Monday, 15 October 2012

Occitan language in Périgord - Dordogne.

Occitan language in Dordogne and symbol
A recent article in the « Sud Ouest » local newspaper mentioned the use of the Occitan language in our region and in connection with places names and their etymological origin. If you pay close attention whilst travelling around Dordogne, you will notice both French and Occitan being used on certain town/city signs.

A few examples are:

• Périgord = Perigòrd

• Périgueux = Perigüers

• Saint-Astier = Sench Astier

• Sarlat-la-Canéda = Sarlat e la Canedat

• River Dordogne = Dordonha

• Le Bugue = Al Buga

• Bergerac = Brageirac

• Brantôme = Brantòsme

… and many others along the way. Hundreds of villages and thousands of hamlets in Périgord have an Occitan name that is not officially acknowledged today. The Occitan language had a predominant place starting in the XII century, so much in fact it even became an administrative and legal language in the Middle Ages in the South of France. However, it slowly regressed as French, Spanish and Italian took over.

Etymologically, Occitan finds its roots from Prehistorical times when places names came from natural landmarks and/or geographical structure. This explains such names as puei for hill, valada for valley, cròs for cave, font for fountain or prada for meadow and bòsc for woods, both Occitan and French being roman languages and being similar. The suffix –ens is also a vestige of the occitan language, and it can be found in such names as Mausens, Festalens and Vansens for example (Mauzens-et-Miremont in the sector of Le Bugue, Festalemps or Vanxains in the Ribérac region). The occitan meaning of kal is stone or rock, sal heights, dur water and vis river: all this becomes evident with names such as Calés/Chaleix; Sarlat and Sarlande, as well as certain rivers names in our region: Dordonha (the Dordogne river) or Drona (the Dronne river); vis can be found in Vesera (the Vézère river) and in Auvesera (the Auvézère river).

The Occitan language is offered to students in certain schools in Dordogne, either as a compulsory or an optional course, along with other more commonly used languages … demonstrating its will to survive.

No comments: