Are our regional specificities gradually fading away due to the uniformity of our language? In other words, are the “languages of France” other than French doomed to disappear in the short or long term? Not necessarily, according to linguists. However, they risk becoming the preserve of a limited number of specialists.
Breton, Walloon, Corsican, Basque, Occitan, Alsatian, Provençal, Amerindian languages of Guyana or Creoles of the Overseas Departments… there are many “languages of France” – in other words, “languages spoken in addition to French by a significant number of citizens,” as noted by the General Delegate for the French Language, Bernard Cerquiglini, in a study devoted to these languages that were once called “regional languages” (Les Langues de France, PUF, 2003). It should be noted that these are all complete languages, with their variations or “patois” being referred to as “dialects” by linguists. “Thus, we can say of Vannetais spoken in Morbihan that it is a Breton dialect,” says linguist Michel Launey in the same study. However, is Vannetais, like Corsican or Occitan, not disappearing under the repeated blows of a French language that has become omnipresent and all-powerful? Yes… and no. Here’s why.
On the one hand, it is true that the widespread use of French has led to a decline in the use of regional languages in France. As French became the official language of the country and the language of education, commerce, and government, regional languages gradually lost their importance. In some cases, they were actively discouraged or even banned. This led to a decline in the number of speakers and a loss of prestige for these languages.
On the other hand, there has been a growing interest in regional languages in recent years, particularly among younger generations. Many people now see these languages as an important part of their cultural heritage and are actively working to preserve and promote them. In addition, regional languages have been recognized and protected by law in France since 1951, and efforts are being made to provide education and resources to support their use.