The words of French Résistants. A lexicographic essay

Readings of Pierre Laborie
By François Marcot

During the Nazi Occupation of France, the underground press asserted its mission as ‘giving words and things back their identity’ (Combat, December 1942). A corpus of 169 clandestine tracts and underground newspapers disseminated through Franche-Comté between 1940 and 1944, while borrowing from the major national press, focused more directly on the relations between the Résistance and the population. Lexicological techniques reveal the words each group used to identify itself: Résistance for tracts and newspapers of the non-communist Movements (Combat, MUR, Libération-Nord, Lorraine, Défense de la France), France for the publications of communist-linked movements (PCF, Front national, CGT, various committees, etc.), which almost never used the term Résistance. Similarly, in referring to their readers: the Movements addressed the population as a whole, whereas the Communists spoke to very specific categories (women, young workers, farmers, etc.). The underground tracts did not have the same purpose: those of the Movements aimed to inform the population, whereas those of the Communists want to mobilise it. An analysis of these publications reveals different cultures and strategies—either proclaimed or concealed—that changed over time.

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