Franco-Provençal language

"Romand" redirects here. For the Swiss Romand people, see Romands. For Swiss Romand region, see Romandy. For other uses, see Romand (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Provençal, one of the dialects of the Occitan language.
patouès, arpetan
Pronunciation [ɑrpiˈtɑ̃]; [patuˈe], [patuˈɑ]; [ɑrpəˈtɑ̃]
Native to Italy, France, Switzerland
Region Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Foggia, Franche-Comté, Savoie, Bresse, Bugey, Dombes, Beaujolais, Dauphiné, Lyonnais, Forez, Romandie
Native speakers
140,000 (1998–2007)[1]
includes 70,000 in France (1971 census) [2]
Official status
Official language in
protected by statute in Italy and Aosta Valley.
Language codes
ISO 639-3 frp
Glottolog fran1269[3]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-j[4]

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) (Franco-Provençal: francoprovençâl, arpetan, patouès; Italian: francoprovenzale, arpitano; French: francoprovençal, arpitan, patois) is a Gallo-Romance language spoken in east-central France, western Switzerland, northwestern Italy, and in enclaves in the Province of Foggia in Apulia, Italy. Franco-Provençal has several distinct dialects and is separate from but closely related to neighboring Romance languages: Oïl languages, Occitan, Gallo-Italian, and Romansh. 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. Arpitan, a neologism, is becoming a popular name for the language and the people who speak it.[5] This name was popularized due to the lands where the Arpitan language is spoken or used to be the prevalent idiom, Arpitania. The name for the region, comes from the term Arpes, meaning Alps, in Arpitan.[5]

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 Romandie region of Switzerland. It is one of the three Gallo-Romance language families of France and is officially recognized as a regional language of France, but its use is marginal. Organizations are attempting to preserve it through cultural events, education, scholarly research, and publishing.

Aside from regional French dialects (the Langues d'oïl), it is the most closely related language to French. 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 as a Gallo-Romance variety of Latin. The linguistic region comprises east-central France, western portions of Switzerland, and the Aosta Valley of Italy with the adjacent alpine valleys of the Piedmont. This area covers territories once occupied by pre-Roman Celts, including the Allobroges, Sequani, Helvetii, Ceutrones, and Salassi. By the 5th century, the region was controlled by the Burgundians.

Franco-Provençal is first attested in manuscripts from the 12th century, possibly diverging from the langues d'oïl as early as the 8th–9th centuries (Bec, 1971). One writer has detected the influence of Basque by analyzing "fossil words" ("mots fossiles") from toponymy and the dialect in the Aosta Valley Valdôtain patois.[6] However, Franco-Provençal is consistently typified by a strict, myopic comparison to French, and so is characterized as "conservative". Thus, commentators, like Désormaux, consider "medieval" the terms for many nouns and verbs, including pâta "rag", bayâ "to give", moussâ "to lie down", all of which are conservative only relative to French. As an example, Désormaux, writing on this point in the foreword of his Savoyard dialect 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.[7]

Franco-Provençal failed to garner the cultural prestige of its three more widely spoken neighbors: French, Occitan, and Italian. Communities where speakers lived were generally mountainous and isolated from one another. The internal boundaries of the entire speech area were divided 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 law and the courts (Grillet, 1807, p. 65).

Franco-Provençal dialects were widely spoken in their speech areas until the 20th century. As French political power expanded and the "single-national-language" doctrine was spread through French-only education, Franco-Provençal speakers abandoned their language, which had numerous spoken variations and no standard orthography, in favor of culturally prestigious French.

Present status

Several events have combined to stabilize the language (Valdôtain dialect) in the Aosta Valley since 1948. An amendment to the constitution of Italy[8] 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, which encouraged them to stay and continue long-held traditions. The language is now explicitly protected by an Italian presidential decree[9] and a federal law.[10] Further, a regional law[11] 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 theatre 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 of 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.[12]

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,"[13] 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 languages are aging and mostly rural.


Franco-Provençal's name would suggest it is a bridge dialect between French and the Provençal dialect of Occitan, but this is misleading. More precisely, Franco-Provençal is a separate Gallo-Romance language that transitions into the Oïl languages Morvandiau and Franc-Comtois to the northwest, into Romansh to the east, into the Gallo-Italic language Piemontese to the southeast, and finally into the Vivaro-Alpine dialect of Occitan to the southwest.

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. The Linguasphere Observatory language code for Franco-Provençal is 51-AAA-j

A philological classification for Franco-Provençal published by Stanford University (Ruhlen, 1987, pp. 325–326) is as 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 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" and there is no 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"). Only in recent years have speakers not specialists in linguistics become conscious of the language's collective identity.

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 (Franco) and the langues d'oc group (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 una confluenza di elementi diversi, ma bensì attesta sua propria indipendenza istorica, non guari dissimili da quella per cui fra di loro si distinguono gli altri principali tipi neo-latini. »
"I call Franco-Provençal a type of language that brings together, along with some characteristics which are its own, characteristics partly in common with French, and partly in common with Provençal, and are not caused by 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,[14] 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".[15]

A proposal in the 1960s to call the language Burgundian (French: "burgondien") did not take hold, mainly because of the potential for confusion with an Oïl dialect known as Burgundian, which is spoken in a neighbouring area, known internationally as Burgundy (French: Bourgogne). Other areas also had historical or political claims to such names, especially (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").[16] It was popularized in the 1980s by Mouvement Harpitanya, a political organization in the Aosta Valley.[17] In the 1990s, the term lost its particular political context.[18] 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.[19] In 2010 SIL adopted the name "Arpitan" as the primary name of the language in ISO 639-3, with "Francoprovençal" as an additional name form.[20]

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 until 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):


Note: The southernmost valleys of Piedmont speak Occitan.



Number of speakers

Conference hall at the 37th Fête internationale de l'arpitan, Saint-Etienne (France), 2016.

The Franco-Provençal dialect with the greatest population of active daily speakers is Valdôtain. Approximately 68,000 people speak the language in the Aosta Valley region of Italy according to reports conducted after the 2003 census.[22] The alpine valleys of the adjacent province of Turin have an estimated 22,000 speakers. The Faetar and Cigliàje 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). Beginning in 1951, heavy emigration from the town of Celle Di San Vito established the Cigliàje variety of this dialect in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, where, at its peak, it was used daily by several hundred people. As of 2012 this community has dwindled to fewer than 50 daily speakers across three generations.

Contrary to official information reported by the European Commission, a poll by the Fondation Émile Chanoux in 2001[23] revealed that only 15% of all Aosta Valley residents claimed Franco-Provençal as their mother tongue, a substantial reduction to the figures reported on the Italian census 20 years earlier that was used in the commission report, though 55,77 % said they know franco-provençal and 50,53 % said they know French, franco-provençal and Italian.[24] This opened a discussion about the concept of mother tongue when concerning a dialect, therefore confirming the fact that the Aosta Valley is the only area where franco-provençal is actively spoken nowadays.[25] A report published by Laval University in Quebec City,[26] 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. The most recent edition of (Lewis, 2009) 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: Lewis, 2009). In the other cantons of Romandie 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: "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 other 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 Martin (2005), with all Franco-Provençal examples written in accordance with Orthographe de référence B (see "Orthography" section, below).

Typology and syntax


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

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).
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] (note: In Italy, codo is occasionally used for both singular and plural).
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 Piedmontese Italian English
la sal (fem.) le sel (masc.) la sal (fem.) il sale (masc.) the salt
l'ôvra (fem.), la besogne (fem.) le travail (masc.) ël travaj (masc.) il lavoro (masc.) the work
l'ongla (fem.) l'ongle (masc.) l'ongia (fem.) l'unghia (fem.) the fingernail
l'ôlyo (masc.) l'huile (fem.) l'euli (masc.) l'olio (masc.) the oil
lo crotâl (masc.), lo vipèro (masc.) la vipère (fem.) la vipra (fem.) la vipera (fem.) the viper
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).



Franco-Provençal does not have a standard orthography. Most proposals use the Latin script and four diacritics: the acute accent, grave accent, circumflex, and diaeresis (trema), while the cedilla and the ligature œ found in French are omitted.

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).

Franco-Provençal Italian French English
IPA Chenal BREL Conflans ORB Standard Standard Standard
/kɑ̃/ quan can kan quand quando quand when
/ˈtʃikɑ/ tsëca tchica tchika chica un po' un peu a little
/tsɑ̃/ tsan tsan tsan champ campo champ field
/djwa/ dzoà djouà djoua giuè gioco jeu game
/ˈtʃøvrɑ/ tseuvra tcheuvra tsvra chèvra capra chèvre goat
/ˈfɔʎə/ foille foille fòye fôlye foglia feuille leaf
/ˈføʎə/ faille feuille fye filye figlia fille daughter
/fɔ̃ˈtɑ̃.ɑ/ fontana fontan-a fontana fontana fontana source wellspring
/ˈlɑ̃.ɑ/ lana lan-a lana lana lana laine wool
/siˈlɑ̃sə/ silence silanse silanse silence silenzio silence silence
/rəpəˈbløk.ə/ repeublecca repebleucca repeblke rèpublica repubblica 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 Catalan Spanish Romansh Piedmontese Italian Portuguese English
clavisclâcléclauclaullaveclavciavchiave chave key
cantarechantarchantercantarcantarcantarc(h)antarcantécantare cantar to sing
caprachèvrachèvrecabracabracabrachavracravacapra cabra goat
caseus (formaticus)tôma/fromâjofromageformatgeformatgequesocaschielformaggformaggio queijo cheese
dies Martisdemârs/demonremardidimarsdimartsmartesmardi(s)màrtesmartedì terça-feira Tuesday
ecclesia/basilicaégléséégliseglèisaesglésiaiglesiabaselgiagesia/cesachiesa igreja church
fratremfrârefrèrefrairegermàhermanofrarfr(ad)elfratello irmão brother
hospitalishèpetâlhôpitalespitalhospitalhospitalspital/ospidalospidalospedale hospital hospital
lingualengalanguelengallengualengualieungalengalingua língua language
sinistergôchogaucheesquèr/senèstroesquerraizquierdasaniester/schnesters(i)nistrsinistro esquerda left
rem/natam/ne gentemrenrienresresnadanuot/navot/nöglianen/gnenteniente/nulla nada nothing
noctemnuetnuitnuèch/nuèitnitnochenot(g)neuitnotte noite night
pacarepayérpayerpagarpagarpagarpagar/pajarpaghépagare pagar to pay
sudorsuarsueursusorsuorsudorsuadasudé/sudorsudore suor sweat
vitaviavievidavidavidaveta/vitavi(t)avita vida life


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, consisting of Faetar (also known as "Cigliàje" or "Cellese"), has been analyzed by Nagy (2000). The Piedmont dialects need further study.

Dialect Group : Dialect Idiom: (Epicenters / Regional locations)
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).
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).
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, Ugine, 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).
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).
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).
1. Valdôtain du Valdigne (Dora Baltea upper valley, similar to savoyard Franco-Provençal),
2. Aostois (Aostan valdôtain),
3. Valdôtain standard (Dora Baltea middle valley),
4. Valpellinois, bossolein and bionassin (Valpelline Great St. Bernard and Bionaz valleys),
5. Cognein (upper Cogne valley),
6. Valtournain (in Valtournenche valley),
7. Ayassin (upper Ayas valley),
8. Valgrisein (Valgrisenche valley),
9. Rhêmiard (Rhêmes valley),
10. Valsavarein (Valsavarenche valley),
11. Moyen valdôtain (middle-lower Dora Baltea valley),
12. Bas Valdôtain (lower Dora Baltea valley, similar to Piedmontese),
13. Champorcherin (Champorcher valley)
14. Fénisan (Fénis)
1. Faetar & Cigliàje (Faeto & Celle di San Vito, in Province of Foggia). This variety is also spoken in Brantford, Ontario, Canada by an established emigrant community.
(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 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, -o(t)z, -uz, -ax, -ex, -ux, -oux, -oulx, -aulx, and -ieu(x). These suffixes indicate the stress syllables based on a historical orthographic system considered obsolete by modern scholars, such as Chenal, BREL, and Stich. 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). All the town names that demonstrates these characteristics follow:

Bilingual road sign (French-Valdôtain) in Introd, Aosta Valley.
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.)





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.[27] 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 nunnery 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 500 years later by Pope Pius IX in 1869.[28] A line from the work in her dialect follows:[29]

§ 112 : « Quant vit co li diz vicayros que ay o coventavet fayre, ce alyet cela part et en ot mout de dongiers et de travayl, ancis que cil qui gardont lo lua d'Emuet li volissant layssyer co que il demandavet et que li evesques de Valenci o volit commandar. Totes veys yses com Deus o aveyt ordonat oy se fit. »

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)[30] 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 mock and laugh at 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.[31]

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 Savoué ("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. There are compositions in the current language on the album Enfestar, an artistic project from Piedmont [32]

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.[33] Two popular works from The Adventures of Tintin[34][35] and one from the Lucky Luke series[36] were published in Franco-Provençal translations for young readers in 2006 and 2007.

See also



  1. Franco-Provençal at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. "Ethnologue report for language code: frp". Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Francoprovencalic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. "f" (PDF). The Linguasphere Register. p. 165. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  5. 1 2, Did you say « Arpitan » ?
  6. 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)
  7. Constantin & Désormaux, 1982
  8. Italian constitutional law: Legge costituzionale 26 febbraio 1948, n. 4, "Statuto speciale per la Valle d'Aosta" (Parlamento Italiano, Legge 1948, n. 4)
  9. Italian presidential decree: Decreto presidenziale della Repubblica del 20 novembre 1991, "Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche", Articolo 2
  10. 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)
  11. "Conseil de la Vallée - Loi régionale 1er août 2005, n. 18 - Texte en vigueur". Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  12. "Eat Healthy, Eat Well". Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  13. "Langue française et langues de France". Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  14. Marzys, 1971
  15. Dalby, 1999/2000, p. 402
  16. Bessat & Germi, 1991
  17. 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.
  18. Nos ancêtres les Arpitans, 24 Heures, Lausanne, 2 May 2009
  19. Michel Rime, "L'afére Pecârd, c'est Tintin en patois vaudois," Quotidien (Lausanne), "24 heures", 19 March 2007; p. 3.
  20. Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: frp. Accessed 11 March 2013.
  21. there are various hypotheses about their origins, possibly dating from 1200-1400, e.g. remnants of troops of Charles d'Anjou, according to Michele Melillo, "Intorno alle probabili sedi originarie delle colonie francoprovenzali di Celle e Faeto", Revue de Linguistique Romaine, XXIII, (1959), pp. 1-34, or Waldensian refugees according to Pierre Gilles, Histoire ecclesiastique des églises reformées recueillies en quelques Valées de Piedmont, autrefois appelées Vaudoises, Paris, 1643, p. 19
  22. Sondage linguistique de la Fondation Émile Chanoux
  23. Fondation Émile Chanoux: Sondage
  24. Assessorat de l'éducation et la culture - Département de la surintendance des écoles, Profil de la politique linguistique éducative, Le Château éd., 2009, p. 20.
  25. Alessandro Barbero in Une Vallée d'Aoste bilingue dans une Europe plurilingue, Aoste (2003).
  26. TLFQ: Vallée d'Aoste
  27. Price, 1998
  28. Catholic Encyclopedia, See: Beatrix: VI. Blessed Beatrix of Ornacieux
  29. 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 0-85991-442-9
  30. Cé qu'è lainô, Complete text of 68 verses in Franco-Provençal and French.
  31. "Tout sur la langue des gones", Lyon Capitale, N° 399, 30 October 2002.
  32. Soundcloud: Enfestar. "Album Enfestar, Blu l'azard". Soundcloud. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  33. Meynet, Félix (Illustrations) & Roman, Pascal (Text). Le rebloshon que tyouè !. (Translation in Savoyard dialect.) Editions des Pnottas, 2000. ISBN 2-940171-14-9
  34. "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, Orthography: La Graphie de Conflans). Brussels, Belgium: Casterman Editions. ISBN 2-203-00930-6
  35. "Hergé" (Remi, Georges) (2006). L'Afére Pecârd ("The Calculus Affair", from The Adventures of Tintin series). (Translation in mixed Franco-Provençal dialects, Orthography: ORB). Brussels, Belgium: Casterman Editions. ISBN 2-203-00931-4
  36. "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 2-88471-207-0


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