Protect and promote regional languages: this is the objective of the bill finally adopted this Thursday by Parliament on the subject. Counting speakers is not easy. Despite everything, dozens of languages and speakers are identified in the country. Do you know them ? Beware of the assured response which thinks that everything is as easy to locate as Breton!
What do you know, for example, about the mainiot? Readers from Laval or its surroundings will know that this is a term referring to the Sarthe or Mayenne language. They may ignore, on the other hand, that the Poitevin-Saintongeais has its source a few kilometers further south, and perhaps they will fall into the trap between Franco-Provençal and Provencal. Ready to take on the regional accent anyway? Take the test below!
Where do these borders come from? The large linguistic areas are known, but the Sound Atlas of Regional Languages, produced by two linguist researchers at the CNRS, allows you to opt for a more precise breakdown. Who says more precise, also says more conflictual: the linguistic borders remain “eminently more questionable and generally less abrupt” than the administrative borders, as underlined the atlas.
It would be possible to cut more
In total, 26 languages are now referenced in this sound atlas, based on the meeting with speakers, and which makes it possible to listen to the same story in different languages. “It would be possible to cut further, between Berry and Touraine for example, for Basque, or for Breton”, underlines the linguist who carries this project, Philippe Boula de Mareuïl. “For a map on the scale of French territory, this does not necessarily make sense. And that does not change the order of magnitude. The sound files, however, take these variations into account.
Without being indisputable, therefore, these limits have the advantage of recalling a key component of regional languages: their attachment to a geographical area, and the direct influence that results from it. The Romance languages are thus distinguished between the languages of oïl, in the northern part of France, more influenced by the Celtic languages, and the langue d’oc, in the south, marked by a greater proximity to Italy and the ‘Spain.
A few kilometers away, we can change the dialect
One area particularly embodies these geographic overlaps: the Crescent. Its name refers directly to the form that we can give to this space, at the confluence of two linguistic areas where the languages of oïl and oc are mingled, in more specific dialects. “A few kilometers away, you can change the dialect”, sums up the linguist. This phenomenon is observed above all in areas where two areas meet, such as with the North Occitan and Languedoc, or even with Breton and Gallo. The researcher warns, however, against a generalization of this observation, sometimes used as an argument against the interest of regional languages.
So, after these few details, do you get 10 out of 10 on our map quiz? For those who would like an overview – but only after playing, of course – you can check out the map of the different language areas below:
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