The work of the French Academy has chiefly consisted of the preparation and revision of a dictionary (1st ed. 1694, 9th ed. 1992–) and of a grammar. The very conservative attitude of these books toward orthography, new words, and grammatical development has led to much criticism. The academy, however, has never claimed to legislate but simply to record forms; legislation on orthography and grammar was made a function of the minister of public instruction during the Third Republic. The awarding of literary prizes has also been an important function of the French Academy, and in the 19th cent. its nonpartisanship encouraged the general recognition of the academy as a suitable trustee for the distribution of grants and prizes for courage and civic virtue.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.