Occitan is the Language of the Languedoc.
Like most other southern European languages, it is a Romance
Language. Its origin
can be traced back to the tenth century, though like all Romance
languages it clearly developed from Vulgar Latin
Occitan is sometimes represented as a dialect of French
or even as a corrupt form of French - a patois.
Both of these ideas are wrong, though have been taught in
French schools until recently. As philologists
are fond of pointing out, this sort of error arises by regarding
a language as "a dialect with an army". If Occitania were
an independent state then there is no doubt that Occitan would
be universally regarded as a language. The fact that Occitania
is not an independent state should not change this.
Occitan was spoken over a huge area - larger than the traditional
French speaking area. It had a number of dialects,
Occitan is also closely related to the Catalan
language. Like "unofficial" languages elsewhere
in Europe, the use of Occitan was actively discouraged for
centuries in France, even suppressed.
In the interests of imposing an official language to help
bolster a nascent national identity. You may
still hear people refer to Occitan as a "patois"
a derogatory term for a unofficial language or dialect.
This term became common during the period of the French
Revolution - the result of a nasty little project led by
Abbé Grégoire for the elimination of "patois"
To avoid confusion between the present Languedoc (part
of the Languedoc-Roussillon
Region) and the Languedoc (the area of the langue d'oc
where Occitan was traditionally the first language), the
latter area is often called Occitania.
is easy now to underestimate the vitality and spread of
the language. It was for example the first (and
preferred) language of Richard I of England (the Lionheart),
as well as of his mother Eleanor
of Aquitaine. Occitan was the first literary
language of modern Europe, the language of the Troubadours.
The Occitan legacy of the Troubadours constitutes one of
the greatest literary treasures of Europe. To
appreciate the beauty of the language and the surprisingly
modern tone of their poetry, you might like to read a short
song, written by a Troubairitz
(a woman troubadour) over eight hundred years ago.
Eleanor's grandfather William IX of Aquitaine was the first known Troubadours. Click on the following link for songs (in Occitan with English translations) by William IX of Aquitaine
Despite efforts by the French state to suppress Occitan,
it still survives. Indeed, it has undergone
in the last few years, so you can learn a little about Occitan
See the menu at the bottom of this page for the
Origins of Occitan, Occitan
and Latin, Occitan
and French, Occitan
and Provençal, Occitan
and Catalan, some
Word Comparisons, Occitan
Sayings, and the Suppression
Road of the School
Grains of Gold - An Anthology of Occitan Literature,
by James Thomas (Ed), Francis Boutle Publishers, 2015,
775 pages, paperback, ISBN 978 1 903427 880
This anthology is essential reading for anyone interested
in Occitan literature, whether they know Occitan or
not. A wide range of works are given in both Occitan
and English translation.
Occitan is more familiar to some under its old names
- the Langue d'Oc and Provençal,
and less well known under its medieval name the "Roman
tongue" from which we derive our word "romance".
Romantic love and romantic stories were both medieval
inventions of the Occitan-speaking world.
This compilation represents a broad sweep of historical
Occitan, from the time of Guilhem IX (1086-1127),
Duke of Aquitaine, right up to the twenty-first century.
It includes works by Troubadours and Trobairitz (women
troubadours); prose works including medieval chronicles,
statutes, charters; and even Cathar rites. You will
find works by all the best known troubadours, as well
as works in Occitan and about Occitan by some unexpected
writers including Dante, Rabelais, Nostradamus, John
Locke, Simon Weil, and Ezra Pound. There are whole
sections on the Felibridge movements, including one
on Frédéric Mistral (who won the Nobel
Prize for Literature in 1904 for his work in Occitan)
and the Avignon Felibridge.
The book has a good but all-too-short introduction,
a useful bibliography, but no index, though this is
compensated for by a detailed contents section.
The present Languedoc
represents the southern half of the area covered by
the ancient Roman's first province outside Italy. The northern
part is now called Provence,
and it's language, a dialect of Occitan, is known as Provençal.
For more on Provence and Provençal click on the following
link which will open a new window to Beyond
the French Riviera www.beyond.fr