Occitan: where to go to? The present and the future of the language

Thursday, 12 November 2020 , Olot

Occitan: where to go to? The present and the future of the language

Occitan: where to go to? The present and the future of the language

As part of the activities of the Faberllull residence on linguistic rights, the Chambra d'Òc wanted to bring together experts in sociolinguistics, language policy and language promotion to see where the language is now and what direction to move towards.

Two virtual meetings were held through Zoom, which we will now summarise in one text. The first meeting enabled to grasp the legal situation of Occitan and its teaching in Spain, France and Italy, and the second focused on projects, public and private initiatives to preserve the language in Catalonia and Piedmont.

As the experts revealed, the situation is very different in the three states: in Catalonia, where Occitan is official, the legal development in favor of the language in recent decades has made possible that in schools 40% of the subjects are taught in Aranese and that in practice there is formal knowledge of the language in Val d’Aran. The experts highlighted the existence of cultural and media initiatives, but detected a lack of visibility of Aranese in Catalan society. Legal advances are not enough for the survival of the language -they emphasized- and suggested three guidelines to follow: coordination, visibility of Occitan and media production.

In Italy, Law 482/99 allows the financing of projects, but does not guarantee the presence of Occitan in school, in the administration nor they favor socialization in the Occitan language. The practice of language promotion is in practice carried out by associations. The meeting was an opportunity to celebrate the fruitful links created in the past between Catalonia and the Piedmont Valley through the CIEMEN and the CAOC; also to explain the work carried out to codify the alpine dialect of Occitan of the Piedmont valleys, and to illustrate past and current language promotion campaigns by Chambra d'Òc.

In France, where most of the Occitan territory is located, the strong centralisation of education in Paris and the low sensitivity to regional languages ​​results in Occitan being treated at the same level as foreign languages. Despite the low percentages of use of the language, the meeting allowed us to get up-to-date sociolinguistic data that point to some positive trends and projects that are committed to a greater presence and prestige of Occitan in the French territory.

The experts were clear about what direction Occitan should move towards: it has to be present in digital technologies, which are the key to its prestige, or it will cease to be present in the world. On a global level, Ines Cavalcanti said, “we need to change the discourse to make our languages ​​attractive and become friendly to everyone”. And Jusèp Loís Sans added: "you testify that the fight is alive, and as long as the fight lasts, the language will survive."

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