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By Kenneth D. McRae

After the French Revolution, Switzerland built from a rustic within which German ruled linguistically right into a confederation of 4 formally acknowledged language teams -- German, French, Italian, Romansh -- targeted in several geographical parts and marked through specific cultures and existence. Following a ancient evaluation of this improvement and the social and political institutionalisation of the linguistic cleavages, McRae's examine examines key parts within the functioning of contemporary Swiss society; political events, federal and cantonal associations, the media, academic and cultural guidelines, the relation among the linguistic cleavages and sophistication and faith, the attitudes and behavior of the 4 language teams to each other. It concludes via reviewing some of the motives complicated to give an explanation for the relative social and political balance of Switzerland.

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Apart from the pioneering study of Maurice Herremans (1951), serious studies taking a specifically Walloon frame of reference began to appear only after the traumatic conflicts of the 1960s (Genicot, 1973; Hasquin, 1975­76).  131).  Beginning in 1963, this second phase led to a major constitutional overhaul, completed in outline by December 1970, but the detailed legislative implementation of the principles enunciated in this reform was only partially achieved during the next decade.  These problems have constituted a major obstacle to reform as well as a graveyard of ministerial reputations; even in the 1980s, they remain unresolved after years of effort to find a minimally acceptable solution.

This effort to reverse the process of francisation (or "Frenchification") extended even to Brussels, which was to use only its Flemish street­names (Merkblatt, 1916).  The Flemish activists, as Ruys notes (1973, 76), were comparable to the Czechs who rejected their Austrian fatherland, but their misfortune was in seeking aid from the losing side.  The ending of the war left the Flemish Movement divided over its objectives and largely discredited in the eyes of the restored political elite, which was all too ready to link the excesses of activism with the Movement as a whole.

6 Sources: 1846: Recensement, 1846, xxxvii; 1910­47: Recensement, 1947 (supplement published in Moniteur belge of June 26, 1954), 152­55.  Bilingualism also has a regional focus, as we shall see shortly, being concentrated most strongly in the province of Brabant and the arrondissement of Brussels.  As we shall see shortly, however, this relative stability is the product of various demographic and linguistic factors that tend to counterbalance one another, but in such a way as to give rise to acute political tensions.

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Conflict and compromise in multilingual societies : Belgium by Kenneth D. McRae


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