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Jèrriais has been the language of the Jersey people over a period spanning more than a thousand years. Although perhaps still relatively unknown outside the Channel Islands, Jèrriais, together with its offshoot in Sark and its nearest other relative in Guernsey are, like the Celtic languages, part of the living linguistic heritage of the British Isles.
t is therefore a Romance language and one of the many varieties of the langue d'oïl which have survived to the present day alongside standardized French. But although modern Jèrriais echoes many of the features of the earlier Norman Language, it has of course like all languages evolved over the centuries and today presents us a distinctive form of speech which can be said to belong to Jersey alone.
Ancient Norman French continued in use in Jersey until at least the 1800's. Although the official written language was French, Jèrriais was spoken.
For various reasons the use of the English language increased rapidly in the 19th century, and by 1900 English was the dominant language in St. Helier.
La Société Jersiaise
La Société Jersiaise was formed in 1873 - their resolution was to study the history of the language and the island.
In 1908 Jèrriais was introduced into the Eisteddfod, in order to encourage the use of the language, and in 1924 the Glossaire du Patois Jersiais was published by La Société Jersiaise.
Decline of Jèrriais
However the tourist industry, the expansion of the Jersey economy and the influence of the English residents all contributed to the anglicisation of the island.
As a direct consequence of this, Jèrriais was used less. In 1912, Jèrriais was replaced by English in the schools. English was even in common use in the States of Jersey.
Jèrriais was increasingly frowned upon as tourism and the finance industry grew. The local accent was mocked, and the language slowly but surely vanished.
In 1951 L'Assembliee d'Jèrriais was formed to hold meetings and publish items in Jerriais. Since then several books have been published on the language.
Today the Section de la langue Jèrriaise works to promote study of the language and its literature, and Jèrriais classes are commonplace in primary schools.
Jerriais is spoken/used in Jersey
Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
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