Occitan Identity: Evolving National and Individual Attitudes towards the Occitan Language and Culture

Ariana Moseley

Abstract


In the 12th century, most of southern France, as well as parts of Spain and Italy, belonged to Occitania, a region that had a common culture and language. As a result of centuries of political conflicts, that territory has long since been parceled and relabeled. The official status of Occitan, a Romance language, has vacillated wildly since then. This paper discusses the results of a study conducted over three months in the Languedoc region of France, assessing the vitality of the Occitan language and exploring the social attitudes towards the culture as a direct consequence of the tensions between France and Occitania. The paper presents interviews from people from the region, observations of festivals and other cultural events, and remarks on the visible elements of the culture. The study includes the perspectives of people working to promote and support the culture as well as those who were simply inhabitants of the region. While practical use of the language is in rapid decline, and those who do speak or study it are viewed as “has-beens”, interest and sentiments of support have remained stable in the general population. Citizens of Languedoc feel that Occitania is a culture that is part of the region instead of something completely separate, and wish to support it as such for themselves as well as for future generations. This is largely due to the French government’s refusal to officially recognize Occitan and actively encouraging discrimination against those who spoke it, making them second-class citizens and thereby removing all motives to use the language in everyday life. This paper also includes a brief comparison of Languedoc to Catalonia, where Catalan has had official status and autonomy for decades and is still widely supported, both officially and socially. This study chronicles a quintessential case of the effects of globalization on language, language revitalization, and culture, a domain of study that is rapidly becoming more vital.

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