Franco-Provencal language

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in

FranceFrance France , Switzerland , Italy
speaker 140,000 (1988)
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2

roa (other Romance languages)

ISO 639-3


The Franco-Provencal language (also Franco-Provençal, Franco-Provencal language ) or Arpitanic language ( French francoprovençal or arpitan, also simply patois "dialect"; Italian francoprovenzale ) is a Romance language , which in eastern France (middle Rhone Valley and Savoy ), in various regions of the French-speaking Switzerland ( Romandie ) and in the northwest of Italy (especially in the Aosta Valley in various) dialects are spoken. Together with the Langues d'oc (Occitan) and the Langues d'oïl, it forms the group of Gallo-Roman languages .

In the Atlas of Endangered Languages of UNESCO and the report of the European Parliament on endangered languages , Franco Provençal is listed as a highly endangered minority language .

Spread of the Arpitan
Distribution of Franco-Provencal (green), French ( Dialectes d'oïl ) (blue) and Occitan (Dialectes d'oc) (red)

Name of the language

Since there was no independent standard language for Franco-Provençal and the language area did not form a political unit in recent history, there is no uniform name for the language among native speakers.

The term Franco-Provençal was coined in 1873 by the Italian linguist Graziadio-Isaia Ascoli as a collective term for those Gallo-Roman dialects which, according to dialectological criteria, neither belong to the langues d'oïl (which at that time were generally referred to as French ) nor to the langues d ' oc (which at that time were generally referred to as Provencal ), but form an independent third group that occupies an intermediate position between the other two. This name has established itself in the Romance specialist literature, but is rarely used outside of academic circles and is also misleading, as it could give the impression that it is not an independent linguistic variety.

In more recent times, the term Arpitan (Arpitan) has also been used, especially in the Aosta Valley and France , sometimes only for the dialects of the Alpine region , sometimes for the entire Franco-Provencal language. The expression is made known on a political level by the regional movement Mouvament Arpitania , founded in 1970 by Joseph Henriet .

The local idioms are commonly referred to as patois .

To the history of language

Since late antiquity, Franco-Provençal has developed from the Vulgar Latin variety common in the western Alps and the Rhone Valley as an independent Romance language. It is controversial in research whether the particular form of language can be traced back to the settlement of the Burgundians in 443 as foederati of the Roman Empire, where they lived together with the ancient Romansh population and gave up their Germanic language. At least it has been pointed out that the distribution area of ​​the language largely coincides with the former Burgundian settlement area.

While in the Lyon- Dauphiné region the influence of French on the colloquial language increased since the late Middle Ages, many old peculiarities of the linguistic structure remained in the Franco-Provencal dialects of the more northern Alpine valleys and today's western Switzerland. This was possibly aided by the fact that the Duchy of Savoy was able to maintain itself as a regional power in this area up to modern times and that the western Swiss areas of the Swiss Confederation with the independent state of Friborg were little exposed to the influence of France.

Even in the regions where the Franco-Provencal language was abandoned in favor of French, numerous relics of the ancient language have been preserved in the toponymy .

Spreading the language


For centuries, Franco-Provençal was the colloquial language in a large part of what is now the French region of Rhône-Alpes ( Beaujolais , Bresse , Bugey , Dauphiné , Dombes , Lyonnais , Savoy ), in the south of Franche-Comté (departments of Jura and Doubs ) and in the southeast of the Burgundy region (Louhannais, in the Saône-et-Loire department ). This Romance language was through the Middle Ages, also the colloquial language of the population in the Rhône-Metropole Lyon ..

In France today, the language in its various dialects is only understood by older people (born before 1940) (unlike in the Aosta Valley and Evolène in Switzerland ) and very few of them still use it as a second language in the family. Since the French language replaced Latin as the official language in Lyon, Geneva and at the court of the Dukes of Savoy in the early modern period, Franco-Provencal never achieved the status of an official language in the areas of the language area that are now part of France. Unlike some other regional languages, there has never been an attempt to standardize language and writing across the region, and fan-Provençal has been suppressed as the language of instruction since the French Revolution, and the language is not recognized as a high school diploma by the French Ministry of Education (unlike Provençal , Breton, etc. .).

The history of Franco-Provencal literature begins in the late Middle Ages. In the regional language, songs and orally transmitted stories were handed down and texts with literary claims were written. Well-known authors of Franco-Provencal works from Savoy and France were Albéric de Pisançon (11th century), Marguerita d'Oingt († 1310), Bernardin Uchard (1575–1624), Eynarde Fournier, Nicolas Martin (* around 1570), Pierre Borjon, Just Songeon (1880–1940) and Amélie Gex (1835–1883).

In 2006 one of the popular Tintin comics, ( Tim und Struppi ), was translated into Franco-Provençal, more precisely: into Bressan, a dialect that is spoken in the Bresse region. There are still a relatively large number of people there who at least understand patois (as the dialects are either disparagingly or proudly called), although they speak less and less themselves. The booklet Lé Pèguelyon de la Castafiore ( The Singer's Jewels , Casterman), translated into their dialect by Manuel and Josine Meune, was very well received in Bresse and Rhône-Alpes . This shows a certain interest among the younger generations in this forgotten linguistic legacy.

As everywhere in France, this regional language has been suppressed in schools and in public life since the 19th century (" Frenchization "), so that by the beginning of the 20th century many saw their patois as a backward "peasant language". After all, the language has left a number of traces in the spoken regional French - which many are not necessarily aware of. The Tintin booklet used a semi-phonetic notation ("graphie de Conflans"), which was based on the French language. A new Tintin booklet was announced for 2007 - in Arpitan, as Franco-Provençal was called here, to emphasize the independence of the language. A new standardized spelling (Orthographie de Référence B) developed by the linguist Dominique Stich should be used in the hope of enforcing this among the dialect writers.


Originally, Franco-Provençal was spoken in almost all of today's French-speaking Switzerland ( Romandie ), commonly referred to as patois . The only exceptions are the canton of Jura , the northernmost part of the canton of Neuchâtel and the French-speaking part of the canton of Bern , which belong to the traditional language area of ​​the Frainc-Comtou , a variety of the Langues d'oïl .

In official documents, the language in the city of Freiburg has officially been used since the 14th century, usually with the name Romand . The first surviving literary text in the Friborg Patois comes from Jean-Pierre Python and was written in 1782.

In recent times, however, the dialects of Franco-Provençal in Switzerland have been almost completely replaced by regional forms of Swiss French , except in parts of the canton of Friborg ( Gruyère region ) and especially the canton of Valais , where in the village of Evolène the dialect is also used for children is still the colloquial language.

The Swiss varieties of Franco-Provençal are documented lexicographically in the Glossaire des patois de la Suisse romande . In 2019 the digital atlas linguistique audiovisuel du francoprovençal valaisan (ALAVAL) on the Romance Valais dialects was published. Since the early 20th century, local dictionaries have been published on individual dialects such as that of Louise Odin (1836–1909) for the language of the Vaudois community of Blonay from 1910 or the Dichyonire du patué dë Banye from Bagnes in Valais from 2019.

The French-speaking Swiss dialect magazine L'Ami du Patois has been published since 1973 .

On December 7, 2018, the Swiss Federal Council decided to recognize Franco-Provencal and Franc-Comtois as official minority languages ​​in Switzerland.


Franco-Provencal dialects are the traditional vernacular in the Aosta Valley and in some valleys of the Piedmont region : in Val Sangone , in Valle Cenischia , in Piantonetto Valley and in Val Soana . Another Franco-Provencal language island is located in the two municipalities of Faeto and Celle di San Vito in Apulia .

In the Aosta Valley, Franco-Provencal ("Valdostan") is still the main language for 70,000 speakers, even after the long effects of Italianization . According to the Statute of Autonomy, the official languages ​​of the region are Italian and French.

The oldest short script fragments of the Valdostan patois date from the Middle Ages.

Well-known authors in the Valdostan dialects are Jean-Baptiste Cerlogne (1826–1910), Alcide Bochet (1802–1859), Fernand Bochet (1804–1849), Joseph Alby (1814–1880) and Léon-Clément Gérard (1810–1876) , René Willien (1916–1976), Eugénie Martinet (1896–1983), Armandine Jérusel (1904–?), Anaïs Ronc-Désaymonet (1890–1955), Reine Bibois (1894–1976); Magui Bétemps (1947-2005) was a successful singer of songs in the Aosta Valley patois .

The Center d'études francoprovençales “René Willien” in Saint-Nicolas and the Bureau régional d'ethnologie et de linguistique (BREL) in Aosta promote the language culture of the Valdostan dialect . At the BREL, the Association valdôtaine des archives sonores maintains a collection of audio sources from the Valdostan dialects. The Atlas des patois valdôtains is a linguistic-geographical project that has been running since the 1960s and records the language situation in the Aosta Valley.

The theater in French-Provençal patois in French-speaking Switzerland

In Greyerz- , Vivisbach- and Sarine District each year is played theater in patois. Spectators and actors from the region are united by a common language of Franco-Provençal origin in which the songs and dramas are written. Depending on the author, these texts can be more or less traditional. The action, which is usually limited to a few people, usually takes place in the family. The amateur actors speak patois or learn the correct pronunciation thanks to the other members of the troupe. With their newly written works, the few contemporary authors contribute to the renewal of the theater repertoire in patois.

The first patois pieces were written around 1920 by Cyprien Ruffieux (1859–1940), Fernand Ruffieux (1884–1954), Joseph Yerly (1896–1961), Pierre Quartenoud (1902–1947), Abbé François-Xavier Brodard (1903–1978 ), Francis Brodard (* 1924) and Anne-Marie Yerly-Quartenoud (* 1936). It was mainly about stories from the rural world in the village and on the Alps, legends or musical comedies, often with songs by Abbé Bovet (1879–1951). Before the patois associations came into being (between 1956 and 1984), youth, traditional costume and singing associations organized the performances. From 1936 on, troops in Sâles , Mézières , Le Crêt and Treyvaux ensured the upswing of the patois theater. In Treyvaux, the Tsêrdziniolè guaranteed the continuation of the tradition (as the successor to the choral and music society, which played theater for the last time in 1959) by staging a play every three or four years. The style evolved and the group penned their own pieces. In 1985 the first folk opera in Patois, Le Chèkrè dou tsandèlê by Nicolas Kolly with music by Oscar Moret was performed eight times in front of sold-out stands!

The Patois Theater, which is still very active in the canton, has neither a shortage of spectators nor young talent. New, but traditional themes (life in the Alps, mountains, town / country, family), “historical” village scenes, edited comedies and farces or newly written pieces ensure the success of this folk art, which is part of Freiburg's cultural heritage.

The patoisants are organized in associations - one per district - which are responsible for the theater performances. Its umbrella organization is the Société cantonale des patoisants fribourgeois, which carries out coordination and promotion tasks, but does not organize any events. The following theater groups are currently active in the canton: the youth association Cerniat (which writes and performs its own plays every two or three years), the theater company of the Groupe Choral Intyamon in Albeuve (theater and song), the youth association Sorens, the Patoisants de la Sarine, Intrè-No in Friborg (annually), the Patoisants de la Gruyère (annually), the Patoisants de la Veveyse (annually) and the Tsêrdziniolè group in Treyvaux (every three to four years).

Language structure

In contrast to most Romance languages, there is no standardized norm for Franco-Provencal, as there was never a state formation that would have corresponded to the language area, and the language has always been spoken in several countries. Therefore the speakers of the different dialects never developed a common identity.

Here are some of the characteristics common to all dialects:

  • Palatalization of / k / and / g / before / a /, with the sound level in some dialects spoken in Italy being like in Old French: tsantà [tsan'ta] <Latin CANTARE 'to sing'. In French Savoy, for example, this sound is spirantized , and the Latin CANTARE results in thantò [θanto] (th- spoken as in English think or Spanish ciento ). Likewise vlat. GALLU> gial . The dialect here is called "Savoyard".
  • of the final vowels of Latin, / a /, / i /, / o /, / e / are retained at the end of the word
  • no diphthongization of Latin Ǒ and Ĕ: vlat. CǑRE> cor (but Italian cuore, French cœur ), PĔDE> pe (but Italian piede, French pied ) (exception: the following weak-tone syllable ends with -i, e.g. Latin HĔRI> ier )
  • Retention of the Latin strong-tone -A- (which becomes / e / in French): vlat. PRATU> pra (but French pré ), CANE> ca, tha or tsa (but French chien )
  • Sonorisation of intervocal occlusions: Latin RA P A> ra b ò
  • as in Romansh (Friulian va) keeping the lat. muta cum liquida on letters (PL, FL, BL, CL, GL): Latin CLAVE>. clau but (ital. chiave, port. chave, span . llave, romanian. cheie, cat., occ. and arag. but also clau )
  • Shortened infinitive as in many Italian dialects (Latin -RE endings become silent, final stress on ending vowel): tsantà or thantò
  • sigmatic plural (by adding -s to the singular)
  • Feminine nouns usually end in -o: Latin AQUA> aigo.

See also


  • Albert Bachmann , Louis Gauchat , Carlo Salvioni , R. P .: Languages ​​and Dialects. In: Geographical Lexicon of Switzerland , Volume V: Switzerland - Tavetsch. Attinger, Neuenburg 1908, pp. 58–94 ( online ; on French and Franco-Provençal: pp. 76–86).
  • Alexis Bétemps : Le francoprovençal et sa littérature en Vallée d'Aoste. In: Les langues les moins parlées d'Europe et leur littérature. Monaco 1993, pp. 171-182.
  • Corrado Grassi, Alberto A. Sobrero, Tullio Telmon: Introduzione alle dialettologia italiana . Editori Laterza, Roma / Bari 3rd edition 2006, ISBN 978-884206918-8 . Compare especially Chapter 2.7 I dialetti provenzali e francoprovenzali, pp. 76–79.
  • Gabriele Iannàccaro, Vittorio Dell'Aquila: Investigare la Valle d'Aosta: metodologia di raccolta e analisi dei dati . In: Rita Caprini (ed.): Parole romance. Scritti by Michel Contini . Edizioni Dell'Orso, Alessandria 2003 ISBN 8876947167 .
  • Dieter Kattenbusch: The Franco-Provençal in southern Italy. Studies on synchronic and diachronic dialectology (=  Tübingen Contributions to Linguistics 176). Gunter Narr, Tübingen 1982 ISBN 978-3-87808-997-1 Zugl. Diss. Phil. University of Münster 1980.
  • Carlo Marcato: Dialetto, dialetti e italiano . Il Mulino, Bologna 2nd edition 2007, ISBN 8815087508 . See especially Chapter 10.5. Le minoranze linguistiche (pp. 203 and 212–215).
  • Manuel Meune: Au-delà du Röstigraben . Langues, minorites et identites in les cantons suisses bilingues. Georg éditeur, Chêne-Bourg 2011.
  • Wulf Müller: On the history of the language of the Suisse romande. In: Swiss German Dictionary. Swiss Idioticon . Report on the year 2002. [Zurich] 2003, pp. 11–24 ( digitized version ).
  • Gisèle Pannatier: Par-dessus les Alpes: Le Patois, facteur d'identité culturelle. In: Histoire des Alpes, 1999, pp. 155–165.
  • Gisèle Pannatier: Richesse et variété des patois autour des Alpe. In: Nouvelles du center d'études francoprovençales René Willien , 45, 2002, pp. 5-38.
  • Gisèle Pannatier, Rose-Claire Schulé: Les patois du Valais romand, 50 years , 1954–2004. Evolène 2005.
  • Lorenzo Renzi, Giampaolo Salvi: Nuova introduzione alla filologia romanza . Il Mulino, Bologna 1994 ISBN 8815043403 . See especially chapter Il franco-provenzale, pp. 172–173.
  • Helmut Stimm: Studies on the history of the development of Franco-Provençal . Publishing house of the Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz 1952 and Steiner, Wiesbaden, 1952 DNB 454893175 . Zugl. Diss., Phil, University of Tübingen 1951.
  • Gaston Tuaillon : Le francoprovençal. Tome premier. Définition et délimitation. Phenomènes remarquables. Aosta Valley 2007.
  • Henriette Walter: L'Aventure des langues en Occident. Leur origine, leur histoire, leur geographie . Editions Robert Laffont, Paris 1994, ISBN 2-221-05918-2 . New edition: Librairie générale française, Paris 1996, ISBN 2-253-14000-7 (cf. especially the chapters Le francoprovençal et le provençal en Italie, p. 173, and Le francoprovençal, p. 295).
  • Walther von Wartburg : On the problem of Franco-Provençal. In: Ders .: Of language and people. Collected Essays. Francke, Bern [1956], pp. 127-158.

Web links

Commons : Franco-Provencal language  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Not to be confused with the Creole patois .
  2. ^ UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages ​​in Danger. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  3. Joseph Henriet : Ehtudio su la question harpitana. Editions Arba., Aosta 1973.
  4. On the status of the discussion: Jean-Pierre Chambon , Yan Greub : Données nouvelles pour la linguistique gallo-romane. Les légends monétaires mérovingienne. In: Bulletin de la Société de linguistique de Paris. 95, 2000, pp. 147-182.
  5. ^ Andres Kristol : Sur les traces du francoprovençal prélittéraire. L'enseignement des toponymes d'origine francoprovençale dans la Romania submersa en Suisse occidentale. In: Aux racines du francoprovençal. Actes de la Conférence annuelle sur l'activité scientifique du Center d'études francoprovençales "René Willien", Saint-Nicolas, December 20-21, 2003. Quarter 2003.
  6. On the verbal history of the Roman and pre-Roman mountain names: Frédéric Montandon: Etude de toponymie alpine. De l'origine indo-européenne des noms de montagnes. In: Revue genevoise de geographie , 1929, pp. 1–152.
  7. Gaston Tuaillon : La littérature en francoprovençal avant 1700. Grenoble 2002.
  8. Dominique Stich : Francoprovençal. Proposition d'une orthographe supra-dialectale standardisée. (PDF; 4.5 MB) University of Paris 5 René Descartes , June 28, 2001, accessed on March 5, 2020 (French, doctoral thesis).
  9. David Vitali: With the Latin at the end ?. Influence of the vernacular in Latin chartulars from western Switzerland. Peter Lang, Bern a. a. 2008.
  10. Cf. Wulf Müller: On the history of the language of the Suisse romande. In: Swiss German Dictionary. Swiss Idioticon. Report on the year 2002. [Zurich] 2003, pp. 11–24 ( digitized version ).
  11. Stefan Hess : The myth of the four national languages. Once there were more than just four languages ​​- how it came about that Switzerland has been officially four languages ​​since 1938 . Basler Zeitung , September 20, 2011, pp. 35, 37.
  12. ^ Raphaël Maître, Marinette Matthey: Le patois d'Evolène, dernier dialecte francoprovençal parlé et transmis en Suisse. In: Jean-Michel Éloy (ed.): Des langues collatérales. Problèmes linguistiques, sociolinguistique et glottopolitiques de la proximité linguistique. Actes du colloque international réuni à Amiens, on 21 and 24 November 2001. L'Harmattan, Paris 2004, pp. 375-390.
  13. Gisèle Pannatier: Le patois d'Evolène (Valais). Synchronie et diachronie d'un parler francoprovençal vivant. 1995.
  14. Atlas linguistique audiovisuel du francoprovençal valaisan (ALAVAL) , accessed on November 19, 2019.
  15. ^ Louise Odin : Glossaire du patois de Blonay. Lausanne 1910.
  16. Raphaël Maître, Maurice Casanova, Eric Flückiger, Gisèle Pannatier: Dichyonire du patué dë Banye. Dictionnaire du patois de Bagnes. Lexique d'un parler francoprovençal alpine. 15,000 mots et locutions, 40,000 exemples et syntagmes, étymologies, renvois analogiques, cahiers thématiques, notices encyclopédiques, éléments grammaticaux, index, illustrations. Bagnes 2019, ISBN 978-2-839926713 .
  17. European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages: Seventh Report by Switzerland. Swiss Confederation. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  18. ^ Autonomous Region Trentino-South Tyrol: Language minorities in Italy
  19. ^ Maria Costa: Témoignages écrits en langue vulgaire dans la Vallée d'Aoste du bas Moyen Age. In: Studi Francesi 182, 2017, pp. 289–284.
  20. ^ Gaston Tuaillon , Ernest Schüle , Rose-Claire Schüle , Tullio Telmon : L'Atlas des patois valdôtains. Budget des travaux. Aosta 1979.
  21. ^ Website of the Atlas linguistique des Aosta Valley.
  22. ^ Louis Page: Nos auteurs Fribourgeois: Anne-Marie Yerly-Quartenoud. In: L'Ami du patois, trimestriel romand, 8, 1980.
  23. ^ State of Freiburg: The theater in the Franco-Provencal patois.