Occitan

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Occitan

(ôksētäN`) or

Provençal

(prôväNsäl`), member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Romance languagesRomance languages,
group of languages belonging to the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Italic languages). Also called Romanic, they are spoken by about 670 million people in many parts of the world, but chiefly in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
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). The language label Provençal is often restricted in its reference to the dialects of Provence, a region of SE France, but it can be extended to include other related dialects of S France. In its latter, broader sense, Occitan is spoken today, usually along with French, by as many as 5 million people in France; however, it has no official status in that country. Additional speakers are also found in Pyrenean Catalonia, Spain, and in parts of Italy (mainly in the northwest).

In the Middle Ages, Provençal, also called langue d'oc (see langue d'oc and langue d'oïllangue d'oc and langue d'oïl
, names of the two principal groups of medieval French dialects. Langue d'oc
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), became important as the medium of the great literature of the troubadourstroubadours
, aristocratic poet-musicians of S France (Provence) who flourished from the end of the 11th cent. through the 13th cent. Many troubadours were noblemen and crusader knights; some were kings, e.g.
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, who developed it into a standard local Romance language. After the Albigensian Crusade (see under AlbigensesAlbigenses
[Lat.,=people of Albi, one of their centers], religious sect of S France in the Middle Ages. Beliefs and Practices

Officially known as heretics, they were actually Cathari, Provençal adherents of a doctrine similar to the Manichaean dualistic
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) weakened S France, Provençal culture declined and in time the Provençal language was wholly replaced by French as the standard language of France. In the 19th cent. an unsuccessful movement arose to bring back the former glory of Provençal by restoring it as the literary and regional tongue of S France.

Bibliography

See D. C. Haskell, Provençal Literature and Language (1925).