Gascon language

Last updated

Pronunciation [ɡasˈku(ŋ)]
Native to France
Region Gascony
Standard forms
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Catalonia.svg  Catalonia (Spain) for Aranese
Language codes
ISO 639-1 oc
ISO 639-2 gsc
ISO 639-3 oci (code gsc was merged into oci in 2007) [1]
Glottolog gasc1240
ELP Gascon
IETF oc-gascon [2] [3]
Zone extension gascon.png
Gascon speaking area
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Gascon (English: /ˈɡæskən/ ; Gascon:  [ɡasˈku(ŋ)] , French:  [ɡaskɔ̃] ) is a Romance language spoken in southwest France. While often described as a dialect of Occitan, Gascon is considered by several authors to be a separate language altogether. [4] [5] [6]


Gascon is mostly spoken in Gascony and Béarn in southwestern 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 Catalonia.

Aranese, a southern Gascon variety, is spoken in Catalonia and 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).

It was also one of the mother tongues of the English kings Richard the Lionheart and his younger brother John Lackland.

Linguistic classification

The majority of scholars think that Occitan constitutes a single language.

Some authors reject this opinion and even the name Occitan, thinking that there is a family of distinct lengas d'òc rather than dialects of a single language. Gascon, in particular, is distinct enough linguistically that it has been described as a language of its own. [4]

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 point as Basque. There is a proven Basque substrate in the development of Gascon. [7] This explains some of the major differences that exist between Gascon and other Occitan dialects.

A typically Gascon feature that may arise from this substrate is the change from "f" to "h"[ citation needed ]. 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, causing Gascon hèsta[ˈhɛsto] or [ˈɛsto]. A similar change took place in Spanish. Thus, Latin facere gives Spanish hacer ([aˈθer]) (or, in some parts of southwestern Andalusia, [haˈsɛɾ]). [8]

Although some linguists deny the plausibility of the Basque substrate theory, it is widely assumed that Basque, the "Circumpyrenean" language (as put by Basque linguist Alfonso Irigoyen and defended by Koldo Mitxelena, 1982), is the underlying language spreading around the Pyrenees onto the banks of the Garonne River, maybe as far east as the Mediterranean in Roman times (niska cited by Joan Coromines as the name of each nymph taking care of the Roman spa Arles de Tech in Roussillon, etc.). [9] :250–251 Basque gradually eroded across Gascony in the High Middle Ages (Basques from the Val d'Aran cited still circa 1000), with vulgar Latin and Basque interacting and mingling, but eventually with the former replacing the latter north of the east and middle Pyrenees and developing into Gascon. [9] :250, 255

However, modern Basque has had lexical influence from Gascon in words like beira ("glass"), which is also seen in Portuguese. One way for the introduction of Gascon influence into Basque came about through language contact in bordering areas of the Northern Basque Country, acting as adstrate. The other one takes place since the 11th century over the coastal fringe of Gipuzkoa extending from Hondarribia to San Sebastian, where Gascon was spoken up to the early 18th century and often used in formal documents until the 16th century, with evidence of its continued occurrence in Pasaia in the 1870s. [10] [ better source needed ] A minor focus of influence was the Way of St James and the establishment of ethnic boroughs in several towns based on the privileges bestowed on the Francs by the Kingdom of Navarre from the 12th to the early 14th centuries, but the variant spoken and used in written records is mainly the Occitan of Toulouse.[ citation needed ]

The énonciatif (Occitan: enunciatiu) system of Gascon, a system that is more colloquial than characteristic of normative written Gascon and governs the use of certain preverbal particles (including the sometimes emphatic affirimative que, the occasionally mitigating or dubitative e, the exclamatory be, and the even more emphatic ja/ye, and the "polite" se) has also been attributed to the Basque substrate. [11]

Gascon varieties

Gascon is divided into three varieties or dialect sub-groups: [12]

Béarnais, the official language when Béarn was an independent state, does not correspond to a unified language: the three forms of Gascon are spoken in Béarn (in the south, Pyrenean Gascon, in the center and in the east, Eastern Gascon; to the north-west, Western Gascon).

FrenchLandeseBéarnese and BigourdanAraneseCommingois and CouseranaisInterior GasconBazadais and High-LandeseBordelese
Affirmation: He is goingIl y vaQu' i va.Que i va.I va.Que i va.Que i va.(Qu’) i va/vai.I vai.
Negation: He wasn't listening to himIl ne l’écoutait pasNe l’escotèva pasNon / ne l’escotava pasNon la escotauaNon l’escotava capNe l’escotava pas(Ne) l’escotèva pasNe l'escotava pas/briga
Plural formation: the young men – the young women
Les jeunes hommes – les jeunes fillesLos gojats – las gojatasEths / los gojats – eras / las gojatasEs gojats – es gojatesEths gojats – eras gojatasLos gojats – las gojatasLos gojats – las gojatasLos gojats – las dònas/gojas

Usage of the language

Trilingual sign in Bayonne: French, Basque, and Gascon Occitan ("Mayretat", "Sindicat d'initiatibe") Bayonne sign in French Basque Gascon-Occitan.JPG
Trilingual sign in Bayonne: French, Basque, and Gascon Occitan ("Mayretat", "Sindicat d'initiatibe")

A poll conducted in Béarn in 1982 indicated that 51% of the population could speak Gascon, 70% understood it, and 85% expressed a favourable opinion regarding the protection of the language. [13] However, use of the language has declined dramatically over recent years as a result of the Francization taking place during the last centuries, as Gascon is rarely transmitted to young generations any longer (outside of schools, such as the Calandretas).

By April 2011, the Endangered Languages Project estimated that there were only 250,000 native speakers of the language. [14] [15]

The usual term for Gascon is "patois", a word designating in France a non-official and usually devaluated dialect (such as Gallo) or language (such as Occitan), regardless of the concerned region.[ citation needed ] [11] 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 independent and then part of a sovereign state (the shrinking Kingdom of Navarre) from 1347 to 1620.

In fact, there is no unified Béarnais dialect, as 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, an '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 has been distinguished from Gascon since the 16th century, not for linguistic reasons.

Influences on other languages

Probably as a consequence of the linguistic continuum of occidental Romania and the French influence over the Hispanic Mark on 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). Gascon is also (with Spanish, Navarro-Aragonese and French) one of the Romance influences in Basque language.


According to the testimony of Bernadette Soubirous, the Virgin Mary spoke to her (Lourdes, 25 March 1858) in Gascon saying: Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou
("I am the Immaculate Conception", the phrase is reproduced under this statue in the Lourdes grotto in Mistralian/Febusian spelling), confirming the proclamation of this Catholic dogma four years earlier. VirgendeLourdes.JPG
According to the testimony of Bernadette Soubirous, the Virgin Mary spoke to her (Lourdes, 25 March 1858) in Gascon saying: Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou ("I am the Immaculate Conception", the phrase is reproduced under this statue in the Lourdes grotto in Mistralian/Febusian spelling), confirming the proclamation of this Catholic dogma four years earlier.
WordTranslation IPA

See also

Notes and references


  1. "639 Identifier Documentation: gsc". SIL International.
  2. "Occitan (post 1500)". IANA language subtag registry. 18 August 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  3. "Gascon"; IANA language subtag registry; subtitle: Occitan variant spoken in Gascony; retrieved: 11 February 2019; publication date: 22 April 2018.
  4. 1 2 Cf. Rohlfs, Gerhard. 1970. Le Gascon. Études de philologie pyrénéenne, 2e éd. Tubingen, Max Niemeyer, & Pau, Marrimpouey jeune.
  5. Chambon, Jean-Pierre; Greub, Yan (2002). "Note sur l'âge du (proto)gascon". Revue de Linguistique Romane (in French). 66: 473–495.
  6. Stephan Koppelberg, El lèxic hereditari caracteristic de l'occità i del gascó i la seva relació amb el del català (conclusions d'un analisi estadística), Actes del vuitè Col·loqui Internacional de Llengua i Literatura Catalana, Volume 1 (1988). Antoni M. Badia Margarit & Michel Camprubi ed. (in Catalan)
  7. Allières, Jacques (2016). The Basques. Reno: Center for Basque Studies. pp. xi. ISBN   9781935709435.
  8. A. R. Almodóvar: Abecedario andaluz, Ediciones Mágina. Barcelona, 2002
  9. 1 2 Jimeno Aranguren, Roldan (2004). Lopez-Mugartza Iriarte, J.C. (ed.). Vascuence y Romance: Ebro-Garona, Un Espacio de Comunicación. Pamplona: Gobierno de Navarra / Nafarroako Gobernua. ISBN   84-235-2506-6.
  10. Múgica Zufiría (1923). "LOS GASCONES EN GUIPÚZCOA". IMPRENTA DE LA DIPUTACION DE GUIPUZCOA. Retrieved 12 April 2009. Site in Spanish
  11. 1 2 Marcus, Nicole Elise (2010). The Gascon énonciatif system: Past, present, and future. A study of language contact, change, endangerment, and maintenance. [Doctoral dissertation, University of California.] eScholarship Publishing.
  12. Classification of X. Ravier according to the "Linguistic Atlas of Gascony". Covered in particular by D. Sumien, “Classificacion dei dialèctes occitans”, “Linguistica occitana”, 7, September 2009, online.
  13. Ethnologue report for Gascon, 15th edition
  14. "Gascon" . Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  15. "Endangered languages: the full list" . Retrieved 5 July 2021. Definitely endangered

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