At the Drop of a Hat: L'accent circonlexe: friend or foe?




Justice, Sandra

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In September 2016, the French education system introduced the orthographic rectifications proposed by le Conseil supérieur de la langue française that simplify the spelling of approximately 2,400 words. This research will focus on the omission of the circumflex on the letters i and u. Although the circumflex has no phonetic value on these letters, it has etymological significance that can help learners of French trace a word back to its Latin root or to cognates in other languages. While this partial elimination of the circumflex was intended to facilitate the learning of spelling, it could have the opposite effect for Anglophone students as it may obscure the relationship between certain French and English words. For example, the circumflex often indicates the omission of a preconsonantal s in a word, while its English cognate may have retained the s (e.g. the crust: la croûte; to cloister: cloître). This research studies the history of the circumflex and considers the results of an experiment conducted with Anglophone learners of French in order to determine whether the circumflex is a useful etymological clue in the recognition of cognates.


This project explores the aesthetics of urban space in contemporary Mexico City. I am interested in Mexico City because it embodies the highs and lows of the aesthetic experience in the public space: on the one hand, it is a modern city with a rich cultural history and an extraordinary creative energy that has survived political crises, economic upheavals and natural disasters. On the other hand, it shows the pitfalls of uneven development, social and economic inequality, and urban chaos. This dichotomy applies to the visual arts: Mexican muralism, the most iconic cultural product stemming from the Mexican Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, can be read as a foil to the anarchic, subversive, and dramatic sprawl of street art. One of the questions I ask is how graffiti has reshaped the conception of aesthetics of public space in Mexico. I also address how do these forms –officially sanctioned Muralism and popular graffiti art— set up a dialogue. What shape does the project of urban life acquire, given, on the one hand, the rich history of Muralism, and on the other, the inescapable urban realities of sensorial overstimulation and spatial disorganization, of which graffiti can be seen as both cause and effect? I will resort to literary, artistic and historical sources to answer these questions.