Thursday, June 16, 2011


Occitania, also called the "lo País d'Òc", ("the Oc Country"), is the region in southern Europe where Occitan was historically the main language spoken, and where it is sometimes still used, for the most part as a second language. This cultural area roughly encompasses the southern half of France, as well as Monaco and smaller parts of Italy (Occitan ValleysGuardia Piemontese) and Spain (Aran Valley). Occitania has been recognized as a linguistic and cultural concept since the Middle Ages, but has never been a legal nor a political entity under this name, although the territory was united in Roman times as the Septem Provinciæ and the early Middle Ages (Aquitanica or the Visigothic Kingdom of Toulouse) before the French conquest started in the early 1200s.
Currently about a half million people out of 16 million in the area have a proficient knowledge of Occitan, although the languages more usually spoken in the area are French, Italian, Catalan and Spanish. Since 2006, the Occitan language has been an official language of Catalonia, which includes the Aran Valley where Occitan had gained official status in 1990.
Written texts in Occitan appeared in the 10th century: it was used at once in legal then literary, scientific and religious texts. The spoken dialects of Occitan are centuries older and appeared as soon as the 8th century, at least, revealed in toponyms or in Occitanized words left in Latin manuscripts, for instance.
Embroidered beret 
From 1881 onwards, children who spoke Occitan at school were punished in accordance with minister Jules Ferry's recommendations. That led to a deprecation of the language known as la vergonha (the shaming): the whole fourteen million inhabitants of the area spoke Occitan in 1914, but French gained the upper hand during the 20th century. The situation got worse with the media excluding the use of the langue d'oc. In spite of that decline, the Occitan language is still alive and trying to gain fresh impetus.
"Speak French - be Clean", written across the wall of a Southern French school 
(reminds me of NZ teachers, stick in hand, enforcing English on Maori pupils in the 1930's-1960's...)
Berets with the embroidered Occitan cross can be ordered at the Musee du Beret; click here

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