Franco-Provençal language: Wikis


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Franco-Provençal, Arpitan
patouès, arpetan
Pronunciation /patuˈe/ /patuˈɑ/
Spoken in  Italy
Region Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Foggia, Franche-Comté, Savoie, Bresse, Bugey, Dombes, Beaujolais, Dauphiné, Lyonnais, Forez, Romandy
Total speakers (est.) 113,400
Ranking Potentially endangered language: Italy
Endangered language: France, Switz.
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin alphabet with diacritical marks
Official status
Official language in protected by statute in Italy and Aosta Valley Autonomous Region.
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 roa
ISO 639-3 frp
Map of the Franco-Provençal Language Area:
Dark Blue: Protected. — Medium Blue: General regions.
Light Blue: Historical transition zone.

Franco-Provençal (Francoprovençal), Arpitan, or Romand (in Switzerland) (Vernacular: francoprovençâl, arpetan, patouès; Italian: francoprovenzale, arpitano, dialetto, patoà; French: francoprovençal, arpitan, patois) is a Romance language with several distinct dialects that form a linguistic sub-group separate from Langue d'Oïl and Langue d'Oc. The name Franco-Provençal was given to the language by G.I. Ascoli in the 19th century because it shared features with French and Provençal without belonging to either. The neologism Arpitan is becoming a popular name for the language and the people who speak it.

Today, the largest number of Franco-Provençal speakers reside in the Aosta Valley, an autonomous region of Italy. The language is also spoken in alpine valleys in the province of Turin, two isolated towns in Foggia, and rural areas of the Romandy region of Switzerland. It constitutes one of the Gallo-Romance languages of France and is classified as a regional language of France, though its use is marginal. Organizations are attempting to preserve it through cultural events, education, scholarly research, and publishing.

The number of speakers of Franco-Provençal has been declining significantly. According to UNESCO (1995), Franco-Provençal is a "potentially endangered language" in Italy and an "endangered language" in Switzerland and France.



Franco-Provençal emerged from a Gallo-Roman variety of Latin. The linguistic region comprises east-central France, the French-speaking Switzerland, and the Aosta Valley with the adjacent alpine valleys of the Piedmont. This area covers territories once occupied by pre-Roman Celtic peoples, including the Allobroges, Sequani, Helvetii, Ceutrones, and Salassi. By the 5th century, the region was controlled by Burgundian tribes.

Early manuscripts reveal that Franco-Provençal has existed at least since the 12th century, possibly diverging from Langue d'Oïl as early as the 8th or 9th centuries (Bec, 1971). One writer has detected the influence of Basque by analyzing "fossil words" ("mots fossiles") from toponyms and the dialect in the Aosta Valley.[1] However, Franco-Provençal adhered conservatively to Latin linguistic conventions as it developed, primarily remaining a spoken language. The modern patois of its speakers continues to reflect medieval terms for many nouns and verbs, including: pâta for "rag", bayâ for "to give", moussâ for "to lie down", etc. Désormaux, writing on this subject in the foreword of his Savoyard dictionary states:

The antiquated character of the Savoyard patois is striking. One can note it not only in phonetics and morphology, but also in the vocabulary, where one finds numerous words and directions that clearly disappeared from French.[2]

Franco-Provençal never achieved the greatness of its three larger neighbors; French, Occitan, and Italian. Communities where speakers lived were generally mountainous and isolated from one another. The internal boundaries of the entire linguistic domain were shattered by wars and religious conflicts. France, Switzerland, the Franche-Comté (protected by Habsburg Spain), and the duchy — later kingdom — ruled by the House of Savoy politically divided the region. The strongest possibility for any dialect of Franco-Provençal to establish itself as a major language died when an edict, dated 6 January 1539, was confirmed in the parliament of the Duchy of Savoy on 4 March 1540. The edict explicitly replaced Latin (and by implication, any other language) with French as the language of civil law and the judiciary (Grillet, 1807, p. 65).

Franco-Provençal dialects were widely spoken in their domain until the 20th century. As French political power expanded, and communication and transportation improved, speakers abandoned their patois, which had numerous spoken variations and no standard orthography, in favor of "educated" French.

Present status

Several events have combined to stabilize the language in the Aosta Valley since 1948. An amendment to the constitution of Italy[3] changed the status of the former province to an autonomous region which gives the Aosta Valley special powers to make its own decisions. Residents saw the region's economy expand and the population increase from 1951 to 1991, encouraging them to stay and continue long-held traditions. The language is now explicitly protected by an Italian presidential decree[4] and a federal law.[5] Further, a regional law[6] passed by the government in Aosta requires educators to promote knowledge of Franco-Provençal language and culture in the school curriculum. Several cultural groups, libraries, and theater companies are fostering a sense of ethnic pride with their active use of the Valdôtain dialect as well (EUROPA, 2005).

Paradoxically, the same federal laws do not grant the language the same protection in the Province of Turin because Franco-Provençal speakers make-up less than 15% of the population. Lack of jobs has caused migration out the Piedmont's alpine valleys abetting the language's decline.

Switzerland does not recognize Franco-Provençal (Romand) as one of its official languages. (Romand should not be confused with Romansh.) Speakers live in western cantons where Swiss French predominates and converse in dialects mainly as a second language. Currently, its use in agrarian daily life is rapidly disappearing. However, in a few isolated places the decline is considerably less steep. This is most notably the case for Evolène[7].

Franco-Provençal has had a precipitous decline in France. The official language of the French Republic is French (article 2 of the Constitution of France). The French government officially recognizes Franco-Provençal as one of the "Languages of France"[8] but it is constitutionally barred from ratifying the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) that would guarantee it certain rights. Thus, Franco-Provençal has almost no political support. It also carries a generally low social status. This situation affects most regional languages that comprise the linguistic wealth of France. Speakers of regional dialects are aging and mostly rural.


The philological classification for Franco-Provençal published by the Linguasphere Observatory (Dalby, 1999/2000, p. 402) follows:

Indo-European phylosector > Romanic phylozone > Italiano+Româneasca (Romance) set > Italiano+Româneasca chain > Romance-West net > Lyonnais+Valdôtain (Franco-Provençal) reference name.
Note: The Linguasphere language code for Franco-Provençal is: 51-AAA-j

A philological classification for Franco-Provençal published by Stanford University (Ruhlen ,1987, pp. 325–326) also follows:

Indo-Hittite > Indo-European > Italic > Latino-Faliscan > Romance > Continental > Western > Gallo-Iberian-Romance > Gallo-Romance > North > Franco-Provençal.

Origin of the name

Franco-Provençal is an extremely fragmented language with scores of highly peculiar local variations that never merged together over time. The range of dialect diversity is far greater than that found in the Langue d’Oïl and Occitan regions. Comprehension of one dialect by speakers of another is often difficult. Nowhere is it spoken in a "pure form," nor is there a "standard reference language" that the modern generic label used to identify the language may indicate. This explains why speakers use local terms to name it, such as Bressan, Forèzien, or Valdôtain, or simply patouès ("patois"). It has only been in recent years that speakers, who are not specialists in linguistics, have become conscious of the language’s collective identity.

Graziadio Isaia Ascoli

The language region was first recognized in the 19th century during advances in research into the nature and structure of human speech. Graziadio Isaia Ascoli (1829–1907), a pioneering linguist, analyzed the unique phonetic and structural characteristics of numerous spoken dialects. In an article written about 1873 and published later, he offered a solution to existing disagreements about dialect frontiers and proposed a new linguistic region. He placed it between the Langues d'oïl group of languages, whence came the appellation Franco, and the Langues d'oc group, whence came the appellation Provençal, and gave Franco-Provençal its name.

Ascoli (1878, p. 61) described the language in these terms in his defining essay on the subject:

« Chiamo franco-provenzale un tipo idiomatico, il quale insieme riunisce, con alcuni caratteri specifici, più altri caratteri, che parte son comuni al francese, parte lo sono al provenzale, e non proviene già da une confluenza di elementi diversi, ma bensì attesta sua propria indipendenza istorica, non guari dissimile da quella per cui fra di lora si distinguono gli altri principali tipi neo-latini. »

"I call Franco-Provençal a type of language which brings together, along with some characteristics which are its own, characteristics partly in common with French, and partly in common with Provençal, and which are not due to a late confluence of diverse elements, but on the contrary, attests to its own historical independence, little different from those by which the principal neo-Latin [Romance] languages distinguish themselves from one another."

Title page of a Franco-Provençal dictionary from Saint-Étienne, France (1896): "The Key to the Gaga Dialect".

Although the name "Franco-Provençal" appears misleading, it continues to be used in most scholarly journals for the sake of continuity. Suppression of the hyphen between the two parts of the language name in French (francoprovençal) was generally adopted following a conference at the University of Neuchâtel in 1969[9] however, most English journals continue to use the traditional spelling.

The name "Romand" has been in use regionally in Switzerland at least since 1494, when notaries in Fribourg were directed to write their minutes in both German and Rommant. It continues to appear in the names of many Swiss cultural organizations today. The term "Romand" is also used by some professional linguists who feel that the compound word "Franco-Provençal" is "inappropriate"[10].

A proposal in the 1960s to call the language Burgundian (French: "burgondien") did not take hold because of confusion with historical, political, and geographic regions of the same name (Meune, 2007).

Some contemporary speakers and writers prefer the name "Arpitan" because it underscores the independence of the language and does not imply a union to any other established linguistic group. "Arpitan" is derived from an indigenous word meaning "alpine" ("mountain highlands")[11]. It was popularized in the 1980s by Mouvement Harpitanya, a political organization in the Aosta Valley.[12] The Aliance Culturèla Arpitana (Arpitan Cultural Alliance) is currently advancing the cause for the name "Arpitan" through the Internet, publishing efforts, and other activities. The organization was founded in 2004 by Stéphanie Lathion and Alban Lavy in Lausanne, Switzerland, and is now based in Fribourg.[13]

The language is called patouès (patois) or nosta moda ("our way [of speaking]") by native speakers. Some Savoyard speakers call their language sarde. This is a colloquial term, used because their ancestors were subjects of the Kingdom of Sardinia ruled by the House of Savoy. (Savoie and Haute-Savoie were annexed by France in 1860.) The language is called gaga in the Forez region of France, and appears in the titles of dictionaries and other regional publications. Gaga (and the adjective gagasse) comes from a local name for the residents of Saint-Étienne, popularized by Auguste Callet’s story "La légende des Gagats" published in 1866.

Geographic distribution

Language area map with standard place names and modern political divisions.

The historical linguistic domain of the Franco-Provençal language includes the following areas (also see: Jochnowitz, 1973):


  • the Aosta Valley (place name in Franco-Provençal: Val d'Outa; in Italian: Valle d'Aosta; in French: Vallée d'Aoste), with the exception of the Walser valley in Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Gressoney-La-Trinité and Issime (Lys valley).
  • the alpine heights of the Province of Turin in the Piedmont basin which includes the following 43 communities: Ala di Stura, Alpette, Balme, Cantoira (Cantoire), Carema (Carême), Castagnole Piemonte, Ceres, Ceresole Reale (Cérisoles), Chialamberto (Chalambert), Chianocco (Chanoux), Coassolo, Coazze (Couasse), Condove (Condoue), Corio (Corio), Frassinetto, Germagnano (Saint-Germain), Giaglione (Jaillons), Giaveno, Gravere (Gravière), Groscavallo (Groscaval), Ingria, Lanzo Torinese (Lans), Lemie, Locana, Mattie, Meana di Susa (Méan), Mezzenile (Mesnil), Monastero di Lanzo (Moutier), Noasca, Novalesa (Novalaise), Pessinetto, Pont Canavese, Ribordone (Ribardon), Ronco Canavese (Ronc), Rubiana (Rubiane), Sparone (Esparon), Susa (Suse), Traves, Usseglio (Ussel), Valgioie (Valjoie), Valprato Soana (Valpré), Vénaus (Vénaux), Viù (Vieu).
Note: The southernmost valleys of Piedmont speak Occitan.



  • most of Romandy (Suisse-Romande) area including the following cantons: Geneva (Genève/Genf), Vaud, the lower part of Valais (Wallis), Fribourg (Freiburg), and Neuchâtel. Note: Jura, and the northern valleys of the non-German-speaking parts of Berne linguistically belong to the Langue d'Oïl.

Number of speakers

The Franco-Provençal dialect with the greatest population of active daily speakers is Valdôtain (Valdoten). Approximately 68,000 people speak the language in the Aosta Valley region of Italy according to reports conducted after the 1981 census. The alpine valleys of the adjacent province of Turin have an estimated 22,000 speakers. The Faetar dialect is spoken by just 1,400 speakers who live in an isolated pocket of the province of Foggia in the southern Italian Apulia region (Figures for Italy: EUROPA, 2005.)

Contrary to this official information reported by the European Commission, a poll by the Fondation Émile Chanoux in 2001[14] revealed that only 15% of all Aosta Valley residents claimed Franco-Provençal as their mother tongue. This is a substantial reduction to the figures reported on the Italian census 20 years earlier that was used in the commission report. Only 7% of the inhabitants (approximately 8,200 people) claimed to be able to speak any dialect. A report published by Laval University in Québec City,[15] which analyzed this data, reports that it is "probable" that the language will be "on the road to extinction" in this region in ten years. Note: The most recent edition of Ethnologue (Gordon, 2005) reports that there are 70,000 Franco-Provençal speakers in Italy. However, these figures are derived from the 1971 census.

In rural areas of the cantons of Valais and Fribourg in Switzerland, various dialects are spoken as a second language by about 7,000 residents(Figures for Switzerland: Gordon, 2005.)In the other cantons of Romandy where Franco-provençal dialects used to be spoken, they are now all but extinct.

Until the mid-19th century, Franco-Provençal dialects were the most widely spoken language in their domain in France. Today, regional vernaculars are limited to a small number of speakers in secluded towns. A 2002 report by the INED (Institut national d’études démographiques) states that the language loss by generation, that is, “the proportion of fathers who did not usually speak to their 5-year-old children in the language that their own father usually spoke in to them at the same age” was 90%. This was a greater loss than any language in France; a loss called "critical." The report estimated that fewer than 15,000 speakers in France were handing down some knowledge of Franco-Provençal to their children. (Figures for France: Héran, Filhon, & Deprez, 2002; figure 1, 1-C, p. 2.)

Linguistic structure

Note: The overview in this section follows Stich (2003) and Martin (2005), with all Franco-Provençal examples written in accordance with Orthographe de référence B (see "Orthography" section, below).

Typology and syntax

  • Franco-Provençal is a synthetic language, as are Occitan and Italian. Most verbs have different endings for person, number, and tenses making the use of the pronoun unnecessary, thus, two grammatical functions are bound together. However, the second person singular verb form regularly requires an appropriate pronoun for distinction.
  • The standard word order for Franco-Provençal is Subject Verb Object (SVO) form in a declarative sentence, for example: Vos côsâds anglès. (You speak English.) except when the object is a pronoun, in which case the word order is Subject Object Verb (SOV). Verb Subject Object (VSO) form is standard word order for an interrogative sentence, for example: Côsâds-vos anglès ? (Do you speak English?)


Franco-Provençal has grammar similar to that of other Romance languages.

  • Articles have three forms: definite, indefinite, and partitive. Plural definite articles agree in gender with the noun to which they refer, unlike French. Partitive articles are used with mass nouns.
Articles: Masculine Definite Feminine Definite Masculine Indefinite Feminine Indefinite
Singular lo la on na
Plural los les des / de des / de
Articles precede women’s given names during conversation: la Foëse (Françoise/Frances), la Mya (Marie), la Jeânna (Jeanne/Jane), la Peronne (Pierrette), la Mauriza (Mauricette/Maurisa), la Daude (Claude/Claudia), la Génie (Eugénie/Eugenia); however, articles never precede men’s names: Fanfoué (François), Dian (Jean/John), Guste (Auguste), Zèbe (Eusèbe/Eusebius), Ouiss (Louis), Mile (Émile).
  • Nouns are inflected by number and gender. Inflection by grammatical number (singular and plural) is clearly distinguished in feminine nouns, but not masculine nouns, where pronunciation is generally identical for those words ending with a vowel.
To assist comprehension of written words, modern orthographers of the language have added an “s” to most plural nouns that is not reflected in speech. For example:
codo (masculine singular): [ˈkodo] [ˈkodu] [ˈkodə],
codos (masculine plural): [ˈkodo] [ˈkodu] [ˈkodə].
pôrta (feminine singular): [ˈpɔrtɑ] [ˈpurtɑ],
pôrtas (feminine plural): [ˈpɔrte] [ˈpurte] [ˈpɔrtɛ] [ˈpurtɛ] [ˈpɔrtɑ] [ˈpurtɑ]. (Note: In Italy, pôrte is occasionally seen.)
In general, inflection by grammatical gender (masculine and feminine) is the same as for French nouns, however, there are many exceptions. A few examples follow:
Franco-Provençal French English
la sal (fem.) le sel (masc.) the salt
l'ôvra (fem.), la besogne (fem.) le travail (masc.) the work
l'ongla (fem.) l'ongle (masc.) the fingernail
l'ôlyo (masc.) l'huile (fem.) the oil
lo crotâl (masc.), lo vipèro (masc.) la vipère (fem.) the viper
  • Subject pronouns agree in person, number, gender, and case. Although the subject pronoun is usually retained in speech, Franco-Provençal - unlike French or English - is a partially pro-drop language (null subject language), especially in first-person singular. Masculine and feminine third-person singular pronouns are notable for the extremely wide variation in pronunciation from region to region. Impersonal subjects, such as weather and time, take the neuter pronoun "o" (and/or "el", a regional variant used before a word beginning with a vowel), which is analogous to "it" in English.
  • Direct and indirect object pronouns also agree in person, number, gender, and case. However, unlike subject pronouns, third person singular and plural have neuter forms, in addition to masculine and feminine forms.
  • Possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives agree in person, number, gender, and case. (Masculine singular and plural forms are noteworthy because of their extremely wide variation in pronunciation from area to area.)
  • Relative pronouns have one invariable form.
  • Adjectives agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify.
  • Adverbs are invariable; that is, they are not inflected, unlike nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
  • Verbs form three grammatical conjugation classes, each of which are further split into two subclasses. Each conjugation is different, formed by isolating the verb stem and adding an ending determined by mood, tense, voice, and number. Verbs are inflected in four moods: (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, and conditional), and two impersonal moods: (infinitive and participle), which includes verbal adjectives.
Verbs in Group 1a end in -ar (côsar, "to speak"; chantar, "to sing"); Group 1b end in -ier (mengier, "to eat"); Groups 2a & 2b end in -ir (finir, "to finish"; venir, "to come"), Group 3a end in -êr (dêvêr, "to owe"), and Group 3b end in -re (vendre, "to sell").
Auxiliary verbs are: avêr (to have) and étre (to be).


  • The placement of stressed syllables in the spoken language is a primary characteristic of Franco-Provençal that distinguishes it from French and Occitan. Franco-Provençal words take stress on the last syllable, as in French, or on the penultimate syllable, unlike French.
  • Franco-Provençal also preserves final vowel sounds, in particular "a" in feminine forms and "o" in masculine forms (where it is pronounced "ou" in some regions.) The word portar is pronounced [pɔrˈtɑ] or [pɔrˈto], with accent on the final "a" or "o", but rousa is pronounced [ˈruːzɑ], with accent on the "ou".
  • Vowels followed by nasal consonants "m" and "n" are normally nasalized in a similar manner to those in French, for example, chantar and vin in Franco-Provençal, and "chanter" and "vin" in French. However, in the largest part of the Franco-Provençal domain, nasalized vowels retain a timbre that more closely approaches the un-nasalized vowel sound than in French, for example, pan [pɑ̃] and vent [vɛ̃] in Franco-Provençal, compared to "pain" [pɛ̃] and "vent" [vɑ̃] in French.


Comic book panel from "Lé Pèguelyon de la Castafiore" by Hergé in Bressan dialect. The Franco-Provençal orthography used for the text is La Graphie de Conflans. Notice the use of underscores to indicate stressed vowels in the penultimate syllable of words, where applicable.

Franco-Provençal does not have a standard orthography. Most proposals use the Latin alphabet and four diacritics: the acute accent, grave accent, circumflex, and diaeresis (trema). (The cedilla and two ligatures, "œ" and "æ," found in French are omitted.)

  • Aimé Chenal and Raymond Vautherin wrote the first comprehensive grammar and dictionary for any variety of Franco-Provençal. Their landmark effort greatly expands upon the work by Jean-Baptiste Cerlogne begun in the 19th century on the Valdôtain (Valdotèn) dialect of the Aosta Valley. It was published in twelve volumes from 1967 to 1982.
  • The Regional Bureau of Ethnology and Linguistics (BREL) and the René Willien Center for Franco-Provençal Studies, both of Aosta, Italy, have created a similar orthography that is actively promoted by their organizations. It is also based on work by Cerlogne, with several modifications.
  • An orthographic method called La Graphie de Conflans has achieved fairly wide acceptance among speakers residing in Bresse and Savoy. Since it was first proposed by the Groupe de Conflans of Albertville, France in 1983, it has appeared in many published works. This method perhaps most closely follows the International Phonetic Alphabet, omitting extraneous letters found in other historical and contemporary proposals. It features the use of a combining low line (underscore) as a diacritic to indicate a stressed vowel in the penult when it occurs, for example: toma, déssanta.
  • A recent standard entitled Orthographe de référence B (ORB) was proposed by linguist Dominique Stich with his dictionary published by Editions Le Carré in 2003. (This is an emendation of his previous work published by Editions l'Harmattan in 1998.) His standard strays from close representation of Franco-Provençal phonology in favor of following French orthographic conventions, with silent letters and clear vestiges of Latin roots. However, it attempts to unify several written forms and is easiest for French speakers to read. — Note: Stich's dictionary for ORB is noteworthy because it includes neologisms by Xavier Gouvert for things found in modern life, such as: encafâblo for "cell phone" (from encafar, "to put into a pocket"), pignochière for "fast-food" (from pignochiér, "to nibble"), panètes for "corn flakes" (from panet, "maize, corn"), and mâchelyon for "chewing gum".

The table below compares a few words in each writing system, with French and English for reference. (Sources: Esprit Valdôtain (download 7 March 2007), C.C.S. Conflans (1995), and Stich (2003).

IPA Chenal BREL Conflans ORB French English
/kɑ̃/ quan can kan quand quand when
/ˈtʃikɑ/ tsëca tchica tchika chica un peu a little
/tsɑ̃/ tsan tsan tsan champ champ field
/djwa/ dzoà djouà djoua giuè jeu game
/ˈtʃøvrɑ/ tseuvra tcheuvra tsvra chèvra chèvre goat
/ˈfɔʎə/ foille foille fòye fôlye feuille leaf
/ˈføʎə/ faille feuille fye filye fille daughter
/fɔ̃ˈtɑ̃.ɑ/ fontana fontan-a fontana fontana source wellspring
/ˈlɑ̃.ɑ/ lana lan-a lana lana laine wool
/siˈlɑ̃sə/ silence silanse silanse silence silence silence
/rəpəˈbløk.ə/ repeublecca repebleucca repeblke rèpublica république republic


Franco-Provençal uses a decimal counting system. The numbers "1", "2", and "4" have masculine and feminine forms (Duplay, 1896; Viret, 2006).

0 ) zérô; 1 ) yon (masc.), yona / yena (fem.); 2 ) dos (masc.), does / doves / davè (fem.); 3 ) três; 4 ) quatro (masc.), quat / quatrè (fem.); 5 ) cinq; 6 ) siéx; 7 ) sèpt; 8 ) huét; 9 ) ; 10 ) diéx; 11 ) onze'; 12 ) doze; 13 ) trèze; 14 ) quatôrze; 15 ) quinze; 16 ) sèze; 17 ) dix-sèpt; 18 ) dix-huét; 19 ) dix-nou; 20 ) vengt; 21 ) vengt-yon / vengt-et-yona; 22 ) vengt-dos ... 30 ) trenta; 40 ) quaranta; 50 ) cinquanta; 60 ) souessanta; 70 ) sèptanta; 80 ) huétanta; 90 ) nonanta; 100 ) cent; 1000 ) mila; 1,000,000 ) on milyon / on milyona.

Many western dialects use a vigesimal (base-20) form for "80," that is, quatro-vingt /katroˈvɛ̃/, possibly due to the influence of French.

Word comparisons

The chart below compares words in Franco-Provençal to those in selected Romance languages, with English for reference.

Between vowels, the Latinate "p" became "v", "c" and "g" became "y", and "t" and "d" disappeared. Franco-Provençal also softened the hard palatized "c" and "g" before "a". This led Franco-Provençal to evolve down a different path from Occitan and Gallo-Iberian languages, closer to the evolutionary direction taken by French.

Latin Franco-Provençal French Occitan Italian English
clavis clâ clef / clé clau chiave key
cantare chantar chanter cantar / chantar cantare to sing
capra cabra / chèvra chèvre cabra / chabra capra goat
caseus (formaticus) tôma / fromâjo fromage formatge formaggio cheese
dies Martis demârs / demonre mardi dimars martedì Tuesday
ecclesia églésé église glèisa chiesa church
fratrem germanum frâre frère fraire fratello brother
hospitalis hèpetâl hôpital espital / espitau ospedale hospital
lingua lenga langue lenga / lengua lingua language
manum sinistram man gôcho main gauche man esquèrra / man senèstra mano sinistra left hand
nihil ren rien ren / res niente / nulla nothing
nox, noctis nuet nuit nuèch / nuèit notte night
pacare payér payer pagar / paiar pagare to pay
sudor suar sueur susar / suar sudore sweat
vita via vie vida vita life

Franco-Provençal dialects


Classification of Franco-Provençal dialect divisions is challenging. Each canton and valley uses its own vernacular without standardization. Difficult intelligibility among dialects was noted as early as 1807 by Grillet.

The dialects are divided into eight distinct categories or groups. Six dialect groups comprising 41 dialect idioms for the Franco-Provençal language have been identified and documented by Linguasphere Observatory (Observatoire Linguistique) (Dalby, 1999/2000, pp. 402–403). Only two dialect groups – Lyonnaise and Dauphinois-N. – were recorded as having fewer than 1,000 speakers each. Linguasphere has not listed any dialect idiom as "extinct," however, many are highly endangered. A seventh isolated dialect group, Faetar, has been analyzed by Nagy (2000). The Piedmont dialects need further study.

Dialect Group : Dialect Idiom: (Epicenters / Regional locations)
  • Lyonnaise: (France)
1. Bressan (Bresse, Ain (département) west; Revermont, French Jura (département) southwest; Saône-et-Loire east), 2. Bugésien (Bugey, Ain southeast), 3. Mâconnais (Mâcon country), 4. Lyonnais-rural (Lyonnais mountains, Dombes, & Balmes) 5. Roannais+Stéphanois (Roanne country, Foréz plain, & Saint-Étienne).
  • Dauphinois-N.: (France)
1. Dauphinois-Rhodanien (Rhône River valley, Rhône (département) south, Loire (département) southeast, Ardèche north, Drôme north, Isère west), 2. Crémieu (Crémieu, Isère north), 3. Terres-Froides (Bourbre River valley, Isère central north), 4. Chambaran (Roybon, Isère central south), 5. Grésivaudan [& Uissans] (Isère east).
  • Savoyard: (France)
1. Bessanèis (Bessans), 2. Langrin (Lanslebourg), 3. Matchutin (Valloire & Ma’tchuta) (1., 2. & 3.: Maurienne country, Arc valley, Savoie south), 4. Tartentaise [& Tignard] (Tarentaise country, Tignes, Savoie east, Isère upper valleys), 5. Arly (Arly valley, Savoie north), 6. Chambérien (Chambéry), 7. Annecien [& Viutchoïs] (Annecy, Viuz-la-Chiésaz, Haute-Savoie southwest), 8. Faucigneran (Faucigny, Haute-Savoie southeast), 9. Chablaisien+Genevois (Chablais country & Geneva (canton) hinterlands).
  • Franc-Comtois (FrP) [Jurassien-Méridional]: (Switzerland & France)
1. Neuchâtelois (Neuchâtel (canton)), 2. Vaudois-NW. (Vaud northwest), 3. Pontissalien (Pontarlier & Doubs (département) south), 4. Ain-N. (Ain upper valleys & French Jura), 5. Valserine (Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, Valserine valley, Ain northeast & adjacent French Jura).
  • Vaudois: (Switzerland)
1. Vaudois-Intracluster (Vaud west), 2. Gruyèrienne (Fribourg (canton) west), 3. Enhaut (Château-d'Œx, Pays-d'Enhaut, Vaud east), 4. Valaisan (Valais, Valaisan Romand).
  • Valdôtain: (Italy)
1. Val-Veni (Dora Baltea upper valleys), 2. Val-di-Ferret (Dora Baltea upper valleys), 3. Doire-Baltée-C. (Dora Baltea middle valleys), 4. Val-du-Grand-Saint-Bernard, 5. Val-Pelline, 6. Val-Tourmanche, 7. Ayassin (Val-d’Ayas), 8. Val-de-la-Thuile, 9. Val-Grisanche, 10. Val-de-Rhêmes, 11. Val-Savaranche, 12. Val-de-Cogne, 13. Val-de-Camporcher. (All in the Aosta Valley.)
  • Faetar: (Italy)
1. Faetar (Faeto & Celle di San Vito, in Province of Foggia).
  • Piedmont Dialects: (Italy)
(Note: Comparative analyses of dialect idioms in the Piedmont basin of the Province of Turin — from the Val Soana in the north to the Val Sangone in the south — have not been published.)

Dialect examples

Several modern orthographic variations exist for all dialects of Franco-Provençal. The spellings and IPA equivalents listed below appear in Martin (2005).

English Franco-Provençal Savoyard dialect Bressan dialect
Hello! Bonjor ! /bɔ̃ˈʒu/ /bɔ̃ˈʒø/
Good night! Bôna nuet ! /bunɑˈne/ /bunɑˈnɑ/
Goodbye! A revêr ! /arˈvi/ /a.rɛˈvɑ/
Yes Ouè /ˈwɛ/ /ˈwɛ/
No Nan /ˈnɑ/ /ˈnɔ̃/
Maybe T-èpêr / Pôt-étre /tɛˈpɛ/ /pɛˈtetrə/
Please S'el vos plét /sivoˈple/ /sevoˈplɛ/
Thank you! Grant marci ! /ɡrɑ̃maˈsi/ /ɡrɑ̃marˈsi/
A man On homo /on ˈomo/ /in ˈumu/
A woman Na fena /nɑ ˈfɛnɑ/ /nɑ ˈfɛnɑ/
The clock Lo relojo /lo rɛˈloʒo/ /lo rɛˈlodʒu/
The clocks Los relojos /lu rɛˈloʒo/ /lu rɛˈlodʒu/
The rose La rousa /lɑ ˈruzɑ/ /lɑ ˈruzɑ/
The roses Les rouses /lɛ ˈruzɛ/ /lɛ ˈruze/
He is eating. Il menge. /il ˈmɛ̃ʒɛ/ /il ˈmɛ̃ʒɛ/
She is singing. Le chante. /lə ˈʃɑ̃tɛ/ /ɛl ˈʃɑ̃tɛ/
It is raining. O pluvinye. /o ploˈvɛɲə/
It is raining. O brolyasse. /u brulˈjasə/
What time is it? Quint' hora est ? /kɛ̃t ˈørɑ ˈjɛ/
What time is it? Quâl' hora qu'el est ? /tjel ˈoʒɑ ˈjə/
It is 6:30. El est siéx hores et demi. /ˈjɛ siz ˈørɑ e dɛˈmi/
It is 6:30. El est siéx hores demi. /ˈɛjɛ siʒ ˈoʒə dɛˈmi/
What is your name? Tè que vos éds niom ? /ˈtɛk voz i ˈɲɔ̃/
What is your name? Coment que vos vos apelâds ? /kɛmˈe kɛ ˈvu vu apaˈlo/
I am happy to see you. Je su bonéso de vos vér. /ʒə sɛ buˈnezə də vo vi/
I am happy to see you. Je su content de vos vére. /ʒɛ si kɔ̃ˈtɛ də vu vɑ/
Do you speak Patois? Prègiéds-vos patouès ? /prɛˈʒi vo patuˈe/
Do you speak Patois? Côsâds-vos patouès ? /koˈʒo vu patuˈɑ/

External links:


Other than in family names, the Franco-Provençal legacy primarily survives in place names. Many are immediately recognizable, ending in -az, -oz (-otz), -uz, -ax, -ex, -ux, -oux, and -ieux (-ieu). These suffixes indicate the stress syllables based on a historical orthographic system considered obsolete by modern scholars. The last letter is not pronounced. For multi-syllabic names, “z” indicates a paroxytone (stress on the next-to-last syllable), and “x” indicates an oxytone (stress on the last syllable), for example, Chanaz: /ˈʃɑ.nɑ/ (shana); Chênex: /ʃɛˈne/ (shè). A selection of town names that demonstrates these characteristics follow:

Road sign for Charvex (La Balme de Thuy), Haute-Savoie, France after a name change in the 1990s to a historical Savoyard spelling. (Former village name: Charvet.)


  • Aosta Valley: Amaz, Bionaz, Champdepraz, Charvaz, Cherolinaz, Donnaz, Eleyaz, Runaz, Lillaz, Lyveroulaz, Proussaz, Vereytaz, Dzovennoz, Echevennoz, Morgex, Planpincieux.
  • Piedmont: Sauze d'Oulx


  • Ain: Lompnaz, Ordonnaz, Outriaz, Seillonnaz, Contrevoz, Culoz, Marboz, Niévroz, Oyonnax, Sonthonnax-la-Montagne, Gex, Echenevex, Perrex, Versonnex, Chevroux, Lescheroux, Civrieux, Jujurieux, Misérieux, Toussieux, Ceyzérieu, Lagnieu, Lompnieu, Pugieu.
  • Doubs: Saraz, Bolandoz, Éternoz, Granges-Narboz, Reculfoz, Le Barboux, La Cluse-et-Mijoux, Montmahoux.
  • Jura: Fraroz, Marnoz, Molamboz, Pagnoz, Saffloz, Vertamboz, Vulvoz, Morez, Lajoux, Le Vaudioux.
  • Savoie: Barberaz, Chanaz, Drumettaz, La Giettaz, Sonnaz, Motz, Lovettaz, Séez, Cohennoz, La Motte-Servolex, Ontex, Verthemex, Avrieux, Champagneux, Chindrieux, Loisieux, Ruffieux.
  • Haute-Savoie: La Clusaz, Viuz-en-Sallaz, Marcellaz, Aviernoz, Chevenoz, Les Carroz, Saint-Jorioz, Servoz, Charvonnex, Chênex, Seythenex, Combloux, Seytroux.
  • Rhône: Sermenaz, Jarnioux, Ouroux, Rillieux-la-Pape, Grézieu-la-Varenne, Vénissieux, Meyzieu.
  • Loire: La Tour-en-Jarez, Razoux, Chénieux, Écullieux, Aveizieux.
  • Isère: Vernioz, Proveysieux, Ornacieux, Brussieu, Courzieu, Monsteroux-Milieu.


  • Geneva: Athenaz, Bernex, Choulex, Onex, Laconnex, Saconnex, Troinex, Certoux.
  • Fribourg: La Brillaz, La Sonnaz, Chesopelloz, Neyruz, Pont-en-Ogoz.
  • Neuchâtel: Val-de-Ruz, Brot-Plamboz, Peseux, Le Prévoux.
  • Valais: Arbaz, Dorénaz, Nendaz, Vérossaz, Mazembroz, Vétroz, Nax, Bex, Mex, Vex, Massongex.
  • Vaud: Saubraz, Cerniaz, Penthaz, Tolochenaz, La Vraconnaz, Château-d'Œx, Cheserex, Trelex, Paudex, Mutrux.


Text of a carol about the appearance of a comet in 1682 by Jean Chapelon.

A long tradition of Franco-Provençal literature exists, although no prevailing written form of the language materialized. An early 12th century fragment containing 105 verses from a poem about Alexander the Great may be the earliest known work in the language. Girart de Roussillon, an epic with 10,002 lines from the mid-12th century, has been asserted to be Franco-Provençal. It certainly contains prominent Franco-Provençal features, although the editor of an authoritative edition of this work claims that the language is a mixture of French and Occitan forms[16]. A significant document from the same period containing a list of vassals in the County of Forez also is not without literary value.

Among the first historical writings in Franco-Provençal are legal texts by civil law notaries that appeared in the 13th century as Latin was being abandoned for official administration. These include a translation of the Corpus Juris Civilis (known as the Justinian Code) in the vernacular spoken in Grenoble. Religious works also were translated and conceived in Franco-Provençal dialects at some monasteries in the region. The Legend of Saint Bartholomew is one such work that survives in Lyonnais patois from the 13th century.

Marguerite d'Oingt (ca. 1240–1310), prioress of a Carthusian Order near Mionnay (France), composed two remarkable sacred texts in her native Lyonnais dialect, in addition to her writings in Latin. The first, entitled Speculum ("The Mirror"), describes three miraculous visions and their meanings. The other work, Li Via seiti Biatrix, virgina de Ornaciu ("The Life of the Blessed Virgin Beatrix d'Ornacieux"), is a long biography of a nun and mystic consecrated to the Passion whose faith lead to a devout cult. This text contributed to the beatification of the nun more than 250 years later by Pope Pius IX in 1869.[17] A line from the work in her dialect follows:[18]

Religious conflicts in Geneva between Calvinist Reformers and staunch Catholics, supported by the Duchy of Savoy, brought forth many texts in Franco-Provençal during the early 17th century. One of the best known is Cé qu'è lainô ("The One Above"), which was composed by an unknown writer in 1603. The long narrative poem describes l'Escalade, a raid by the Savoyard army that generated patriotic sentiments. It became the unofficial national anthem of the Republic of Geneva. The first three verses follow below (in Genevois dialect)[19] with a translation:

Cé qu'è l'ainô musical score showing verses 1, 2, 4, & 68.
Cé qu'è lainô, le Maitre dé bataille,
Que se moqué et se ri dé canaille;
A bin fai vi, pè on desande nai,
Qu'il étivé patron dé Genevoi.
The One above, the Master of the battles,
Who is mocked and laughed at by the rabble,
Made them see well, on a Saturday night,
That He was protector of the Genevese people.
I son vegnu le doze de dessanbro
Pè onna nai asse naire que d'ancro;
Y étivé l'an mil si san et dou,
Qu'i veniron parla ou pou troi tou.
They came on the twelfth of December,
On a night as black as ink;
It was the year sixteen-hundred-and-two,
That they speak of, at the earliest (hour).
Pè onna nai qu'étive la pe naire
I veniron; y n'étai pas pè bairè;
Y étivé pè pilli nou maison,
Et no tüa sans aucuna raison.
On the blackest night
They came — it was not for drinking —
To plunder our houses,
And to kill us without any reason.

Several writers created satirical, moralistic, poetic,comic, and theatrical texts during the era that followed, which indicates the vitality of the language at that time. These include: Bernardin Uchard (1575–1624), author and playwright from Bresse; Henri Perrin, comic playwright from Lyon; Jean Millet (1600?–1675), author of pastorals, poems, and comedies from Grenoble; Jacques Brossard de Montaney (1638–1702), writer of comedies and carols from Bresse; Jean Chapelon (1647–1694), priest and composer of more than 1,500 carols, songs, epistles, and essays from Saint-Étienne; and François Blanc dit la Goutte (1690–1742), writer of prose poems, including Grenoblo maléirou about the great flood of 1733 in Grenoble. 19th century authors include Guillaume Roquille (1804–1860), working-class poet from Rive-de-Gier near Saint-Chamond, Joseph Béard dit l'Éclair (1805–1872), physician, poet, and songwriter from Rumilly, and Louis Bornet (1818–1880) of Gruyères. Clair Tisseur (1827–1896), architect of Bon Pasteur Church in Lyon, published many writings under the pen name "Nizier du Puitspelu". These include a popular dictionary and humorous works in Lyonnaise dialect that have reprinted for more than 100 years.[20]

Amélie Gex
Jean-Baptiste Cerlogne

Amélie Gex (1835–1883) wrote in her native patois as well as French. She was a passionate advocate for her language. Her literary efforts encompassed lyrical themes, work, love, tragic loss, nature, the passing of time, religion, and politics, and are considered by many to be the most significant contributions to the literature. Among her works are: Reclans de Savoie ("Echos from Savoy", 1879), Lo Cent Ditons de Pierre d’Emo ("One Hundred Sayings by Pierre du Bon-Sens", 1879), Poesies ("Poems", 1880), Vieilles gens et vieilles choses: Histoires de ma rue et de mon village ("Old people and old things: Stories from my street and from my village", 1889), Fables (1898), and Contio de la Bova ("Tales from the Cowshed").

The writings of Jean-Baptiste Cerlogne (1826–1910), abbot, are credited with reestablishing the cultural identity of the Aosta Valley. His early poetry includes: L'infan prodeggo (1855), Marenda a Tsesalet (1856) and La bataille di vatse a Vertosan (1858); among his scholarly works are: Petite grammaire du dialecte valdotain (1893), Dictionnaire du dialecte valdôtain (1908) and Le patois valdotain: son origine litéraire et sa graphie (1909). The Concours Cerlogne - an annual event named in his honor - has focused thousands of Italian students on preserving the region's language, literature, and heritage since 1963.

At the end of the 19th century, regional dialects of Franco-Provençal were disappearing due to the expansion of the French language into all walks of life and the emigration of rural people to urban centers. Cultural and regional savant societies began to collect oral folk tales, proverbs, and legends from native speakers in an effort that continues to today. Numerous works have been published.

Prosper Convert (1852–1934), the bard of Bresse; Louis Mercier (1870–1951), folk singer and author of more than twelve volumes of prose from Coutouvre near Roanne; Just Songeon (1880–1940), author, poet, and activist from La Combe, Sillingy near Annecy; Eugénie Martinet (1896–1983), poet from Aosta; and Joseph Yerly (1896–1961) of Gruyères whose complete works were published in Kan la têra tsantè ("When the earth sang"), are well-known for their use of patois in the 20th century.

The first comic book in a Franco-Provençal dialect, Le rebloshon que tyouè! ("The cheese that killed!"), from the Fanfoué des Pnottas series by Félix Meynet, appeared in 2000.[21] Two popular works from The Adventures of Tintin[22][23] and one from the Lucky Luke series[24] were published in Franco-Provençal translations for young readers in 2006 and 2007.

See also



  1. ^ Krutwig, F. (1973). Les noms pré-indoeuropéens en Val-d'Aoste. Le Flambeau, no. 4, 1973., in: Henriet, Joseph (1997). La Lingua Arpitana. Quaderni Padani, Vol. III, no. 11, May-June 1997. pp. 25-30. .pdf (in Italian)
  2. ^ Constantin & Désormaux, 1982
  3. ^ Italian constitutional law: Legge costituzionale 26 febbraio 1948, n. 4, "Statuto speciale per la Valle d’Aosta" (Parlamento Italiano, Legge 1948, n. 4)
  4. ^ Italian presidential decree: Decreto presidenziale della Repubblica del 20 novembre 1991, "Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche", Articolo 2
  5. ^ Italian federal law: Legge 15 dicembre 1999, n. 482, "Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche", pubblicata nella Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 297 del 20 dicembre 1999, Articolo 2, (Parlamento Italiano, Legge 482)
  6. ^ Aosta Autonomous Region law: Legge regionale 1 agosto 2005, n. 18, "Disposizioni in materia di organizzazione e di personale scolastico. Modificazioni alla legge regionale 8 marzo 1993, n. 12". Articolo 5
  7. ^ Qu'est-ce que le patois ?
  8. ^ DGLFLF: Délégation générale à la langue française de France
  9. ^ Marzys, 1971
  10. ^ Dalby, 1999/2000, p. 402
  11. ^ Bessat & Germi, 1991
  12. ^ J. Harriet (1974), "L'ethnie valdôtaine n'a jamais existe... elle n'est que partie de l'ethnie harpitane" in La nation Arpitane, image of original article posted at, 12 January 2007.
  13. ^ Michel René, "L'afére Pecârd, c'est Tintin en patois vaudois," Quotidien (Lausanne), "24 heures", 19 March 2007; p. 3.
  14. ^ Fondation Émile Chanoux: Sondage
  15. ^ TLFQ: Val-d'Aoste
  16. ^ Price, 1998
  17. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, See: Beatrix: VI. Blessed Beatrix of Ornacieux
  18. ^ Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate (1997). The Writings of Margaret of Oingt, Medieval Prioress and Mystic. (From series: Library of Medieval Women). Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85-991442-9
  19. ^ Cé qu'è lainô, Complete text of 68 verses in Franco-Provençal and French.
  20. ^ "Tout sur la langue des gones", Lyon Capitale, N° 399, October 30, 2002.
  21. ^ Meynet, Félix (Illustrations) & Roman, Pascal (Text). Le rebloshon que tyouè !. (Translation in Savoyard dialect.) Editions des Pnottas, 2000. ISBN 2-940171-14-9
  22. ^ "Hergé" (Remi, Georges) (2006). Lé Pèguelyon de la Castafiore ("The Castafiore Emerald", from The Adventures of Tintin series). Meune, Manuel & Josine, Trans. (Translation in Bressan dialect, Orthograpy: La Graphie de Conflans). Pantin, France: Casterman Editions. ISBN 2-203009-30-6
  23. ^ "Hergé" (Remi, Georges) (2006). L'Afére Pecârd ("The Calculus Affair", from The Adventures of Tintin series). (Translation in mixed Franco-Provençal dialects, Orthography: ORB). Pantin, France: Casterman Editions. ISBN 2-203009-31-4
  24. ^ "Achdé" (Darmenton, Hervé); Gerra, Laurent; & "Morris" (Bevere, Maurice de) (2007). Maryô donbin pèdu ("The Noose", from the Lucky Luke series. Translation in Bressan dialect.) Belgium: Lucky Comics. ISBN 2-884712-07-0


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  • Tuallion, Gaston (2002). La littérature en francoprovençal avant 1700. Grenoble: Ellug. ISBN 2-84310-029-1
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