Publication Date

Spring 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Foreign Languages


Jean-Luc Desalvo


Azouz Begag, Chahdortt Djavann, French, Identity, Language, Maghreb

Subject Areas

Literature, General; Sociolinguistics


This thesis addresses the problematics of identity construction through the acquisition of the French language for immigrants living in France. More specifically, it examines the impact French language acquisition has had and still has on the identity of children of Maghrebian descent and, more generally, its influence on the identity of non-francophone immigrants who arrived in France as adults by examining the novels of two francophone authors: Azouz Begag and Chahdortt Djavann. Whereas the former is a French writer of Algerian descent, a "Beur," the latter is an Iranian-born writer who emigrated to France as an adult. In addition, this study examines the role which language has played throughout history as a means of forging French identity and discusses the ramifications of the integration policies designed to assimilate immigrants into contemporary French society.

The purpose of this study is to better understand the correlation between learning French and acquiring French identity for immigrants and their children growing up in France. This study reveals that the notion of a clearly defined French identity is no longer achievable in a nation of immigrants that France has become. Moreover, the acquisition of the French language is not synonymous with the acquisition of French identity. It represents nonetheless a preliminary and invaluable instrument of integration and a fundamental component of self-discovery, which contributes to the identity defining process of examination of oneself.