Grand illusions; elusive facts: The survival of regional languages in France despite ‘their programmed demise’
This dissertation studies the survival, or resistance, of regional languages in France through the use of two case studies: Picard in Picardy and Provençal in Provence. In order to create the French nation, the revolutionaries of 1789 decided upon the necessity of political unity. In order to facilitate, or to create, this unity, the cultural provinces were abolished and generic "départements" were created in their stead. However, when political unity did not occur immediately after the territorial change, the revolutionaries determined that national unity, both political and cultural, would be attained through the imposition of the French language. It was thus language that was deemed to be the greatest separating factor of the French at this period. In 1794, Abbé Grégoire called for the “programmed demise” of the regional languages through education in and of French. While this program was not officially enacted until the Third Republic (1870-1914), due to numerous factors, these languages were supposed to have died long ago. While their numbers of speakers have decreased, and there are no longer any monolingual regional language speakers, they still exist. How is this fact possible? Despite explanations attributed to enduring diglossia, the extended process of language shift or time itself, this study focuses on regional identity and posits that the durable bond between regional identity and language is the explanation.