The Occitan Romance language

The first part of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables contains some bit of Occitan in it. Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914), who was a poet and great champion of the Occitan language won the 1904 Nobel Prize in Literature. Occitan was the first and preferred language of Richard 1 of England, popularly referred to as the Lion Heart and it was the first literary language of Europe. Occitan is a Romance language that is officially spoken in Spain and Catalonia. It is also used in Italy, Monaco and France. Occitan is the only Romance language where women’s names end with O’s rather than A’s. It has been suggested that Occitan is closely related to Spanish rather than French. Its closest relative is the Catalan language. Occitan has 6 dialects. This includes Provençal, Languedoc, Gascon, Limousin, Auvergne and Alpine. It has been estimated that up to 6 million people speak Occitan. Most of these speakers live in rural areas. About 1 million speakers of Occitan use the language on a daily basis.

Occitan is pronounced as “ox- ee- tahn”. It evolved from the spoken Latin language alongside Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian, Italian and Catalan. Some people refer to Occitan as a sort of corrupted French or a dialect of French. However, it is an independent language on its own. Occitan was under a huge threat during the French revolution, given the fact that language diversity was discouraged at that time. Nevertheless, the language survived and there are still a considerable number of Occitan speakers in France up to date, even though the number of speakers have been steadily declining. It has been estimated that 12-14 million people spoke Occitan in France in 1921 compared to the 7 million people in France who currently understand the language.

There are 2 norms used for writing Occitan. This includes the Classical norm and the Mistralian norm. The classical orthography is used to write different Occitan dialects. The classical orthography is quite similar to the Catalan orthography and help to highlight the similarities between the 2 languages. The Mistralian orthography is similar to the French writing system. It is mainly used when writing in the Provençal dialect and has been used by a number of Provençal writers.

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