Occitan, Provençal, Catalan

Worried Xatufan   Friday, August 13, 2004, 00:49 GMT
I'm worried because I have 2 questions.

1) What's the difference between Occitan and Provençal?

2) Are Catalan and Occitan two different languages? Or just two dialects of the same language? What are the main differences between the two?

A week ago I was in the "Club de Campo Español". I saw a poster of Catalonia showing photos of the Ebre's delta. In the poster there were also the phrase "Turisme i Commerç" or something like that.

Commerç ?! Is Catalan the only language where you can put a "cedilla" (ç) at the end of the word?
Xatufan   Friday, August 13, 2004, 00:51 GMT
I'm sorry for the "weird" letters.

Commerç = Commerc with the cedilla under the "c".
Jordi   Friday, August 13, 2004, 05:10 GMT
Provençal is an Occitan dialect spoken in the region of Provence.
Occitan and Catalan are two different languages with different ortography. They are as close as Spanish is close to Portuguese. The Catalan poster probably said "Conselleria de Turisme i Comerç", which is the Catalan Council for Tourism and Commerce. The "ç" is called a "c trencada" in Catalan (broken c). It is also used in French and Occitan. Regarding the differences amongst Romance languages you'll find them in the Internet.
Guilhem   Friday, August 13, 2004, 05:48 GMT
Hola Xatufan! Por qué estas tan preocupado? Todo será fino. :-)

1) What's the difference between Occitan and Provençal?

This question is not so easy to answer because there is confusion in the use of the terms 'Provençal' and 'Occitan'. For many people who are not familiar with the languages and culture of the South, they use the term 'Provençal' to describe all the languages of southern France. So for them, 'Provençal' and 'Occitan' are synonyms. But this is a mistake, Provençal is only spoken in south-eastern France (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), while Languedocien is spoken in the south-central of France (Languedoc and Midi-Pyrenées), and Gascon in the south-west (Aquitaine). Then in the mountainous northern regions of southern France (in the center of the hexagon), you have Limousin, Auvergnat, and Vivaro-Alpin. Of course this is an oversimplification of the situation because in truth there are many different dialects spoken within these linguistic divisions. But linguists today classify all these languages as 'Occitan'.

Even more confusing is that when Occitan scholars and nationalists speak of 'Occitan' they often use Languedocien as a standard. So more and more the term 'Occitan' is becoming synonymous with 'Languedocien' which is only adding to more disagreements in the use of the term 'Occitan'.

But on to your original question: the major difference, between Occitan/Languedocien and Provençal, besides a few words here and there, is in orthography. Words are usually pronounced the same but spelled differently (Oc: nos, lo, montanha, coneissènça, patría, nacion / Pr: nous, lou, mountagno, couneissènço, patrio, nacioun). This is because when the provençal poet Frédéric Mistral attempted to revive the southern language, which by this time had broken down into many spoken dialects with no written form, he adopted a more phonemic orthography. This adaptation however was not accepted in all of the South. Centuries later, the languedocien writer Lois Alibert modernised written Occitan by using the works of mediaeval writers and poets as his foundation. Another big difference is in Provençal final 'l' and final 'lh' changed to 'u' (Oc: provençal, solelh, ostal, castèl / Pr: prouvençau, soleu, ostau, casteu).

2) Are Catalan and Occitan two different languages? Or just two dialects of the same language? What are the main differences between the two?

Occitan and Catalan are separate languages originating from a common language. The differences are too many to mention. As Jordi said you can find out these differences by doing an internet search.

Many words end with a cedille in Occitan: abraç, arboç, breç, braç, cabeç, solaç, jaç, cabeç, doç, esfòrç, conglaç, tròç, etc.
Mi5 Mick   Friday, August 13, 2004, 06:07 GMT
"Many words end with a cedille in Occitan: abraç, arboç, breç, braç, cabeç, solaç, jaç, cabeç, doç, esfòrç, conglaç, tròç, etc."

Hmm that's unusual. I wonder why it developed that way instead of the common endings: "ce", "ss" or "sse" of other languages.
Jordi   Friday, August 13, 2004, 07:06 GMT
Guilhem amic meu,
I agree with a lot of what you say but I wouldn't use the word "languages" to speak of the varieties of the ancient Langue d'Oc or Occitan, which are spoken in Southern France, a valley in Catalonia and some Alpine valleys in Italy. It can be as confusing as saying that English and American are two languages and not two Standard varietes of one same language. The only reason why French politician use "langues d'oc" in plural is because they don't want to have a strong cultural community in the south of France (one third of the French territory).
All Romance languages originate from a common Language kown as Vulgar Latin. The more you go back in time the closer are all Romance languages closer to the vulgar Latin spoken on their soil in the earliest Middle Ages (6th century). Catalan is the evolution of the Latin spoken in the Tarraconensis and Occitan is the evolution of Latin spoken in the Narbonensis. They are quite close because these Roman provinces are neighbours and Latin languages are a continuum of dialects. Very much the same happens if you compare medieval Portuguese and Spanish. The Spaniards wrote their poems in medieval Galician-Portuguese the same as the Catalan troubadours (and the Italian ones!) wrote their poems in Occitan. The fact is that, from the very beginning, most of the present day differences can already be traced in prose and Catalan prose is already quite different to Occitan prose in the great chronicles of the the 13th century kings of Catalonia and Aragon.
It must also be said that not all Provençal writers follow the "francised" (or "frenchyfried" to make it understandable) ortography of Félibrige and Mistral. Actually, most of the young Provençal writers follow the unified ortography of the Institut d'Estudis Occitans and mostly older writers follow the Mistral's prestige and there is a political choice as well, as you are perfectly aware of. Occitan (and Catalan) are compositional languages, meaning regional differences are accepted within the unity of the language. Very much the same happens with English (American and British standards) whilst Standard French is a highly centralised language that leaves little space for regionalisms.
Words end in "ç" for historical and etimological reasons. They usually correspond to a Castilian Spanish "z" and a French silent "s" or "t". An example would be "braç" (brazo in Castilian and bras in French, esforç/esfuerzo/effort abraç/abrazo). Spellings are National conventions.
I apologise but I happen to be a Catalan and Occitan language scholar and a specialist in Catalan (and Occitan) dialects. Catalan is my mother and home language and I studied Occitan in Provence quite a few years ago and have kept strong ties both in Lengadoc and Provença. Non cultivated Catalan and Occitan speakers find it harder to understand each other although the written languages are closer. The fact is Alibert was very much inspired by the strength of 20th century Catalan and Lengadocian, is the variety of Occitan, which has remained closer to Medieval Occitan and Modern Standard Catalan. The literary choice was obvious and the wisest but this wasn't always accepted by the other "more evolved" dialects. Perhaps due to that (the lack of a widely accepted Occitan convention and the strong influence of French) means that nowadays Catalan is still spoken by 75% of the population of the Catalan speaking countries of Spain (population 11 milion people) whilst Occitan is now spoken by only about 15% of Occitania (perhaps some 2 milion speakers, mainly over 50). At the beginning of the 20th century Occitan was as widely spoken as Catalan and all this has happened in three generations. The most prestigious medieval European language, the first to have a modern Literature has almost gone in only 3 generations! Shame on France!
Just a short sentence where you can both see the strong family ties but also the differences between Catalan and Occitan. Pronunciation and speech pattern is quite different as well.
1) Catalans i Occitans som germans i tenim un mateix passat gloriós. Hem de lluitar per la dignitat . (Catalan)
2) Catalans e Occitans som fraires e avem un meteis passat gloriós. Avem de luchar per la dignitat (Occitan)
On the whole, Catalan is more Iberian and Occitan is more Gallic, although both share amongst each other than with French or Spanish.
Sorry for that, but thank God it all came out as it is. Escuse me any typo since I have no time to edit.
nic   Friday, August 13, 2004, 07:20 GMT


Guilhem is right, someone from Nîmes, Montpellier are not provençaux, soemeone from Marseille, Aix en Provence are provençaux.

Another thing to know is about a language used to be spoken in the Lyonnais (lyon area) and savoie which is the franco-provençal, it's not occitan and it's different from provençal. Franco-provençal is closer to piemontese and some dialects spoken in Lombardia.

If i remember well school, occitan was a common language in middle age (but i can be wrong), there was the troubadour language with langue d'oc, and the trouvère language with langue d'oï. They were a kind of poets, french kings (french kings have been all the time from the north) used the langue d'oï (oui), thet's how french became the language off all french, last french to not speak french at 1st language have been forced to do it at 1st world war.

Some people still have as 1st native language the occitan today, they are old, it's the case of my grand father and grand mother, they speak an occitan from languedoc
Jordi   Friday, August 13, 2004, 07:48 GMT
Dear Nic,
Some, not many, French children still learn the other French languages as first language at home. In Alsace almost half the children still speak the Alsatian (close to German) dialect at home and there are still some Breton, Occitan, Corsican, Catalan, Flemish young native speakers in France. Unfortunately fewer and fewer but these languages aren't quite dead yet although France has been telling us they are for the past 100 years. France is the only European country that hasn't signed the Chart of Minority Languages and it has gone against the Spanish Government's will to make Catalan official in the European Union. What has France got to do with me?
For example over 3.000 primary school children throughout Occitania attend "Calandreta" schools and the language is still very lively in parts of Gasconha (Gascogne) and inland in Lengadoc. Occitan is widely spoken in the Italian valleys and the Val d'Aran in Catalonia, where it is the only place in the world where an Occitan dialect (Gascon) is official and compulsorily taught in schools.
I'm sorry to tell you, my dear friend, that you need to do quite a bit of research. I've spoken with many young Occitan speakers (children, teenagers, young adults) in Occitan all over Occitania, although they are a minority. If you're interested in learning your ancestral language I recommend the Universitat Occitana d'Estiu. You have a great time and meet lots of young people, from all over Occitania, who speak Occitan. That's what I did when I was at university. There are summer courses in Provence and also in Vilanova d'Olt (find out what the French translation is). All that is available in the Internet.
Guilhem   Friday, August 13, 2004, 08:25 GMT
"I agree with a lot of what you say but I wouldn't use the word "languages" to speak of the varieties of the ancient Langue d'Oc or Occitan"

He he. If I say 'dialects', people will correct me and say it should be 'languages', if I say 'languages', people will correct me and say it should be 'dialects'. You just can't win! ;-) But you are right, Jordi, 'dialects' is the correct term for the varieties we speak in the Midi. Ah...the politics of language! Oh well, c'est la vie!
nic   Friday, August 13, 2004, 10:14 GMT

you said : "What has France got to do with me?" please, do not make any confusion between people and french government, i don't have any problems about the fact catalans and other people want their language considered by the european council.

you said : "I'm sorry to tell you, my dear friend, that you need to do quite a bit of research. I've spoken with many young Occitan speakers (children, teenagers, young adults) in Occitan all over Occitania, although they are a minority."

I have met some of them but they don't master occitan as some old people do, i speak about Languedoc and don't know anything about french catalan or gascons.

I was only talking about occitan and its dialects, i don't think alsacian is one of them, naither flemmish or basque.

I have heard more people in Alsace speaking alsacian (same with basque) than i have heard any form of occitan with young people.

I had the possibility to learn some occitan at school, the problem is you learn one which seemed to be formal, i was and i am more interested about the one spoken in my family.
Jordi   Friday, August 13, 2004, 10:49 GMT
Obviously, when I said France I meant the French Government. Regarding the language one learns at school it is always formal. Your family should have taught you to speak as they speak. That happens in all the languages in the world. The French you learn in school isn't exactly like the French that is spoken in southern France in the families either.
nic   Friday, August 13, 2004, 12:31 GMT

As you said it's the same eveywhere in the world, the english i learnt at school is the same which is spoken. You just realize it the 1st time you go t Scotland for example.
My parents did not teach me occitan for a simple reason, they don't exactly speak the same. As i told you my father's side is from the Nîmes area, they spoke a language (or a dialect) which is close to spanish, my mother's side is at the Lozère and Haute Loire border = Auvergne and North Languedoc border. Some words are the same but not all. My grand father told me that sometimes he can't understand people from a village only separated by 20 km. I guess it's because of isolationism occured by the mountains when people had to stay in their villages during the long winters with snow and no safe transport.
It must be i suppose the same in the Pyrennes, the Alpes...
nic   Friday, August 13, 2004, 12:40 GMT

It's better i think to speak about french government, american gov, spanish gov... just because they don't represent the people they are supposed to work for but only their own interests.
It's important to make a real difference, i have never said, and no one asked me what i thought on the caatalan subject.
I am not against the right for catalan speakers to speak their own language and of course they don't need to ask for, it's their right.

As 1st victims of french gov, the french are the 1st but it's another subject.
nic   Friday, August 13, 2004, 12:43 GMT

As you said it's the same eveywhere in the world, the english i learnt at school is ""not"" the same which is spoken.
Jordi   Friday, August 13, 2004, 12:51 GMT
I know very well the Occitan dialects and there is no Occitan dialect close to Spanish. Small differences are often exaggerated, specially in France because they wanted to make people believe that each village spoke a different patois. I can assure you that people from Provence and Languedoc can perfectly understand each other in their local variety without great effort and some accommodation. The thing is they've been taught to do it in French.
Anyway maybe it's too late now and since most dialects have vanished the future of Occitan, if any, is through a Standard form with slight dialectal differences like any other language in the world. If I were you I would do everything possible to learn the language from your grand parents before it's too late. Don't let them take that treasure to another world.
Amic Nic, lengadocian sense ho saber. Ama ta lenga i ton terraire perqué, de segur, los teus pepé e memé te podon mostrar tot un mond que es teu e que te podon pas furtar. Aquest tresor es lo ligam pus important ambe lo passat. Cascuna de las cosas que veiats han un nom creat per vosaltres. Lo lengadocian de Nimes és un bel parlar de transicion devers lo provençal. Demanda a lo teu grand o ton paire de te l'ensenhar. Aquò te farai comprendre la bela lenga literaria occitana...