Occitan (Provençal) in France
Institut de Sociolingüística Catalana
Version française
Occitan (Provençal) in France
  1. Introduction
  2. The language in the country
    1. General information on the language community
    2. Geographical and language background
    3. General history and history of the language
    4. Legal status and official policies
  3. The use of the language in various fields
    1. Education
    2. Judicial Authorities
    3. Public Authorities and services
    4. Mass media and Information technology
    5. The Arts
    6. The business world
    7. Family and social use of the language
    8. Transnational exchanges
  4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

There is no dat for this topic.

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2. The language in the country

2.1. General information on the language community

There is no dat for this topic.

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2.2. Geographical and language background

The area in which Occitan, also known as Provençal or langue d'oc, is spoken covers about one-third of the area of France, the principality of Monaco - with the exception of its Ligurian quarters - the alpine valleys in the Italian provinces of Torino and Cuneo and the Aran valley in Spain.

In France it covers the following départements: Basses-Pyrénées (but not the Basque area), Hautes Pyrénées, Gers, Landes; Gironde and Lot-et-Garonne (except for La Grande Gavacherie and La Petite Gavacherie); Tarn-et-Garonne, Haute-Garonne and Ariège; a small area of Pyrénées Orientales; Aude, Hérault, Tarn, Aveyron and Lot; Dordogne (except for some communes in the west); Corrèze; Haute-Vienne (except the most northerly part); part of Charente; more than half of Creuse; Puy-de-Dôme (except some communes in the north-west); some communes of Allier around Gannat; a small south- westerly corner of Loire around Saint-Bonnet-le-Château; Cantal, Haute-Loire, Lozère and Gard; Ardèche (all but a small corner in the north); the south-east of Isère; Drôme (except the north of the département); Hautes-Alpes, Basses-Alpes, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Var and Alpes-Maritimes (with the exception of the Ligurian exclaves referred to above).

The total population of these regions amounts to around 13 million (1990 figure). In the last few years the overall population of the area has increased, albeit unevenly; the greatest increase has taken place along the Mediterranean coast (Provence and Languedoc) and around certain towns and cities, such as Toulouse; on the other hand, the population has decreased in the Limousin region and in certain mountainous départements.

Around 20% of the population born in the area have left it to work elsewhere, a trend that peaked between 1963 and 1975. The main reasons for this have been a lack of job opportunities, the industrial crisis and agricultural mechanization.

About 20% of the present population were born outside the area (between 30 and 35% in Provence and less than 20% in the western regions). This influx has resulted mainly from the creation of new industries and the development of tourism and reached its peak during the period from 1975 to 1993. French is foremost among the languages spoken by the newcomers, followed by the languages of immigrant communities (Arabic, Berber, etc.).

As far as knowledge of Occitan is concerned, the absence of reliable data make it difficult to determine the number of speakers. In the 1940s Ronjat estimated the number of French people who spoke Occitan or had some knowledge of it to be about ten million; Anglade put the figure at twelve to fourteen million. Nowadays, however, these statistics seem totally unreal. An extrapolation of the findings of a survey conducted in Languedoc- Roussillon by Média-Pluriel in 1992 enables us to estimate that around three million people can hold a brief conversation in Occitan, 2_6 million use it from time to time and two million use it in the family and with friends. Account must be taken today of the population increase on the one hand and of the diminishing importance of Occitan in the cities and larger towns on the other. We can therefore establish a rough estimate of some six million people who have some command of the language which would enable them to pick up the language fairly easily again if they needed to do so.

The economic structure of the area where Occitan is spoken is marked by a disproportionate reliance on agriculture, a highly dynamic service sector and a general process of deindustrialization. This also determines the distribution of the working population, a large percentage of whom are employed in agriculture and services, with a constant decrease in the number employed in mining and industry. The standard of living in these regions is slightly below the national average.

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2.3. General history and history of the language

In the Middle Ages, Occitan (traditionally referred to as langue d'oc) was unquestionably a great language of civilization and the means of expression of an original human community and of an important culture; it was both a literary language, used by the troubadours, and a vehicle of official transaction, remaining firmly established as the language of law and administration until the 15th century.

From the late 15th century, the administrative use of Occitan began to decrease gradually, the rate of decrease varying between regions. After 1550 a distinction had already developed between written use and oral use, despite the fact that the same period witnessed the first literary renaissance. But in the social domain the demise of the langue d'oc had already begun, and the language would henceforth lead its own cultural life below the surface, although it remained in extremely active popular use until the Revolution.

The Occitan-speaking community experienced a reawakening of interest in its language in the wake of the important cultural revival that began in the second half of the 19th century (creation of cultural movements, the Félibrige association, Frédéric Mistral, the Societat d'Estudis Occitans and the Institut d'Estudis Occitans), although it did not arouse a great deal of popular involvement. Mention should also be made of the teachers' and writers' organizations.

Occitania has never experienced a "linguistic conflict" in the normal sense of the term in that the general preponderance of French in the area has never been challenged. Nevertheless, it would seem that measures designed to promote Occitan are fairly systematically curbed by certain public authorities. However, other local or regional administrative bodies do demonstrate tolerance and goodwill in this respect, which has resulted in the development of regional policies in some places and the establishment of Occitan courses in schools.

As far as the European institutions are concerned, the Commission of the European Communities, with the support of the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages, has awarded financial aid for certain activities (encounters between schoolchildren and between teachers, a grant for the creation of an electronic dictionary of Occitan in the Languedoc-Roussillon region and assistance for the Calendretas - the Occitan-language nursery and primary schools).

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2.4. Legal status and official policies

Following a recent amendment, the French Constitution lays down that French is the sole official language of the Republic.

Certain regions (Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées and, to a lesser extent, Provence- Alpes-Côte d'Azur) have developed policies to promote Occitan culture. These involve assisting certain undertakings (educational ventures, cultural movements, publications) and encouraging the public use of Occitan.

Some years ago the region of Languedoc-Roussillon laid the foundations for a policy to promote Occitan language and culture by taking steps to measure the manifestations of the social existence of Occitan by means of an opinion poll (1991) and other more specific surveys (1993).

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3. The use of the language in various fields

3.1. Education

The Deixonne Act of 1951, as well as subsequent decrees and circulars from the Ministry of National Education, permitted a minimal presence of regional languages in public education and left the door open for private schools.

As far as nursery education is concerned, Occitan is the main language of instruction in some centres (the grant-aided private schools known as Calendretas) and is taught as an optional subject in others. In recent times the number of pupils learning and being taught in Occitan has fallen somewhat.

It should be added that pupils who have learned or been taught in Occitan at primary school are never sure of being able to continue with it at secondary school.

At the start of the 1993-94 school year, there were 17 preschool and primary Calendretas in which Occitan was taught, with a total roll of 665 pupils, although it must be said that these schools are still attended by a very small minority of the total school population.

At secondary level, Occitan is an optional subject in some schools. There has been a slight upward trend in recent years in the number of pupils choosing Occitan, although the teaching of Occitan is hugely dependent on the willingness of teachers and pupils, given that there is no guaranteed opportunity to progress from one level to the next. The same situation exists in technical and vocational education.

With regard to university education, Occitan is used in teacher training and is taught as a modern language at universities. At the present time around 200 students receive most of their instruction in Occitan, about 1,500 students receive some lectures and/or seminars in Occitan, and a total of some 3,000 students are studying the language. Occitan is only used in the teaching of Occitan courses in the first two years and in the final years of degree courses in particular universities with arts faculties; the figures vary between universities but are reliable. The recent creation of a CAPES diploma in the teaching of Occitan should also be emphasized. Occitan very rarely appears in school and university textbooks.

As far as teacher training is concerned, the State has not enacted any measures to ensure that teachers are given additional basic training. The training of teachers in Occitan, especially in the colleges of education (Institut de Formation des Maîtres) for the first two stages of schooling is not ensured in practice, despite some efforts undertaken locally. There is no inspecting body.

The popular initiatives launched by the social groups associated with the Calandretas have allowed a certain amount of Occitan teaching to be maintained, despite the reservations about the teaching of Occitan that are harboured in certain quarters. The creation of the CAPES, for example, was due to the intervention of these groups.

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3.2. Judicial authorities

French is the only language that may be used in court, except where force of circumstances compels the court to hear evidence in Occitan (if a party or witness speaks only Occitan, which is virtually never the case nowadays). In all other respects - validity of documents written in Occitan, availability of Occitan versions of laws, use of Occitan in court, availability of interpreters and measures to ensure that court employees are proficient in the language - no provision whatsoever is made for the use of Occitan within the judicial system.

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3.3. Public authorities and services

Occitan is never used in the State administration or in the Government's dealings with citizens. The same applies to the regional administration, apart from special cases (specialized regional services). Occitan is very sporadically used in local administration.

The written language used by the various services considered in this study is always French, and it is practically impossible ever to use Occitan for dealings with public and semipublic bodies.

The local use of Occitan in small towns and villages, which was sporadic but certainly did occur, has diminished to the point of disappearing. The situation has not changed over the past few years. The public pressure for greater use of the language has been too weak and too widely dispersed to achieve results.

We have no data on regional government policies relating to the language in which consumer information is provided.

With regard to the names of people and places as well as the adoption and official use of the correct traditional names of places in Occitan, the use of Occitan surnames is authorized, although on the other hand there is reluctance to allow official Occitan forms of place names, Occitan road signs and the use of Occitan in notices and communications from public service bodies.

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3.4. Mass media and information technology

The use of Occitan is not prohibited but it is not officially encouraged either.

In the daily and periodical press, some newspapers include one page in Occitan per week (e.g. La Marseillaise) or an article in Occitan (La République des Pyrénées). There are twenty or so publications (especially publications by associations of militant Occitanists and cultural and literary magazines) which use Occitan and which appear from twice to six times a year. The public authorities of Languedoc-Roussillon and of Midi-Pyrénées provide some financial aid for these publications.

No public radio stations broadcast in Occitan; they pay very little attention to the language. The private radio stations in Occitan that can be received in the area are also very few in number. In this respect, the broadcasts on Radio Païs, which is based in Pau but has extended its range to cover the whole of Gascony, are merely the exceptions that prove the rule. Some other private radio stations allocate a limited amount of broadcasting time (from 10 to 20% of programmes) to Occitan.

The same applies to the public television services; Occitan is only used in a few weekly programmes transmitted by France 3 (in its Midi-Pyrénées-Languedoc and Provence- Méditerranée regions). Films or series dubbed into Occitan are never shown. The private television stations do not include Occitan in their schedules at all, except for very limited individual transmissions in local areas.

Finally, in the realm of information technology, there are no problems in reproducing Occitan on current keyboards and printers (whether a Mac or PC is used). There is only one piece of software in Occitan (GIDILOC).

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3.5. The Arts

During the period 1990-1992, about 50 books in Occitan were published each year, although there is no access to reliable statistics in this domain. These were primarily children's books, school textbooks, new papal briefs, anthologies of poetry and religious works.

On the traditional music scene, Occitan enjoys quite a high profile, thanks to the activities of numerous singers and groups (Jan Maria Carlotti, Rosina de Pèira, Claude Marti, etc.). On the other hand, the use of Occitan is much rarer in modern vocal music.

In the world of the theatre there are a few comedy companies which perform regularly in Occitan: La Carrièra, La Rampa, etc. Numerous amateur groups were covered by a recent census, the results of which, to our knowledge, have not yet been published. The regional authorities sometimes help to finance these groups.

Only a few rare films have been shot in the area (an exceptional occurrence in the case of full-length feature films), among them L'orsalhièr, Histoire d'Adrien and Champ d'honneur, as well as some documentaries. No films, however, have been made in or dubbed into Occitan.

Finally, since 1993 there has been a language service created by the region of Languedoc- Roussillon and the University of Montpellier.

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3.6. The business world

Knowledge of Occitan is virtually never required of job applicants, although this does not mean that Occitan is not useful for some types of work.

In roadside advertising, only a few notices by public institutions are written in Occitan. Some radio advertising campaigns are conducted in Occitan. On the other hand, Occitan is never used in television advertising, one reason being that there are no TV channels which transmit programmes in Occitan.

As for consumer information, Occitan is only used for symbolic purposes, to emphasize the origin or authenticity of local country produce, despite some sporadic local initiatives campaigning for the use of Occitan. Nevertheless, the region of Languedoc-Roussillon does grant some aid to promote the use of Occitan in this sector.

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3.7. Family and social use of the language

Only a minority of educated parents speak Occitan to their children, while in rural areas the tradition of Occitan-speaking been dying out gradually since the fifties. Although a good number of people are theoretically capable of speaking Occitan, only 10% actually do so with friends or in the family.

Although the main religious works, the Old and the New Testament, as well as a Missal, are available in Occitan, very few religious ceremonies are celebrated in Occitan.

Knowledge of Occitan is perceived as having little future value, given its lack of prestige. It does seem as though interest in Occitan has far more to do with its cultural and symbolic value in terms of regional identity than with any practical usefulness. The efforts to introduce Occitan into the school curriculum are still confronted by traditional attitudes which regard the classroom as a place where speaking in Occitan has always been forbidden.

A far as young people are concerned, they only learn Occitan if classes are offered to them under acceptable conditions and if the classes are reinforced by a motivating environment (cultural activities and the interest and availability of native speakers), which is not always the case in practice.

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3.8. Transnational exchanges

Several exchanges have taken place with the Aran Valley in Spain and the valleys in Italy where Occitan is spoken. The French Government is inclined to delegate responsibility for these matters systematically to local and regional bodies.

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4. Conclusion

The data available are too often fragmentary, inadequate or simply non-existent, so that a more exact overall picture is impossible to obtain, and we have confined ourselves here to data with a reasonable guarantee of reliability. They reveal that the social manifestations of Occitan, such as its various written or oral uses or its place in the public domain are not subject as a rule to any sort of controlled and systematic evaluation (apart from some notable exceptions, such as the region of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Occitan is generally recognized as a language in its own right and as a common heritage, which represents considerable progress by comparison with past decades. Nevertheless, this recognition has been accompanied by a steady decline in the social use of the language as the oral tradition is no longer passed on and, with the perception that it serves no useful purpose, the prestige of the language has sunk to rock-bottom.

The efforts undertaken either by private associations or by public bodies (especially at regional level) have helped to give Occitan a less precarious intellectual status than it had before without having any profound effect on the uses of the language. The interest shown by the regional populations is beneficial to the language and Occitan culture but is also fragile. What is therefore needed is that the passive goodwill that among the population of the area at large be transformed into active support.

The initiatives taken by the Calandretas - laudable and important though they are - only affect a limited number of pupils when all is said and done, whereas the education system as a whole is doing very little to promote the creative use of Occitan. What is therefore needed is genuine official status for Occitan within the education system, coupled with efforts to enhance the general profile of the language.

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