agency

Bernard Cerquiglini, 60, a professor of linguistics attached to the University of Paris-7, Denis-Diderot, is the new head of the French-speaking University Agency. The agency supports and finances a network of more than 650 international universities and research centres with French-language departments.

Cerquiglini is currently director of the Centre for French and Francophone Studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in America. He will start the full-time post as chancellor of the AUF on 7 December, with responsibility for the staff and programmes of the agency’s international bureaux, dividing his time between its two headquarters in Paris and Montreal.

He is perhaps best known to the French-speaking public as presenter of “Merci professeur”, a programme on linguistics broadcast daily on TV5Monde, France’s international television channel*. He tackles questions on French grammar, spelling, vocabulary, Anglicisms and origins of words – such as how the Latin natalis (birth) evolved over the centuries to become today’s French noël (Christmas).

Among previous posts he has been director of the Institut National de la Langue Française, vice-chair of the Conseil Supérieur de la Langue Française and chair of the Observatoire National de la Lecture. He has also led government commissions on the reform of spelling and on national languages in France. He has written many academic books about the French language.

The AUF, founded in Montreal in 1961, aims to promote higher education and research in French-speaking universities and centres. Through its 62 branches operating under nine regional offices throughout the world, it runs a network of 659 establishments in 74 countries, organising cooperation programmes and annually making over 2,000 mobility grants to students, teachers and researchers.

Among current activities it is promoting gender equality in higher education and research and communication technologies including online distance learning and digital campuses.

The French government contributes the lion’s share of its budget of over €40 million (US$587 million), with contributions from Canada, Quebec, Belgium’s French-speaking community, Switzerland and Cameroon.

See Professor Cerquiglini in action