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Gascon (Gascon, [ɡasˈku]; French pronunciation: [ɡaskɔ̃]) is often considered as a dialect of Occitan, but is also regularly considered by some linguists as a separate language. Gascon is mostly spoken in Gascony and Béarn at south of France (in parts of the following French départements: Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Landes, Gers, Gironde, Lot-et-Garonne, Haute-Garonne, and Ariège; and in the Aran Valley of Spain). It has about 250,000 speakers worldwide.

Only Aranese, a southern Gascon variety, is spoken in Spain. Aranese has been greatly influenced recently by Catalan and Spanish. Both these influences tend to differentiate it more and more from the dialects of Gascon spoken in France. Since the 2006 adoption of the new statute of Catalonia, Aranese is co-official with Catalan and Spanish in Catalonia (before, this status was valid for the Aran Valley only).

Contents

Linguistic classification

See Occitan: Debates concerning linguistic classification.

Basque substrate

The language spoken in Gascony before Roman rule was part of the Basque dialectal continuum (see Aquitanian language); the fact that the word 'Gascon' comes from the Latin root vasco/vasconem, which is the same root that gives us 'Basque,' implies that the speakers identified themselves at some moment as Basque. There is a proven Basque substrate in the development of Gascon. This explains some of the major differences that exist between Gascon and other Occitan languages.

A typically Gascon feature that may arise from this substrate is the so-called '"f" to "h" change.' Where a word originally began with [f] in Latin, such as festa 'party/feast,' this sound was weakened to aspirated [h] and then, in some areas, lost altogether; according to the substrate theory, this is due to the Basque dialects' lack of an equivalent /f/ phoneme. Thus we have Gascon hèsta [ˈhɛsto] or [ˈɛsto]. A similar change took place in continental Spanish. Thus Latin facere gives Spanish hacer ([aˈθer]) (or, in some parts of south-western Andalusia, [haˈθɛɾ]).[1]

However, some linguists deny the plausibility of the Basque substrate theory; many have sought a language-internal explanation for this and other changes. The fact that this particular change occurs in both Gascon and Spanish, both of which developed in originally Basque-speaking areas, may be coincidental. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely and some linguists agree with historians to underline the connection between Gascon and Basque.

Note that modern Basque has had lexical influence from Gascon in words like beira ("glass"), polit ("pretty", Gascon polit/polida). One way for the introduction of Gascon influence into Basque came about through the Way of St James and the establishment of ethnic boroughs in several towns based on the privileges bestowed on the Francs by the Navarrese kings from the XIth century on. The other one takes place in the same period over the coastal fringe of Gipuzkoa extending from Hondarribia to San Sebastian, where Gascon was spoken and often used in formal documents up to the late XVIIIth century, with evidence of its occurrence in Pasaia still in the 1870s.[2]

Usage of the language

A poll conducted in Béarn in 1982 indicated that 51% of the population spoke Gascon, 70% understood it, and 85% expressed a favourable opinion regarding the protection of the language.[3] However, use of the language has declined dramatically over recent years as Gascon is rarely transmitted to young generations any longer. The usual term for Gascon is "patois", a word designating in France a non-official and devaluated dialect whatever the concerned region. It is mainly in Béarn that the population uses concurrently the term "Béarnais" to designate its Gascon forms. This is because of the political past of Béarn, which was a sovereign state from 1347 to 1620. In fact, there is no unified Béarnais dialect; the language differs considerably throughout the province. Many of the differences in pronunciation can be divided into east, west, and south (the mountainous regions). For example, the a at the end of words is pronounced "ah" in the west, "o" in the east, and "œ" in the south. Because of Béarn's specific political past, Béarnais is distinguished from Gascon since the 16th century, though not for linguistic reasons.

Subdialects

Gascon comprises three main linguistic areas:

  • The 'Garonnais Gascon' used on and next to the river Garonne valley. These regions know the least specific Gascon forms.
  • The 'Southern Gascon' used in the south and in the south-west of the linguistic Gascon zone. The Gascon of these regions is the one with the most distinctive characteristics of Gascon, coming mainly from a supposed Basque substratum.
  • The 'Intermediary Gascon' in an intermediary zone between the two just mentioned.

English words of Gascon origin

An isard (Pyrenean chamois).
Austrian beret.
cadet
from capdèt ("captain, chief").[4]
cep
from cep 'trunk'.[5] Now more commonly known by their Italian name of porcini.
izard
from French isard or Gascon isard.[6]
beret
from Bearnese French béret and Gascon berret "cap".[7].
Jingo
OED finds an etymology from Basque Jainko ("God") through Gascon possible but not proven.

The character of Gaston in the Disney Version of Beauty and The Beast is a reference to Gascon, his name means Man of Gascony

Influences on other languages

Probably as a consequence of the linguistic continuum of occidental Romania and the French influence over the Hispanic Mark on the medieval times, shared similar and singular features are noticeable between Gascon and other Latin languages on the other side of the frontier: Aragonese and ultraoccidental Catalan (Catalan of La Franja)

Examples

Word Translation
Earth tèrra
heaven cèu
water aiga
fire huec
man òmi/òme
woman hemna
eat minjar/manjar
drink béver
big gran
little petit/pichon/pichòt
night nueit
day dia/jorn

See also: Languages of France

External links

References

  1. ^ A. R. Almodóvar: Abecedario andaluz, Ediciones Mágina. Barcelona, 2002
  2. ^ "LOS GASCONES EN GUIPÚZCOA". IMPRENTA DE LA DIPUTACION DE GUIPUZCOA. http://atzoatzokoa.gipuzkoakultura.net/c78f6/. Retrieved 2009-04-12.   Site in Spanish
  3. ^ Ethnologue, Gascon
  4. ^ Harper, Douglas. "cadet". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cadet.  .
  5. ^ Grigson, Jane (1975). The Mushroom Feast. London: Penguin. pp. 8. ISBN 0-14-046-273-2.  
  6. ^ Harper, Douglas. "izard". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=izard.  
  7. ^ Harper, Douglas. "beret". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=beret.  
  • Le Gascon de poche, Jean-Marc Leclercq & Sèrgi Javaloyès, Assimil 2004, ISBN 2-7005-0345-7
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