- Breton language
speakers=200,000 - 300,000 The most recent census (2001) shows about 270,000 speakers, with a yearly decline of about 10,000 speakers. The site [http://ouiaubreton.com/?article245 oui au breton] estimates a number of about 200,000 current speakers.]
iso1=br|iso2=bre|iso3=breThe Breton language ("Brezhoneg"), formerly often called Armoric or Armorican, is a Celtic language spoken by some of the inhabitants of
Brittany("Breizh/Bretagne") in France.
Breton is descended from the Brythonic branch of
Insular Celtic languagesbrought by Romano-Britishsettlers to Brittany, perhaps from the end of the 3rd century onwards. The modern-day language most closely related to Breton is Cornish, followed by Welsh (the other regional languageof Brittany, Gallo, is a Langue d'oïlderived from Latin).
Breton is spoken in Lower Brittany, roughly to the west of a line linking Plouha and La Roche Bernard (east of
Vannes). It comes from a Celtic language community ("see image") between Great Britainand Armorica(present-day Brittany), and even Galicia. It was the language of the elite until the 12th century. However, afterwards it was only the language of the people of West Brittany ("Breizh Izel"), and the nobility, then successively the bourgeoisie adopted French. As a written language, the Duchy of Brittanyused Latin, switching to French in the 15th century. There exists a limited tradition of Breton literature. Old Breton has left some vocabulary which has served in the present day to produce philosophical and scientific terms in Modern Breton.
The French Monarchy did not concern itself with the minority
languages of France. The revolutionary period saw the introduction of policies favouring French over the regional languages, pejoratively referred to as " patois". It was assumed by the revolutionaries that reactionaryand monarchist forces preferred regional languages in an attempt to keep the peasant masses under-informed.Fact|date=July 2008 Under the Third, Fourth and Fifth republics, humiliating practices geared towards stamping out Breton language and culture [ [http://www.breizh.net/icdbl/saozg/endangered.htm#Image%20No.%202:%20Breton%20is%20a%20hindrance%20to%20good%20citizenship ICBL information about Breton] ] prevailed in state schools until the late 1960s.
Today, despite the political centralization of France and the important influence of the media, Breton is still spoken as an everyday language by about 200,000 people. This is, however, down from 1.3 million in 1930. At the beginning of the 20th century, half the population of Lower Brittany knew only Breton, the other half being bilingual. By 1950, there were only 100,000
monolingualBretons, with even fewer nowadays. [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=bre Ethnologue report] ] A statistical survey [Fañch Broudic, "Qui parle breton aujourd'hui? Qui le parlera demain?" Brest: Brud Nevez, 1999] performed in 1997 found around 300,000 speakers in Breizh izel, of which about 190,000 were aged 60 or over. Few of those of the 15-19 year-old age-group spoke Breton. Breton is now considered to be an endangered language.
In 1925, thanks to Professor
Roparz Hemon, the first issue appeared of the review " Gwalarn". During its 19-year run, "Gwalarn" tried to raise the language to the level of other great "international" languages by creating original works covering all genres and by proposing Breton translations of internationally-recognized foreign works.
In 1946, "Al Liamm" replaced "Gwalarn". Other periodicals appeared and began to give Breton a fairly large body of literature for a minority languageFact|date=June 2007.
Asterixcomic series has been translated into Breton. This is notable because, according to the comic, the Gaulish village where Asterix lives is in the Armoric peninsula, which is now Brittany. Some other comics have also been translated into Breton, including Tintin, Spirou, Titeuf, Hägar the Horrible, Peanutsand Yakari.
Some movies ("
Lancelot", " Shakespeare in Love", " Marion du Faouet", " Sezneg") and TV series (" Columbo", "Perry Mason") are also broadcast in Breton.
Some poets, linguists, and writers who have written in Breton, for example
Yann-Ber Kalloc'h, Roparz Hemon, Anjela Duval, Pêr-Jakez Heliasand Youenn Gwernig, are now known internationally.
Today, Breton is the only living Celtic language which is not recognized as an official language. The French State refuses to change the second article of the Constitution (added in 1994), which states that "the language of the Republic is French".
The first Breton dictionary, the "Catholicon", was also the first French dictionary. Edited by Jehan Lagadec in 1464, it was a trilingual work containing Breton, French and Latin. Today the existence of bilingual dictionaries directly from Breton into languages such as English, Dutch, German, Spanish and Welsh demonstrates the determination of a new generation to gain international recognition for Breton. There also exists a monolingual dictionary,
Geriadur Brezhoneg an Here, defining Breton words in Breton (first edition of 1995 contains about 10 000 words and the second 2001 edition contains 20 000 words).
Geographic distribution and dialects
Breton is spoken mainly in Western Brittany, but also in a more dispersed way in Eastern Brittany (where Gallo is spoken alongside Breton and French), and in areas around the world which have received Breton emigrants.
The dialects of Breton as identified by
ethnologistsare Leoneg, Tregerieg, Gwenedeg, and Kerneveg (in French, respectively: "léonard", "trégorrois", "vannetais", and "cornouaillais"). There are no clear borders between those dialect areas because the language varies slightly from one village to the next. Compared to the other dialects, the Gwenedeg dialect is somewhat more distinct due to several pronunciation specificities.
Breton is not an official language of France, despite pleas from autonomists and others for official recognition and for the language to be guaranteed a place in schools, the media, and other aspects of public life.
But, in July 2008, the French Constitution has been added an article 75-1, stating "les langues régionales appartiennent au patrimoine de la France" (the regional languages belong to the heritage of France). This is an important step in the recognition of Breton and other minority languages of France, however, it doesn't explicitly give more actual recognition or power to these languages.
Nevertheless, the regional and departmental authorities do use Breton to a very limited extent, for example in signage. Some bilingual signage may also be seen, such as
street namesigns in Breton towns, and one station of the Rennes metro system has signs in both French and Breton.
An attempt by the French government to incorporate the independent Breton-language immersion schools (called "Diwan") into the state education system was blocked by the French Constitutional Council on the grounds that, as the
1992amendment to the Constitution of the 5th Republic states that French is the language of the Republic, no other language may be used as a language of instruction in state schools. The Toubon Lawstates that French is the language of public education, which means that Breton-language schools do not receive funding from the state, though the BretagneRegion funds bilingual schools.
The Diwan schools were founded in 1977 to teach Breton by immersion. They taught a few thousand young people from elementary school to high school. They gained more and more fame due to their high level of results in school exams. [fr icon [http://www.diwanbreizh.org/sections.php4?op=viewarticle&artid=6 Diwan FAQ, #6] ]
Another teaching method is a bilingual approach by " [http://div-yezh.org/ Div Yezh] " ("Two Languages") in the State schools, created in 1979, and " [http://www.dihun.com/ Dihun] " ("Awakening") in the Catholic schools, created in 1990.
As in other modern
Celtic languages, Breton pronouns are fused into preceding prepositions to produce a sort of "conjugated" preposition. Below are some examples in Breton, Welsh, and Irish. In Literary Welsh this prepositional form is often at the end of the sentence as in other Celtic languages.
Visitors to Brittany may encounter words and phrases (especially on signs and posters) such as the following:
List of Celtic language media
Julian Maunoir, 17th. century Breton language orthographer
* [http://www.ofis-bzh.org/index.php The official website] of
Ofis ar Brezhoneg
* [http://www.preder.net/klask.php?yez=english Preder]
* [http://www.kervarker.org/index.php?newlang=english/ Breton site including online lessons]
* [http://skol.keravon.com/ Breton site with learners' forum and lessons (mostly in French with some English)]
Other external links
* [http://www.breizh.net/icdbl/saozg/endangered.htm An interesting essay about the situation of the Breton language]
* [http://www.breizh.net/saozneg/mahtmls.php 100 Words relating to the internet in Breton]
* [http://www.agencebretagnepresse.com/index.php?langue=bzh/ Amsez Wask Breizh News in breton language from agence bretagne presse]
* [http://www.cuab.org/ Bretagne Réunie]
* [http://blog.breizh.bz/ BLOG BREIZH - Blog of information about Brittany with some interesting articles about Breton language]
* [http://www.summerlands.com/crossroads/celticlanguage/labara6.html A Taste of Breton Verse]
* [http://www.miejipang-jpn2.net//untitled3.html Irish and Breton language with Japanese translation] incl.pronunciation sound files
* http://www.logosdictionary.com/pls/dictionary/new_dictionary.index_p A multilingual dictionary containing many Breton words alongside those of other languages
* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/breton.htm Entry at Omniglot]
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