The French Revolution and its strongly centralizing Jacobeans
appeared to doom all other languages in favour of French
linguistic unity. Despite this, several important Occitan
speaking figures appeared in the nineteenth century. A barber
from Agen, by the name of Gensemin, became well known for
his poems throughout Occitania, and was praised by the romantic
scholars of Paris. V. Gelu was another popular figure, an
exponent of popular realism, whose work was assured of an
even wider audience when it was censured by the imperial
authorities as offending public morality. The most significant
figure of the century was Frederic
Mistral, an Occitan poet who was largely responsible
for the birth of the Felibritge movement (1854). This group
included other important Occitan writers, notably Romanilha
and Aubanel. Il Felibritge was highly influential by the
end of the nineteenth century. Mistral devised the most
complete Occitan language dictionary ever, "The treasure
of Felibritge". He was awarded a Nobel prize for literature
in 1904 and died in 1914.
The large body of troubadour
literature from the Middle Ages was supplemented not only by Mistral, but a host
of twentieth century, including Joan Bedon, Marcèla Delpastre and Bernat Manciet.
As Occitan declined as an everyday language,
more and more interest was taken in it by intellectuals. The two contradictory
trends have continued until today. Finally, belatedly, Governments are waking
up to the great inheritance within their national borders, but some more than
others. The legal situation of Occitan is different in the three countries where
it is spoken.
In Spain (Val d'Aran), Occitan is co-official language, on
equal terms with Catalan and Spanish. The Aranese speech, pertaining to Gascon
dialect is used. Official documents and traffic signs are in Occitan. The language
is taught in schools and some teaching is conducted in the language. Public authorities
help the language by financing newspapers and books.
In Italy Occitan has
been declared a protected minority language by a law passed in December 1999.
Occitan is the official language (along with Italian) of any municipality whose
council declares itself part of the 'Occitan-Speaking Territory'. Most councils
of the relevant municipalities have already passed a resolution making such a
In France, within the modern borders of which most of Occitania
lies, Occitan has no official status. The second article of the constitution,
modified in 1992, states that French is the only language of the State. Outside
a few public courses, all attempts at keeping the language alive are private initiatives.
Occitan is considered as a "regional language". With this status, it can be taught
in schools (but does not have to be), rather like a foreign language. In practice
the administration is often hostile, and laws are ambiguous and contradictory.