Jonathan Crowe of sent me a link to this Globe and Mail article, “Rebirth of dialects mirrors new regionalism” by Doug Saunders.

France spent much of the 20th century trying to eliminate the minority languages that were spoken by half its population 100 years ago. But now, France is experiencing a renaissance of interest in its regions and their languages, foods and customs. Not just Breton, but also Alsatian, Basque, Catalan, Corsican, Flemish and Provençal.

Find out about Breizh-Cola, among other things. Thanks, Jonathan! (And anyone interested in maps should investigate his excellent Map Room.)


  1. Eugen Weber’s Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 (Stanford University Press, 1976), covers (among many other things) the efforts by the central government to stamp out regional dialects, patois and distinct languages in the name of “modernization”. Great book.

  2. An interesting article, although I’d take issue with the judgement that Breton is a “gutteral” language. By the way, Welsh people and Bretons can understand each other’s language.

  3. Yes, I routinely recommend Weber when people ask for suggestions for reading matter about France. A rare combination of deep knowledge and good writing.
    Glyn: Yeah, it’s typical newspaper mishmosh with the inevitable lapses, but interesting enough to post.
    Bretons are, after all, just Welshmen who crossed the Channel a while back, so it’s no wonder there’s still comprehensibility.

  4. But since “a while back” was about 1500 years (i.e. at the time of the Saxon invasions) you’d think there would be more difficulty. (Someone once said the word “gutteral” should never be used unless you had a linguistics degree – no-one else truly understands it.)

  5. I’ve got a linguistics degree, but that doesn’t help because I can’t really tell what the lay use of the term ‘guttural’ is supposed to mean. If it just means that a language uses glottal, pharyngeal, or uvular sounds, well, there’s plenty of those languages.

  6. I don’t have a linguistics degree; I sort of thought “gutteral” connoted something along the lines of “uncivilized”.

  7. This reminds me of some articles I’ve seen recently about the revival of Native American languages in the US.

  8. This article is a little misleading. It says:
    “Many observers attribute this change, paradoxically enough, to the European Union, which has all but eliminated national borders in its ever-expanding drive to create a single political entity. While the EU is a homogenizing force, putting Heineken in every café and the euro in every wallet, its universal identity seems to have taken the pressure off countries to impose their culture and language on all their people.”
    The truth is that in order to join the EU, countries are required to respect minority linguistic rights. So it isn’t that the EU has “taken the pressure off” – but that it has created requirements for joining the EU.
    Interestingly, the EU regulations also require that all documents be translated into dozens of langauges, so there is a tremendous boom in work for translators! There have been a few articles and books about both of these phenomenon, sorry I don’t have time to provide links or refs just now.

  9. Jon Zuber says

    A propòsit, Catalans constantly refer to Roussillon as Catalunya Nord.

  10. Oh, great. Now I see it all: the Catalans want independence so they can invade France and seize Catalonia Irredenta.

Speak Your Mind