Provençal

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Provençal

 

the language of the Provençals, spoken in the southern departments of France. Speakers number 8 million (1972, estimate). Provençal is one of the Romance languages. In the Middle Ages it was known as langue d’oc, in contradistinction to the langue d’oïl, that is, French (from Provençal oc and Old French oil [“yes”]). Since the early 20th century, the term “Occitan language” (from lingua occitana, Latin for langue d’oc) has been widely used.

The dialects of Provençal are grouped into three zones: North Occitan Limousin, Auvergnat, and Alpine-Provençal), Middle Occitan (Languedocian and Provençal), and Gascon. Phonetically, these dialects preserve the final unstressed vowels i, e, and o(u) and diphthong combinations of the type ai, oi, and au. They possess a highly developed system of verbal inflections. The categories of gender and number in substantives are expressed by the article and pronominal adjectives, as in modern French.

Some linguists believe that literary Provençal has existed since the tenth century. The poetry of the Provençal troubadours was known throughout northern France, Italy, Spain, and Germany during the 12th and 13th centuries. The literary Provençal of this period—the language of poetry and prose—was the koine, which had more or less uniform norms. Until the mid-16th century, Provençal served as an administrative and business language. When southern France lost its political independence, the literary language lost its uniform norms, and dialectal features appeared.

Attempts were made to revive a common literary Provençal. Most successful was the attempt of the felibres in the second half of the 19th century to create a new literary Provençal on the basis of the Provençal (Rhône) dialect, making use of the resources of literary Old Provençal. The felibrean movement was headed by F. Mistral, the language of whose works became the norm for the new literary language. By the late 19th century, the Occitan variant of this language arose, using a broader dialectal base.

Certain phonetic and morphological features reveal a resemblance between Provençal and the Ibero-Romance languages, including the fricative -b-, the apical r, the retained l’, and the well-developed verbal inflections. Old Provençal preserved two cases: the nominative and the oblique. The dialects of Provençal are used for spoken communication, especially in the countryside, but are being rapidly supplanted by French.

REFERENCES

Gurycheva, M. S., and N. A. Katagoshchina. Sravnitel’no-sopo-stavitel’naia grammatika romanskikh iazykov: Gallo-romanskaia podgruppa. Moscow, 1964.
Ronjat, J. Grammaire historique des parlers provençaux modernes, vol. 4: Les Dialectes. Montpellier, 1941.
Bec, P. La Langue occitane. Paris, 1963.
Camproux, C. “Situation actuelle des lettres d’oc.” Neophilologus, 1967, vol. 51, no. 2.

N. A. KATAGOSHCHINA

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