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Occitan, Welsh, Sard. (and the French)

It's quite remarkable that the French, so anxious to preserve French Culture and Language from the baleful influence of the 'Anglo-Saxons' (that's us and the cousins) have with the incredible hypocrisy you can only expect from them, persecuted their minorities and their languages for centuries. Conscious of the Celtic Tigers, they treat Breton with a little more respect nowadays, but Occitan the most attractive of the Latin languages, is treated with scant regard.

Occitan, along with Kurdish and Catalan is an important indo-european language, that lacking a nation state, has been in long term decline.

But is this inevitable? Welsh and indeed Catalan, now if not nation state languages, are the languages of regional states. Kurdish now has similar status in Iraq, though it remains repressed in Turkey and Iran. In Italy, Sard, with its easily defined territory of the island of Sardinia has been given increasing recognition by both the Italian State and by its regional government.

But for a language like Occitan which crosses so many regions and is even spoken in other nation states proper recognition remains a distant dream. Ironically, it has greater recognition in Spain where it has official status in the Valle d'Aran and in the Western Valleys of Italy, where it is now both protected and encouraged. Indeed it was the official joint language, with Italian, of the last Turin Winter Olympics.

So, all I ask, the next time you hear a French Minister bleating about the need to protect the French language, don't hesitate to propose that we extend the same protection to French that French Governments have extended and continue to extend to Occitan, Breton, Basque, and all the other minority languages of France.

By Martin

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