Franco-Provençal language explained

Franco-Provençal, Arpitan
Nativename:patouès, arpetan
Pronunciation:/patuˈe/ /patuˈɑ/
States: Italy
Region:Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Foggia, Franche-Comté, Savoie, Bresse, Bugey, Dombes, Beaujolais, Dauphiné, Lyonnais, Forez, Romandy
Speakers:(est.) 113,400
Rank:Potentially endangered language: Italy
Endangered language: France, Switz.
Script:Latin alphabet with diacritical marks
Nation:protected by statute in Italy and Aosta Valley Autonomous Region.
Map of the Franco-Provençal Language Area:
Dark Blue: Protected. — Medium Blue: General regions.
Light Blue: Historical transition zone.

Franco-Provençal (Francoprovençal) or Arpitan (Vernacular: francoprovençâl, arpitan, patouès; Italian: francoprovenzale, arpitano, dialetto, patoà; French: francoprovençal, arpitan, patois) is a Romance language with several distinct dialects that form a linguistic sub-group separate from Langue d'Oïl and Langue d'Oc. The name Franco-Provençal was given to the language by G.I. Ascoli in the 19th century because it shared features with French and Provençal without belonging to either. The neologism Arpitan is becoming a popular name for the language and the people who speak it.

Today, the largest number of Franco-Provençal speakers reside in the Aosta Valley, an autonomous region of Italy. The language also is spoken in alpine valleys in the province of Turin, two isolated towns in Foggia, and rural areas of the Romandy region of Switzerland. It constitutes one of the Gallo-Romance languages of France and is classified as a regional language of France, though its use is marginal. Organizations are attempting to preserve it through cultural events, education, scholarly research, and publishing.

The number of speakers of Franco-Provençal has been declining significantly. According to UNESCO (1995), Franco-Provençal is a "potentially endangered language" in Italy and an "endangered language" in Switzerland and France.


Franco-Provençal emerged from a Gallo-Roman variety of Latin. The linguistic region comprises east-central France, the Suisse-Romande, and the Aosta Valley with the adjacent alpine valleys of the Piedmont. This area covers territories once occupied by pre-Roman Celtic and Gaulish peoples, including the Allobroges, Sequani, Helvetii, Ceutrones, and Salassi. By the 5th century, the region was controlled by Burgundian tribes.

Early manuscripts reveal that Franco-Provençal has existed at least since the 12th century, possibly diverging from Langue d'Oïl as early as the 8th or 9th centuries (Bec, 1971). One writer has detected the influence of Basque by analyzing "fossil words" ("mots fossiles") from toponyms and the dialect in the Aosta Valley.[1] However, Franco-Provençal adhered conservatively to Latin linguistic conventions as it developed, primarily remaining a spoken language. The modern patois of its speakers continues to reflect medieval terms for many nouns and verbs, including: pâta for "rag", bayâ for "to give", moussâ for "to lie down", etc. Désormaux, writing on this subject in the foreword of his excellent Savoyard dictionary states:

"The antiquated character of the Savoyard patois is striking. One can note it not only in phonetics and morphology, but also in the vocabulary, where one finds numerous words and directions that clearly disappeared from French." (Constantin & Désormaux, 1982).

Franco-Provençal never achieved the greatness of its three larger neighbors; French, Occitan, and Italian. Communities where speakers lived were generally mountainous and isolated from one another. The internal boundaries of the entire linguistic domain were shattered by wars and religious conflicts. France, Switzerland, the Franche-Comté (protected by Habsburg Spain), and the duchy — later kingdom — ruled by the House of Savoy politically divided the region. The strongest possibility for any dialect of Franco-Provençal to establish itself as a major language died when an edict, dated 6 January 1539, was confirmed in the parliament of the Duchy of Savoy on 4 March 1540. The edict explicitly replaced Latin (and by implication, any other language) with French as the language of civil law and the judiciary (Grillet, 1807, p. 65).

Franco-Provençal dialects were widely spoken in their domain until the 20th century. As French political power expanded, and communication and transportation improved, speakers abandoned their patois, which had numerous spoken variations and no standard orthography, in favor of "educated" French.

Present status

Several events have combined to stabilize the language in the Aosta Valley since 1948. An amendment to the constitution of Italy[2] changed the status of the former province to an autonomous region which gives the Aosta Valley special powers to make its own decisions. Residents saw the region's economy expand and the population increase from 1951 to 1991, encouraging them to stay and continue long-held traditions. The language is now explicitly protected by an Italian presidential decree[3] and a federal law.[4] Further, a regional law[5] passed by the government in Aosta requires educators to promote knowledge of Franco-Provençal language and culture in the school curriculum. Several cultural groups, libraries, and theater companies are fostering a sense of ethnic pride with their active use of the Valdôtain dialect as well (EUROPA, 2005).

Paradoxically, the same federal laws do not grant the language the same protection in the Province of Turin because Franco-Provençal speakers make-up less than 15% of the population. Lack of jobs has caused migration out the Piedmont's alpine valleys abetting the language's decline.

Switzerland does not recognize Franco-Provençal (Romand) as one of its official languages. (Romand should not be confused with Romansh.) Speakers live in western cantons where Swiss French predominates and converse in dialects mainly as a second language. Currently, its use in agrarian daily life is rapidly disappearing. However, in a few isolated places the decline is considerably less steep. This is most notably the case for Evolène[6] .

Franco-Provençal has had a precipitous decline in France. The official language of the French Republic is French (article 2 of the Constitution of France). The French government officially recognizes Franco-Provençal as one of the "Languages of France"[7] but it is constitutionally barred from ratifying the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) that would guarantee it certain rights. Thus, Franco-Provençal has almost no political support. It also carries a generally low social status. This situation affects most regional languages that comprise the linguistic wealth of France. Speakers of regional dialects are aging and mostly rural.


The philological classification for Franco-Provençal published by the Linguasphere Observatory (Dalby, 1999/2000, p. 402) follows:

Indo-European phylosector > Romanic phylozone > Italiano+Româneasca (Romance) set > Italiano+Româneasca chain > Romance-West net > Lyonnais+Valdôtain (Franco-Provençal) reference name.

Note: The Linguasphere language code for Franco-Provençal is: 51-AAA-j

A philological classification for Franco-Provençal published by Stanford University (Ruhlen,1987, pp. 325-326) also follows:

Indo-Hittite > Indo-European > Italic > Latino-Faliscan > Romance > Continental > Western > Gallo-Iberian-Romance > Gallo-Romance > North > Franco-Provençal.

Origin of the name

Franco-Provençal is an extremely fragmented language with scores of highly peculiar local variations that never merged together over time. The range of dialect diversity is far greater than that found in the Langue d’Oïl and Occitan regions. Comprehension of one dialect by speakers of another is often difficult. Nowhere is it spoken in a "pure form," nor is there a "standard reference language" that the modern generic label used to identify the language may indicate. This explains why speakers use local terms to name it, such as Bressan, Forèzien, or Valdôtain, or simply patouès ("patois"). It has only been in recent years that speakers, who are not specialists in linguistics, have become conscious of the language’s collective identity.

The language region was first recognized in the 19th century during advances in research into the nature and structure of human speech. Graziadio Isaia Ascoli (1829-1907), a pioneering linguist, analyzed the unique phonetic and structural characteristics of numerous spoken dialects. In an article written about 1873 and published later, he offered a solution to existing disagreements about dialect frontiers and proposed a new linguistic region. He placed it between the Langue d'Oïl group of languages, whence came the appellation Franco, and the Langue d'Oc group, whence came the appellation Provençal, and gave Franco-Provençal its name.

Ascoli (1878, p. 61) described the language in these terms in his defining essay on the subject:

« Chiamo franco-provenzale un tipo idiomatico, il quale insieme riunisce, con alcuni caratteri specifici, più altri caratteri, che parte son comuni al francese, parte lo sono al provenzale, e non proviene già da une confluenza di elementi diversi, ma bensì attesta sua propria indipendenza istorica, non guari dissimile da quella per cui fra di lora si distinguono gli altri principali tipi neo-latini. »

"I call Franco-Provençal a type of language which brings together, along with some characteristics which are its own, characteristics partly in common with French, and partly in common with Provençal, and which are not due to a late confluence of diverse elements, but on the contrary, attests to its own historical independence, little different from those by which the principal neo-Latin [Romance] languages distinguish themselves from one another."

Although the name Franco-Provençal appears misleading, it continues to be used in most scholarly journals for the sake of continuity. Suppression of the hyphen between the two parts of the language name in French ("francoprovençal") was generally adopted following a conference at the University of Neuchâtel in 1969 (Marzys, 1971) however, most English journals continue to use the traditional spelling.

The name Romand has been in use regionally in Switzerland at least since 1494, when notaries in Fribourg were directed to write their minutes in both German and "Rommant". It continues to appear in the names of many Swiss cultural organizations today. The term Romand is also used by some professional linguists who feel that the compound word Franco-Provençal is "inappropriate" (Dalby, 1999/2000, p. 402).

A proposal in the 1960s to call the language Burgundian (French: "burgondien") did not take hold because of confusion with historical, political, and geographic regions of the same name (Meune, 2007).

Some contemporary speakers and writers prefer the name Arpitan because it underscores the independence of the language and does not imply a union to any other established linguistic group. Arpitan is derived from an indigenous word meaning "alpine" ("mountain highlands") (Bessat & Germi, 1991). It was popularized in the 1980s by Mouvement Harpitanya, a political organization in the Aosta Valley.[8] The Aliance Culturèla Arpitana (Arpitan Cultural Alliance) is currently advancing the cause for the name Arpitan through the Internet, publishing efforts, and other activities. The organization was founded in 2004 by Stéphanie Lathion and Alban Lavy in Lausanne, Switzerland, and is now based in Fribourg.[9]

The language is called patouès (patois) or nosta moda ("our way [of speaking]") by native speakers. Some Savoyard speakers call their language sarde. This is a colloquial term, used because their ancestors were subjects of the Kingdom of Sardinia ruled by the House of Savoy. (Savoie and Haute-Savoie were annexed by France in 1860.) The language is called gaga in the Forez region of France, and appears in the titles of dictionaries and other regional publications. Gaga (and the adjective gagasse) comes from a local name for the residents of Saint-Étienne, popularized by Auguste Callet’s story "La légende des Gagats" published in 1866.

Geographic distribution

The historical linguistic domain of the Franco-Provençal language includes the following areas (also see: Jochnowitz, 1973):


Note: The southernmost valleys of Piedmont speak Occitan.



Number of speakers

The Franco-Provençal dialect with the greatest population of active daily speakers is Valdôtain (Valdoten). Approximately 68,000 people speak the language in the Aosta Valley region of Italy according to reports conducted after the 1981 census. The alpine valleys of the adjacent province of Turin have an estimated 22,000 speakers. The Faetar dialect is spoken by just 1,400 speakers who live in an isolated pocket of the province of Foggia in the southern Italian Apulia region (Figures for Italy: EUROPA, 2005.)

Contrary to this official information reported by the European Commission, a poll by the Fondation Émile Chanoux in 2001[10] revealed that only 15% of all Aosta Valley residents claimed Franco-Provençal as their mother tongue. This is a substantial reduction to the figures reported on the Italian census 20 years earlier that was used in the commission report. Only 7% of the inhabitants (approximately 8,200 people) claimed to be able to speak any dialect. A report published by Laval University in Québec City,[11] which analyzed this data, reports that it is "probable" that the language will be "on the road to extinction" in this region in ten years. Note: The most recent edition of Ethnologue (Gordon, 2005) reports that there are 70,000 Franco-Provençal speakers in Italy. However, these figures are derived from the 1971 census. In rural areas of the cantons of Geneva, Valais, Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg in Switzerland, various dialects are spoken as a second language by about 7,000 residents. (Figures for Switzerland: Gordon, 2005.)

Until the mid-19th century, Franco-Provençal dialects were the most widely spoken language in their domain in France. Today, regional vernaculars are limited to a small number of speakers in secluded towns. A 2002 report by the INED (Institut national d’études démographiques) states that the language loss by generation, that is, “the proportion of fathers who did not usually speak to their 5-year-old children in the language that their own father usually spoke in to them at the same age” was 90%. This was a greater loss than any language in France; a loss called "critical." The report estimated that fewer than 15,000 speakers in France were handing down some knowledge of Franco-Provençal to their children. (Figures for France: Héran, Filhon, & Deprez, 2002; figure 1, 1-C, p. 2.)

Linguistic structure

Note: The overview in this section follows Stich (2003) and Martin (2005), with all Franco-Provençal examples written in accordance with Orthographe de référence B (see "Orthography" section, below).

Typology and syntax


Franco-Provençal has grammar similar to that of other Romance languages.

Articles:Masculine DefiniteFeminine DefiniteMasculine IndefiniteFeminine Indefinite
Pluralloslesdes / dedes / de

Articles precede women’s given names during conversation: la Foëse (Françoise/Frances), la Mya (Marie), la Jeânna (Jeanne/Jane), la Peronne (Pierrette), la Mauriza (Mauricette/Maurisa), la Daude (Claude/Claudia), la Génie (Eugénie/Eugenia); however, articles never precede men’s names: Fanfoué (François), Dian (Jean/John), Guste (Auguste), Zèbe (Eusèbe/Eusebius), Ouiss (Louis), Mile (Émile).

To assist comprehension of written words, modern orthographers of the language have added an “s” to most plural nouns that is not reflected in speech. For example:

codo (masculine singular):,

codos (masculine plural): .

pôrta (feminine singular):,

pôrtas (feminine plural): .

In general, inflection by grammatical gender (masculine and feminine) is the same as for French nouns, however, there are many exceptions. A few examples follow:

la sal (fem.)le sel (masc.)the salt
l'ôvra (fem.), la besogne (fem.)le travail (masc.)the work
l'ongla (fem.)l'ongle (masc.)the fingernail
l'ôlyo (masc.)l'huile (fem.)the oil
lo crotâl (masc.), lo vipèro (masc.)la vipère (fem.)the viper

Verbs in Group 1a end in -ar (côsar, "to speak"; chantar, "to sing"); Group 1b end in -ier (mengier, "to eat"); Groups 2a & 2b end in -ir (finir, "to finish"; venir, "to come"), Group 3a end in -êr (dêvêr, "to owe"), and Group 3b end in -re (vendre, "to sell").

Auxiliary verbs are: avêr (to have) and étre (to be).

Phonetic characteristics


Franco-Provençal does not have a standard orthography. Most proposals use the Latin alphabet and four diacritics: the acute accent, grave accent, circumflex, and diaeresis (trema). (The ligature "œ" and cedilla found in French are omitted.)

The table below compares a few words in each writing system, with French and English for reference. (Sources: Esprit Valdôtain (download 7 March 2007), C.C.S. Conflans (1995), and Stich (2003).

tsëcatchicatchikachicaun peua little


Franco-Provençal uses a decimal counting system. The numbers "1", "2", and "4" have masculine and feminine forms (Duplay, 1896; Viret, 2006). 0) zérô; 1) yon (masc.), yona / yena (fem.); 2) dos (masc.), does / doves / davè (fem.); 3) três; 4) quatro (masc.), quat / quatrè (fem.); 5) cinq; 6) siéx; 7) sèpt; 8) huét; 9) ; 10) diéx; 11) onze; 12) doze; 13) trèze; 14) quatôrze; 15) quinze; 16) sèze; 17) dix-sèpt; 18) dix-huét; 19) dix-nou; 20) vengt; 21) vengt-yon / vengt-et-yona; 22) vengt-dos ... 30) trenta; 40) quaranta; 50) cinquanta; 60) souessanta; 70) sèptanta; 80) huétanta; 90) nonanta; 100) cent; 1000) mila; 1,000,000) on milyon / on milyona.

Many western dialects use a vigesimal (base-20) form for "80," that is, quatro-vingt, possibly due to the influence of French.

Word comparisons

The chart below compares words in Franco-Provençal to those in selected Romance languages, with English for reference.

Between vowels, the Latinate "p" became "v", "c" and "g" became "y", and "t" and "d" disappeared. Franco-Provençal also softened the hard palatized "c" and "g" before "a". This led Franco-Provençal to evolve down a different path from Occitan and Gallo-Iberian languages, closer to the evolutionary direction taken by French.

clavisclâclef / cléclauchiavekey
cantarechantarchantercantar / chantarcantareto sing
capracabra / chèvrachèvrecabra / chabracapragoat
caseus (formaticus)tôma / fromâjofromageformatgeformaggiocheese
dies Martisdemârs / demonremardidimarsmartedìTuesday
fratrem germanumfrârefrèrefrairefratellobrother
hospitalishèpetâlhôpitalespital / espitauospedalehospital
lingualengalanguelenga / lengualingualanguage
manum sinistramman gôchomain gaucheman esquèrra / man senèstramano sinistraleft hand
nihilrenrienren / resniente / nullanothing
nox, noctisnuetnuitnuèch / nuèitnottenight
pacarepayérpayerpagar / paiarpagareto pay
sudorsuarsueursusar / suarsudoresweat

Franco-Provençal dialects

Classification of Franco-Provençal dialect divisions is challenging. Each canton and valley uses its own vernacular without standardization. Difficult intelligibility among dialects was noted as early as 1807 by Grillet.

The dialects are divided into eight distinct categories or groups. Six dialect groups comprising 41 dialect idioms for the Franco-Provençal language have been identified and documented by Linguasphere Observatory (Observatoire Linguistique) (Dalby, 1999/2000, pp. 402-403). Only two dialect groups – Lyonnaise and Dauphinois-N. – were recorded as having fewer than 1,000 speakers each. Linguasphere has not listed any dialect idiom as "extinct," however, many are highly endangered. A seventh isolated dialect group, Faetar, has been analyzed by Nagy (2000). The Piedmont dialects need further study.

Dialect Group : Dialect Idiom: (Epicenters / Regional locations)

1. Bressan (Bresse, Revermont, Ain (département) west, French Jura (département) southwest, Saône-et-Loire east), 2. Bugésien (Bugey, Ain southeast), 3. Mâconnais (Mâcon country), 4. Lyonnais-rural (Lyonnais mountains, Dombes, & Balmes) 5. Roannais+Stéphanois (Roanne country, Foréz plain, & Saint-Étienne).

1. Dauphinois-Rhodanien (Rhône River valley, Rhône (département) south, Loire (département) southeast, Ardèche north, Drôme north, Isère west), 2. Crémieu (Crémieu, Isère north), 3. Terres-Froides (Bourbre River valley, Isère central north), 4. Chambaran (Roybon, Isère central south), 5. Grésivaudan [& Uissans] (Isère east).

1. Bessanèis (Bessans), 2. Langrin (Lanslebourg), 3. Matchutin (Valloire & Ma’tchuta) (1., 2. & 3.: Maurienne country, Arc valley, Savoie south), 4. Tartentaise [& Tignard] (Tarentaise country, Tignes, Savoie east, Isère upper valleys), 5. Arly (Arly valley, Savoie north), 6. Chambérien (Chambéry), 7. Annecien [& Viutchoïs] (Annecy, Viuz-la-Chiésaz, Haute-Savoie southwest), 8. Faucigneran (Faucigny, Haute-Savoie southeast), 9. Chablaisien+Genevois (Chablais country & Geneva (canton) hinterlands).

1. Neuchâtelois (Neuchâtel (canton)), 2. Vaudois-NW. (Vaud northwest), 3. Pontissalien (Pontarlier & Doubs (département) south), 4. Ain-N. (Ain upper valleys & French Jura), 5. Valserine (Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, Valserine valley, Ain northeast & adjacent French Jura).

1. Vaudois-Intracluster (Vaud west), 2. Gruyèrienne (Fribourg (canton) west), 3. Enhaut (Château-d'Œx, Pays-d'Enhaut, Vaud east), 4. Valaisan (Valais, Valaisan Romand).

1. Val-Veni (Dora Baltea upper valleys), 2. Val-di-Ferret (Dora Baltea upper valleys), 3. Doire-Baltée-C. (Dora Baltea middle valleys), 4. Val-du-Grand-Saint-Bernard, 5. Val-Pelline, 6. Val-Tourmanche, 7. Ayassin (Val-d’Ayas), 8. Val-de-la-Thuile, 9. Val-Grisanche, 10. Val-de-Rhêmes, 11. Val-Savaranche, 12. Val-de-Cogne, 13. Val-de-Camporcher. (All in the Aosta Valley.)

1. Faetar (Faeto & Celle di San Vito, in Province of Foggia).

(Note: Comparative analyses of dialect idioms in the Piedmont basin of the Province of Turin — from the Val Soana in the north to the Val Sangone in the south — have not been published.)

Dialect examples

Several modern orthographic variations exist for all dialects of Franco-Provençal. The spellings and IPA equivalents listed below appear in Martin (2005).

EnglishFranco-ProvençalSavoyard dialectBressan dialect
Good night!Bôna nuet!
Goodbye!A revêr!
MaybeT-èpêr / Pôt-étre
PleaseS'el vos plét
Thank you!Grant marci!
A manOn homo
A womanNa fena
The clockLo relojo
The clocksLos relojos
The roseLa rousa
The rosesLes rouses
He is eating.Il menge.
She is singing.Le chante.
It is raining.O pluvinye.
It is raining.O brolyasse.
What time is it?Quint' hora est ?
What time is it?Quâl' hora qu'el est ?
It is 6:30.El est siéx hores et demi.
It is 6:30.El est siéx hores demi.
What is your name?Tè que vos éds niom ?
What is your name?Coment que vos vos apelâds ?
I am happy to see you.Je su bonéso de vos vér.
I am happy to see you.Je su content de vos vére.
Do you speak Patois?Prègiéds-vos patouès ?
Do you speak Patois?Côsâds-vos patouès ?

External links:


Other than in family names, the Franco-Provençal legacy primarily survives in place names. Many are immediately recognizable, ending in -az, -oz (-otz), -uz, -ax, -ex, -ux, -oux, and -ieux (-ieu). These suffixes indicate the stress syllables based on a historical orthographic system considered obsolete by modern scholars. The last letter is not pronounced. For multi-syllabic names, “z” indicates a paroxytone (stress on the next-to-last syllable), and “x” indicates an oxytone (stress on the last syllable), for example, Chanaz: (shana); Chênex: (shè). Examples:





A long tradition of Franco-Provençal literature exists, although no prevailing written form of the language materialized. An early 12th century fragment containing 105 verses from a poem about Alexander the Great may be the earliest known work in the language. "Girart de Roussillon", an epic with 10,002 lines from the mid-12th century, has been asserted to be Franco-Provençal. It certainly contains prominent Franco-Provençal features, although the editor of an authoritative edition of this work claims that the language is a mixture of French and Occitan forms (Price, 1998). A significant document from the same period containing a list of vassals in the County of Forez also is not without literary value.

Among the first historical writings in Franco-Provençal are legal texts by civil law notaries that appeared in the 13th century as Latin was being abandoned for official administration. These include a translation of the Corpus Juris Civilis (known as the Justinian Code) in the vernacular spoken in Grenoble. Religious works also were translated and conceived in Franco-Provençal dialects at some monasteries in the region. "The Legend of Saint Bartholomew" is one such work that survives in Lyonnais patois from the 13th century.

Marguerite d'Oingt (ca. 1240–1310), prioress of a Carthusian Order near Mionnay (France), composed two remarkable sacred texts in her native Lyonnais dialect, in addition to her writings in Latin. The first, entitled "Speculum" ("The Mirror"), describes three miraculous visions and their meanings. The other work, "Li Via seiti Biatrix, virgina de Ornaciu" ("The Life of the Blessed Virgin Beatrix d'Ornacieux"), is a long biography of a nun and mystic consecrated to the Passion whose faith lead to a devout cult. This text contributed to the beatification of the nun more than 250 years later by Pope Pius IX in 1869.[12] A line from the work in her dialect follows:[13]

§ 112 : « Quant vit co li diz vicayros que ay o coventavet fayre, ce alyet cela part et en ot mout de dongiers et de travayl, ancis que cil qui gardont lo lua d'Emuet li volissant layssyer co que il demandavet et que li evesques de Valenci o volit commandar. Totes veys yses com Deus o aveyt ordonat oy se fit. »

Religious conflicts in Geneva between Calvinist Reformers and staunch Catholics, supported by the Duchy of Savoy, brought forth many texts in Franco-Provençal during the early 17th century. One of the best known is "Cé qu'è lainô" ("The One Above"), which was composed by an unknown writer in 1603. The long narrative poem describes l'Escalade, a raid by the Savoyard army that generated patriotic sentiments. It became the unofficial national anthem of the Republic of Geneva. The first three verses follow below (in Genevois dialect)[14] with a translation:

Cé qu'è lainô, le Maitre dé bataille,
Que se moqué et se ri dé canaille;
A bin fai vi, pè on desande nai,
Qu'il étivé patron dé Genevoi.

The One above, the Master of the battles,
Who is mocked and laughed at by the rabble,
Made them see well, on a Saturday night,
That He was protector of the Genevese people.

I son vegnu le doze de dessanbro
Pè onna nai asse naire que d'ancro;
Y étivé l'an mil si san et dou,
Qu'i veniron parla ou pou troi tou.

They came on the twelfth of December,
On a night as black as ink;
It was the year sixteen-hundred-and-two,
That they speak of, at the earliest (hour).

Pè onna nai qu'étive la pe naire
I veniron; y n'étai pas pè bairè;
Y étivé pè pilli nou maison,
Et no tüa sans aucuna raison.

On the blackest night
They came - it was not for drinking -
To plunder our houses,
And to kill us without any reason.

Several writers created satirical, moralistic, poetic,comic, and theatrical texts during the era that followed, which indicates the vitality of the language at that time. These include: Bernardin Uchard (1575–1624), author and playwright from Bresse; Henri Perrin, comic playwright from Lyon; Jean Millet (1600?–1675), author of pastorals, poems, and comedies from Grenoble; Jacques Brossard de Montaney (1638–1702), writer of comedies and carols from Bresse; Jean Chapelon (1647–1694), priest and composer of more than 1,500 carols, songs, epistles, and essays from Saint-Étienne; and François Blanc dit la Goutte (1690–1742), writer of prose poems, including "Grenoblo maléirou" about the great flood of 1733 in Grenoble. Nineteenth century authors include Guillaume Roquille (1804–1860), working-class poet from Rive-de-Gier near Saint-Chamond, Joseph Béard (1805–1872) of Rumilly, and Louis Bornet (1818–1880) of Gruyères. Clair Tisseur (1827-1896), noted architect of Bon Pasteur Church in Lyon, published many writings under the pen name "Nizier du Puitspelu". These include a popular dictionary and humorous works in Lyonnaise dialect that have reprinted for over 100 years.[15]

Amélie Gex (1835, La Chapelle-Blanche (Savoie) – 1883, Chambéry), the great Savoyard poet, wrote in her native patois as well as French. She was a passionate advocate for her language. Her literary efforts encompassed lyrical themes, work, love, tragic loss, nature, the passing of time, religion, and politics, and are considered by many to be the most significant contributions to the literature. Among her works are: "Reclans de Savoie" ("Echos from Savoy," 1879), "Lo Cent Ditons de Pierre d’Emo" ("One Hundred Sayings by Pierre du Bon-Sens," 1879), "Poesies" ("Poems," 1880), "Vieilles gens et vieilles choses: Histoires de ma rue et de mon village" ("Old people and old things: Stories from my street and from my village," 1889), "Fables" (1898), and "Contio de la Bova" ("Tales from the Cowshed,"). Some of her writings, in French, are still in print.

The writings of Jean-Baptiste Cerlogne (1826–1910), abbot, are credited with reestablishing the cultural identity of the Aosta Valley. His early poetry includes: "L'infan prodeggo" (1855), "Marenda a Tsesalet" (1856), and "La bataille di vatse a Vertosan" (1858); and among his noteworthy scholarly works are: "Petite grammaire du dialecte valdotain" (1893), "Dictionnaire du dialecte valdôtain" (1908), and "Le patois valdotain: son origine litéraire et sa graphie" (1909). (The Concours Cerlogne - an annual event named in his honor - has focused thousands of Italian students on preserving the region's language, literature, and heritage since 1963.)

At the end of the 19th century, regional dialects of Franco-Provençal were disappearing due to the expansion of the French language into all walks of life and the emigration of rural people to urban centers. Cultural and regional savant societies began to collect oral folk tales, proverbs, and legends from native speakers in an effort that continues to today. Numerous works have been published. An excerpt from "Le renâ à Dâvid Ronnet" ("David Ronnet's Fox") appears below (in Neuchâtelois dialect):[16]

¶ « Aë-vo jamai ohyi contâ l'istoire du renâ que Dâvid Ronnet a tioua dé s'n otau, à Bouidry ? Vo peuté la craëre, è l'é la pura veurtâ.

Dâvid Ronnet êtaë én' écofi, on pou couédet, qu'anmâve grô lé dzeneuillè; el é d-avaë mé d'èna dozân-na, avoué on poui que tsantâve dé viadze à la miné, mâ adé à la lévaye du solet. Quaë subiet de la métsance! mé z-ami ! E réveillive to l'otau, to lo vesenau; nion ne povaë restâ u llie quan le poui à Dâvid se boétàve à rélâ. Ç'tu poui étaë s'n orgoû.

Le gran mataë, devan de s'assetâ su sa sulta por tapa son coëur & teri le l'nieu, l'écofi lévâve la tsatire du dzeneuilli por bouèta feur sé dzeneuillé & lé vaër cor dè le néveau. E tsampâve à sé bêté dé gran-nè, de la queurtse, du pan goma dè du lassé, dé cartofiè coûtè, & s'amouésâve à lé vaër medzi, se roba lé pieu bé bocon, s'énoussa por pieu vite s'épyi le dzaifre. (...) »

¶ "Have you ever heard (anyone) tell the story of the fox that David Ronnet killed at his house in Boudry? You can believe it; it’s the absolute truth.

David Ronnet was a cobbler, a bit hardworking, who liked chickens a lot; he had more than a dozen, with a rooster that crowed sometimes to midnight, but always at sunrise. What a racket, my friends! It woke the whole house, the whole neighborhood; no one could stay in bed when David’s rooster began screeching. This rooster was his pride.

Early in the morning, before sitting at his stool to beat his leather & draw the wooden soles, the cobbler raised the door flap of the henhouse to put his chickens outside & to see them run on the porch. He threw his fowl some seeds, bran, bread soaked in milk, cooked potatoes, & enjoyed watching them eat, taking the biggest mouthfuls, enthusiastically (and) quickly fill their stomachs. (...)"

Prosper Convert (1852–1934), the bard of Bresse; Louis Mercier (1870–1951), folk singer and author of more than twelve volumes of prose from Coutouvre near Roanne; Just Songeon (1880–1940), author, poet, and activist from La Combe, Sillingy near Annecy; Eugénie Martinet (1896–1983), poet from Aosta; and Joseph Yerly (1896–1961) of Gruyères whose complete works were published in "Kan la têra tsantè" ("When the earth sang"), are well-known for their use of patois in the 20th century.

Those with an interest in seeing a familiar work in this rare language, may want to seek out "Lo Petsou Prince", an authorized edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic work "Le Petit Prince". The opening lines of part 2 of the tale follow (in Valdôtain dialect):[17]

¶ « L’y est chouë s-an, dz’ëro restà arrëto pe lo déser ci Sahara. Quaque tsousa se s’ëre rontu dedin lo moteur de mon avion. Et di moman que dz’ayò avouë mè mecanichen, ni passadzë, dze m’apprestavo de tenté, solet, euna reparachon defecila. L’ëre pe mè euna questson de via o de mor. Dz’ayò dzeusto praou d’éve aprë p’euna vouètèina de dzor.

La premiëre nët dze me si donque indrumi dessu la sabla a pi de meulle vouet cent et cinquante dou kilométre d’un bocon de terra abitàye. Dz’ëro bien pi isolà d’un nofragà dessu euna plata-fourma i menten de l’ocean. Donque imaginade mina surprèisa, a la pouinte di dzò, quan euna drola de petsouda voéce m’at revèillà. I dijet:

-- Pe plèisi ... féi-mè lo dessin d’un maouton tseque ! »

¶ "So I lived by myself, until I had a mechanical failure in the Sahara. Something had broken in the engine of my airplane. And since I had neither a mechanic nor passengers with me, I prepared to try the difficult repair job alone. It was, for me, a matter of life or death. I had only enough drinking water for eight days.

The first night, then, I went to sleep on the sand a thousand miles from any inhabited land. I was more isolated than a person shipwrecked on a raft in the middle of the ocean. So you can imagine my surprise when, at dawn, a funny little voice awakened me. It said:

-- "Please ... draw me a sheep!"

The first comic book in a Franco-Provençal dialect, "Le rebloshon que tyouè !" ("The cheese that killed!"), from the Fanfoué des Pnottas series by Félix Meynet, appeared in 2000.[18] Two popular works from The Adventures of Tintin[19] [20] and one from the Lucky Luke series[21] were published in Franco-Provençal translations for young readers in 2006 and 2007.

See also



External links

Language: (EN) English, (FP) Franco-Provençal, (FR) French, (IT) Italian.

Dictionaries & glossaries

Language, literature, & analysis

Institutional sites

Ethnic & cultural sites

Notes and References

  1. Krutwig, F. (1973). Les noms pré-indoeuropéens en Val-d'Aoste. Le Flambeau, no. 4, 1973., in: Henriet, Joseph (1997). La Lingua Arpitana. Quaderni Padani, Vol. III, no. 11, May-June 1997. pp. 25-30. .pdf (in Italian)
  2. Italian constitutional law: Legge costituzionale 26 febbraio 1948, n. 4, "Statuto speciale per la Valle d’Aosta" (Parlamento Italiano, Legge 1948, n. 4)
  3. Italian presidential decree: Decreto presidenziale della Repubblica del 20 novembre 1991, "Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche", Articolo 2
  4. Italian federal law: Legge 15 dicembre 1999, n. 482, "Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche", pubblicata nella Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 297 del 20 dicembre 1999, Articolo 2, (Parlamento Italiano, Legge 482)
  5. Aosta Autonomous Region law: Legge regionale 1 agosto 2005, n. 18, "Disposizioni in materia di organizzazione e di personale scolastico. Modificazioni alla legge regionale 8 marzo 1993, n. 12". Articolo 5
  6. Qu'est-ce que le patois ?
  7. DGLFLF: Délégation générale à la langue française de France
  8. J. Harriet (1974), "L'ethnie valdôtaine n'a jamais existe... elle n'est que partie de l'ethnie harpitane" in La nation Arpitane
  9. Michel René, "L'afére Pecârd, c'est Tintin en patois vaudois," Quotidien (Lausanne), "24 heures," 19 March 2007; p. 3.
  10. Fondation Émile Chanoux: Sondage
  11. TLFQ: Val-d'Aoste
  12. [Catholic Encyclopedia]
  13. Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate (1997). The Writings of Margaret of Oingt, Medieval Prioress and Mystic. (From series: Library of Medieval Women). Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85-991442-9
  14. Cé qu'è lainô
  15. "Tout sur la langue des gones," Lyon Capitale, N° 399, October 30, 2002.
  16. Favre, Louis (Fwd.) (1895). Le Patois Neuchâtelois. (Buchenel, P., Pref.). Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Imp. H. Wolfrath & Co, Comité du patois de la Société cantonale d'histoire et d'archéologie. p. 196. Excerpt: Le renâ à Dâvid Ronnet
  17. Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de (2000). Lo Petsou Prince. Vautherin, Raymond (Translator, Valdôtain dialect). Gressan, Aosta: Wesak Editions. ISBN 88-87719-00-4
  18. Meynet, Félix (Illustrations) & Roman, Pascal (Text). Le rebloshon que tyouè !. (Translation in Savoyard dialect.) Editions des Pnottas, 2000. ISBN 2-940171-14-9
  19. "Hergé" (Remi, Georges) (2006). Lé Pèguelyon de la Castafiore ("The Castafiore Emerald", from The Adventures of Tintin series). Meune, Manuel & Josine, Trans. (Translation in Bressan dialect, Orthograpy: La Graphie de Conflans). Pantin, France: Casterman Editions. ISBN 2-203009-30-6
  20. "Hergé" (Remi, Georges) (2006). L'Afére Pecârd ("The Calculus Affair", from The Adventures of Tintin series). (Translation in mixed Franco-Provençal dialects, Orthography: ORB). Pantin, France: Casterman Editions. ISBN 2-203009-31-4
  21. "Achdé" (Darmenton, Hervé); Gerra, Laurent; & "Morris" (Bevere, Maurice de) (2007). Maryô donbin pèdu ("The Noose", from the Lucky Luke series. Translation in Bressan dialect.) Belgium: Lucky Comics. ISBN 2-884712-07-0