Problems with Newly Created Standard Languages and Speakers of Traditional Varieties: Evidence from France In Occitan and Breton

Mountleek: And it’s quite problematic that there are five Breton languages. The official written version is probably quite alien to actual speakers. Then they don’t use the written form, and extinction will probably speed up. Or maybe not. It depends on how people speak among themselves. I wonder how much it is possible nowadays to maintain a spoken language through generations where the written language is different.

There is an official Breton. It may be used on radio and TV and whatnot. I have no idea if the traditional speakers understand it. Who knows? It would be nice to have a Breton koine.

The problem is that they have created some Neo-Breton that is being taught to the youngsters. Some young people are growing up to speak it quite well. The problem is that it is a fake language, and tragically the Neo-Breton speakers say they cannot understand the speakers of the traditional Breton languages and the traditional speakers say they cannot understand the Neo-Breton speakers either. I do believe that Breton will continue on until the end of the century though if only in the Neo-Breton form . A Breton koine is certainly needed if it does not already exist, but given the gap between traditional and new speakers, it seems a schism has already opened between the two groups.

A somewhat similar situation is developing with the creation of a new Neo-Occitan out of the ~20 Occitan languages and many more dialects. It isn’t a language that anyone ever spoke. There is some sort of problems regarding this Neo-Occitan but I am not sure what they are. The main thing is the traditional speakers are not giving up their native lects in favor of this new fake language.

Occitan also should last until the end of the century if only in the Neo-Occitan form. However, children are still being raised speaking Occitan, especially in the Occitan Valleys of Italy where entire villages speak the local lect which in most cases is actually a separate language. There are still many speakers of the traditional Occitan languages. Most are older, but there are quite a few speakers in their 30’s and 40’s in some areas. Aranese Occitan in Spain seems to be spoken by most everyone, but people worry that even it is in trouble.

A koine for Occitan would also be very nice, or they could just speak French, but that sort of defeats the notion of speaking Occitan in the first place.


Filed under Celtic, Europe, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Italy, Language Families, Linguistics, Occitan, Regional, Romance, Sociolinguistics, Spain

5 responses to “Problems with Newly Created Standard Languages and Speakers of Traditional Varieties: Evidence from France In Occitan and Breton

  1. Mountleek

    When young peope learn the language only from schools and courses, it’s a total loss of ethnic, linguistic, generational continuity.

    Here we can see that if a small part of a lect ends up in a different country, the lect is (temporarily) saved. You mentioned Occitan in Italy and Spain. I could also mention Polish-Silesian Cieszyn dialect in the Czech Republic. There may be more examples.

  2. Mountleek

    There is an interesting situation among Amish and Mennonite people. I believe they have Bibles written in standard German, and they speak their dialect. And it doesn’t seem that they are losing their language to English. They probably use more English than before, but still. I think now they have to use more English than before, because not all of them can work in agriculture. They must have more contact with outside environment.

  3. Seems like pretty much all Celtic languages have seen revival efforts, I’ve always wondered how accurate the revivals of Manx and Cornish are.

  4. julianhochs

    I come from a place in Upper Britanny which hasn’t been speaking Breton for centuries. But they spoke patois. I didn’t learn either, but I feel a kinship for my cousins in Lower Britanny who are deprived of their roots. We are light-years behind the Welsh, who made their language mandatory in schools.
    As for patois: I live in the city, where it isn’t spoken, and I fear that in the land, patois is dying at a pace unthinkable. Old people who are in their 70s or 80s have retained a lot of expressions and a cute accent. But the rest have been reprogrammed by over fifty years of centralized television and radio broadcasting. Even today, you’re lucky if you’re in a place with one local TV or local radio station. In which they’ll speak French anyway.
    And why would you speak a different dialect, since so few people live outside the metro areas? Since the end of WWII, French governments have had a pro-urban policy planning. They don’t see the point of living in the land. The young, in particular, the girls, but many boys too, are drained into the cities. Some towns have recovered in population, but that’s because they are the outer suburbs now. Rural exodus is a phenomenon that correlates with the rule of capitalism. You can see it in Spain after Franco, or Russia after the USSR.

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