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Language Information

Provenôal is a Romance language spoken in Provence, the historical region of southeastern France, bordering Italy and facing the Miediter-ranean Sea. In its broader sense it refers to the many similar dialects spoken throughout southern France. In this sense it is often known as langue d'oc, in contrast to langite d'oil of the north, oc and oil (modern oui) being the respective words for "yes" in the two halves of the country.

The high point in the development of Provenôal was the period between the 12th and the 14th centuries, when it was the language of the troubadours and the cultured speech of all of southern France. But subsequent encroachments from the north brought this culture to an end, and with it ended troubadour literature and the use of Provencal as the standard idiom of the region. The language split into a number of fragmented dialects, a situation that prevails to the present day.

In the 19th century a movement for the revival and standardization of Provenôal was spearheaded by the celebrated poet Frédéric Mistral. In attempting to create a new literary standard for the language, he produced a monumental two-volume dictionary of Provenôal plus a collection of epic poems that won him the Nobel Prize in 1904. But despite his efforts, the movement in the long run was not a great success. In the 20th century, with increasing emphasis in France on nationalism and unity, French is slowly but surely reducing Provenôal to a regional patois doomed, in the opinion of many, to eventual extinction.

Provencal is spoken/used in France

Language Family
Family: Indo-European
Subgroup: Romance

Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.

Writing Sample

Writing Sample


From Lyons at the blush of early dawn
The bargemen, masters of the Rhône, depart,
A robust band and brave, the Condrillots.
Upright upon their crafts of planks of fir,
The tan of sun and glint from glassy wave
Their visages have bronzed as with gold
And in that day colossuses they were,
Big, corpulent, and strong as living oaks,
And moving beams about as we would straws.

—FREDERIC MISTRAL, The Song of the Rhoôe

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