Occitan is a Romance language spoken mainly in southern France and also
in Italy and Spain. There are perhaps 1.5 million people who speak Occitan in
their daily lives, while 5 or 6 million people are able to speak the language.
The majority of speakers are elderly and live in rural areas. There
are six dialects of Occitan: Provençal, Gascon, Languedoc, Limousin,
Alpine and Auvergne.
Occitan first began to appear in writing during the 10th century and was
used particularly to write the poetry of the troubdours. The troubadours
performed their poetry of love, satire and war in the courts of kings and
nobles all over France, Spain and other countries in Europe.
When France became a unified country in the 15th century, the language of
the French court, langue d’oïl, was favoured over Occitan and
other regional languages, which went into decline. Langue d’oïl
developed into modern French.
A revival in interest in Occitan started during the 19th century, largely
thanks to poet, Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914), who wrote the
much-admired long poem Mireiò and worked to standardise written
Occitan. Mistral was adwarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1904.
Today there is one weekly newspaper La Setmana, and one monthly magazine
Prouvènço d’Aro written entirely in Occitan. Some of the
popular regional newspapers, such as La Dépêche du Midi
publish columns in Occitan. There are also cultural and/or political magazines
and reviews such as L’Occitan, and bilingual ones such as Aquo d’Aqui
and Monde en Óc. There are also a few Occitan radio and TV
In France Occitan is considered a “regional language” and can be taught in schools
only as a foreign language. There is no Occitan-medium education available and most
teaching of Occitan is done on a private basis.
In the Occitan-speaking part of Spain, the Aran Valley, Occitan has co-official status
with Spanish and Catalan and is used in official documents, on road signs and
as a medium of instruction in schools. The local government also provides
financial support for the publication of books in Occitan.
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