Picard language

Picard language
Spoken in  France
Native speakers 700,000[citation needed]  (date missing)
Language family
Official status
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pcd
Linguasphere 51-AAA-he
The geographical spread of Picard and Chtimi among the Oïl languages (other than French) can be seen in shades of green and yellow on this map.

Picard is a language (or a set of languages) closely related to French, and as such is one of the larger group of Romance languages. It is spoken in two regions in the far north of FranceNord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy – and in parts of the Belgian region of Wallonia, the district of Tournai (Wallonie Picarde) and a part of the district of Mons (toward Tournai and the Belgian border).

Picard is known by several different names. Residents of Picardie simply call it picard, whereas it is more commonly known as chti or chtimi in the South part of French Flanders (around Lille and Douai) and in North-East Artois (around Béthune and Lens), or rouchi around Valenciennes; or simply as patois by Northerners in general. Linguists group all of these under the name Picard. In general the variety spoken in Picardy is understood by speakers in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and vice versa.



Belgium's French Community gave full official recognition to Picard as a regional language along with Walloon, Gaumais (Lorraine), Champenois (Champagne) and German Frankish in its 1990 decree. The French government has not followed suit and recognised Picard as a regional language (this is in line with its policy of linguistic unity, which allows for only one official language in France), although some reports have recognized Picard as a language distinct from French.

The following is an extract from a report by Prof. Bernard Cerquiglini, the director of the National Institute of the French Language (l'Institut national de la langue française; a branch of the National Center of Scientific Research, CNRS) for the French Education, Research and Technology Minister and the French Culture and Communications Minister on the languages of France (April 1999):

The gap between French which is itself a dialect of langue d'oïl and the varieties of langues d'oïl, which today we would call "French dialects," has continued to widen; Franc-comtois, Walloon, Picard, Norman, Gallo, Poitevin, Saintongeais, Bourguignon-morvandiau, Lorrain must be accepted among the regional languages of France; by placing them on the list [of French regional languages], they will be known from then on as langues d'oïl.

Despite the fact it has no official status as a language in France, Picard, along with all the other languages spoken in France, benefits from any actions led by the Culture Minister's General Commission on the French Language and the Languages of France (la Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France).

Origins and dialectic variations

Picard, like French, is one of the langues d'oïl and belongs to the Gallo-Roman family of languages. It consists of all the varieties used for writing (Latin: scriptae) in the north of France from before the year 1000 (in the south of France at that time the Occitan language was used). Often the langues d'oïl are referred to simply as Old French.

Picard is phonetically quite different from the central langues d'oïl, which evolved into the modern French language. Among the most notable traits, the evolution in Picard towards palatalization is less marked than in the central langues d'oïl, in which languages it is particularly striking; /k/ or /ɡ/ before /j/, tonic /i/ and /e/, as well as in front of tonic /a/ and /ɔ/ (the open /o/ of the French porte) in central Old French, but not in Picard:

  • Picard keval ~ Old French cheval (horse; pronounced [eval] rather than the modern [ʃəval]), from *kábal (vulgar Latin cáballus): retaining the original /k/ in Picard before tonic /a/ and /ɔ/.
  • Picard gambe ~ Old French jambe (leg; pronounced [ambe] rather than the modern [ʒɑ̃b][ʒ] is the ge sound in beige), from *gámbe (vulgar Latin gámba): absence of palatalization of /ɡ/ in Picard before tonic /a/ and /ɔ/.
  • Picard kief ~ Old French chef (leader), from *káf (Latin cáput): less palatalization of /k/ in Picard
  • Picard cherf ~ Old French cerf (stag; pronounced [ʃerf] and [tserf] respectively), from *kárf (Latin cērvus): simple palatalization in Picard, palatalization then fronting in Old French[citation needed]

The effects of palatalization can be summarised as:

  • /k/ and (tonic) /y/, /i/ or /e/: Picard /tʃ/ (written ch) ~ Old French /ts/ (written c)
  • /k/ and /ɡ/ + tonic /a/ or /ɔ/: Picard /k/ and /ɡ/ ~ Old French /tʃ/ and /dʒ/.

This leads to striking differences, such as Picard cachier ('to hunt') ~ Old French chacier, which later took the modern French form of chasser.

Because of how near Paris is to the northernmost regions of France, French (that is, the languages that were spoken in and around Paris) greatly influenced Picard, and vice versa. The closeness between Picard and French is the reason why Picard is not always recognised as a language in its own right, as opposed to a "distortion of French" as it is often viewed.

The Picard language includes a variety of extremely closely related dialects. It is difficult to list them all accurately in the absence of specific studies on the dialectical variations, but we can probably provisionally distinguish between the following principal varieties[citation needed]: Amiénois, Vimeu-Ponthieu, Vermandois, Thiérache, Beauvaisis, "chtimi" (Bassin Minier, Lille), dialects in other regions near Lille (Roubaix, Tourcoing, Mouscron, Comines), "rouchi" (Valenciennois) and Tournaisis, Borain, Artésien rural, Boulonnais. These varieties are defined by specific phonetic, morphological or lexical traits, and sometimes by a distinctive literary tradition.

Some words and phrases

Many patois words are very similar to French, but a large number of words are totally specific to Picard, principally terms relating to mining.

Here are several typical northern phrases in Picard, accompanied by French and English translations:

Mi, à quatre heures, j'archine eune bonne tartine.
Moi, à quatre heures, je mange une bonne tartine.
"At four o'clock, I eat a good snack."

Quind un Ch'ti mi i'est'à l'agonie, savez vous bin che qui li rind la vie ? I bot un d'mi. (Les Capenoules (a music group))
Quand un Nordiste est à l'agonie, savez-vous bien ce qui lui rend la vie ? Il boit un demi.
"When a northerner is dying, do you know what revives him? He drinks a pint."

sucre, bonbon
"sugar, a sweet"

Pindant l'briquet un galibot composot, assis sur un bos,
L'air d'eune musique qu'i sifflotot
Ch'étot tellemint bin fabriqué, qu'les mineurs lâchant leurs briquets
Comminssotent à's'mette à'l'danser (Edmond Tanière - La polka du mineur)
Pendant le casse-croûte un jeune mineur composa, assis sur un bout de bois
L'air d'une musique qu'il sifflota
C'était tellement bien fait que les mineurs lâchant leurs casse-croûte
Commencèrent à danser.
"During lunch a young miner composed, seated on a piece of wood
"The melody of a tune that he whistled
"It was so well done that the miners, leaving their sandwiches,
"Started to dance to it" (Edmond Tanière - La polka du mineur, "The Miner's Polka")


I'n'faut pas qu'ches glaines is cantent pus fort que'ch'co.
Il ne faut pas que les poules chantent plus fort que le coq.
"Hens must not sing louder than the rooster" (n.b. this saying really refers to men and women rather than poultry)

Moqueu d'gins
railleur, persifleur (lit. moqueur des gens)
"someone who mocks or jeers at people" (compare gens, which is French for "people")

Ramaseu d'sous
personne âpre au gain (lit. ramasseur de sous)
"a greedy person"


Picard language signage in Cayeux-sur-Mer

Picard is not taught in French schools (apart from a few one-off and isolated courses) and is generally only spoken among friends or family members. It has nevertheless been the object of university research in Lille and Amiens. Since people are nowadays able to move around France more easily than in past centuries, the different varieties of Picard are converging and becoming more similar. In its daily use, Picard is tending to lose its distinctive features and may be confused with regional French. At the same time, even though most Northerners can understand Picard today, fewer and fewer are able to speak it, and people who speak Picard as their first language are increasingly rare, particularly under age 50.[1]

The 2008 film Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, starring comedian Dany Boon, deals with Ch'ti language and culture and the perceptions of the region by outsiders.

Written Picard

Today Picard is primarily a spoken language. This was not the case originally; indeed, from the medieval period there is a wealth of literary texts in Picard. However, Picard was not able to compete with the inter-regional literary language, which French became, and was slowly reduced to the status of a "regional language."

A more recent body of Picard literature, written during the last two centuries, also exists. Modern written Picard is generally a transcription of the spoken language. For that reason, words are often spelled in a variety of different ways (in the same way that English and French were before they were standardised). One system of spelling for Picard words is very similar to that of French. This is undoubtedly the easiest for French speakers to understand, but can also contribute the stereotype that Picard is only a corruption of French rather than a language in its own right. Various spelling methods have been proposed since the 1960s to offset this disadvantage, and to give Picard a visual identity that is distinct from French. At the present time, there is a consensus, at least between universities, in favor of the written form known as Feller-Carton (based on the Walloon spelling system – which was developed by Jules Feller – and adapted for Picard by Prof. Fernand Carton).

Learning Picard

Picard, although it is primarily a spoken language, does also have a body of written literature: poetry, songs ("P'tit quinquin" for example), comic books etc.

A certain number of dictionaries and patois guides also exist (for French speakers):

  • René Debrie, Le cours de picard pour tous - Eche pikar, bèl é rade (le Picard vite et bien). Parlers de l'Amiénois. Paris, Omnivox, 1983 (+ 2 cassettes), 208p.
  • Alain Dawson, Le picard de poche. Paris : Assimil, 2003, 192p.
  • Alain Dawson, Le "chtimi" de poche, parler du Nord et du Pas-de-Calais. Paris : Assimil, 2002, 194p.
  • Armel Depoilly (A.D. d'Dérgny), Contes éd no forni, et pi Ramintuvries (avec lexique picard-français). Abbeville : Ch'Lanchron, 1998, 150p.
  • Jacques Dulphy, Ches diseux d'achteure : diries 1989. Amiens : Picardies d'Achteure, 1992, 71p. + cassette
  • Gaston Vasseur, Dictionnaire des parlers picards du Vimeu (Somme), avec index français-picard (par l'équipe de Ch'Lanchron d'Abbeville). Fontenay-sous-Bois : SIDES, 1998 (rééd. augmentée), 816p. (11.800 termes)
  • Gaston Vasseur, Grammaire des parlers picards du Vimeu (Somme) - morphologie, syntaxe, anthropologie et toponymie. 1996, 144p.

See also


  1. ^ http://www.indiana.edu/~rcapub/v23n1/p16.html

Linguistic studies of Picard

  • Auger, Julie. 2010. Picard et français; La grammaire de la différence. Mario Barra-Jover (ed.), Langue française 168,4:19-34.
  • Auger, Julie. 2008. (with Anne-José Villeneuve) Ne deletion in Picard and in regional French: Evidence for distinct grammars. Miriam Meyerhoff & Naomi Nagy (eds.), Social Lives in Language – Sociolinguistics and multilingual speech communities. Amsterdam: Benjamins. pp. 223–247.
  • Auger, Julie. 2005. (with Brian José). “Geminates and Picard pronominal clitic allomorphy”. Catalan Journal of Linguistics 4:127-154.
  • Auger, Julie. 2004 (with Brian José). “(Final) nasalization as an alternative to (final) devoicing: The case of Vimeu Picard”. In Brian José and Kenneth de Jong (eds.). Indiana University Linguistics Club Working Papers Online 4. http://www.indiana.edu/~iulcwp/ .
  • Auger, Julie. 2003 “Le redoublement des sujets en picard”. Journal of French Language Studies 13,3:381-404.
  • Auger, Julie. 2003. “Les pronoms clitiques sujets en picard: une analyse au confluent de la phonologie, de la morphologie et de la syntaxe”. Journal of French Language Studies 13,1:1-22.
  • Auger, Julie. 2003. “The development of a literary standard: The case of Picard in Vimeu-Ponthieu, France”. In When Languages Collide: Perspectives on Language Conflict, Language Competition, and Language Coexistence, B.D. Joseph et al., editors. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. pp. 141–164.5
  • Auger, Julie. 2003. “Pronominal clitics in Picard revisited”. In Rafael Núñez-Cedeño, Luís López, & Richard Cameron (eds.), Language Knowledge and Language Use: Selected Papers from LSRL 31. Amsterdam: Benjamins. pp. 3–20.
  • Auger, Julie. 2003. “Picard parlé, picard écrit: comment s’influencent-ils l’un l’autre?”. In Jacques Landrecies & André Petit (eds.), Le picard d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, special issue of Bien dire et bien Aprandre, 21, Centre d'Études médiévales et Dialectales, Lille 3, pp. 17–32.
  • Auger, Julie. 2002. (with Jeffrey Steele) “A constraint-based analysis of intraspeaker variation: Vocalic epenthesis in Vimeu Picard”. In Current Issues in Linguistic Theory: Selected Papers from the XXIXth Linguistic Symposium on the Romance Languages (LSRL), Ann Arbor 8–11 April 1999, ed. by T. Satterfield, C. Tortora, & D, Cresti. Amsterdam: Benjamins. pp. 306–324.
  • Auger, Julie. 2002. “Picard parlé, picard écrit: dans quelle mesure l’écrit représente-t-il l’oral?”. In Claus Pusch & Wolfgang Raible (eds.), Romanistische Korpuslinguistik. Korpora und gesprochene Sprache / Romance Corpus Linguistics. Corpora and Spoken Language. Tübingen: Gunter Narr. pp. 267–280. (ScriptOralia Series)
  • Auger, Julie. 2001 “Phonological variation and Optimality Theory: Evidence from word-initial vowel epenthesis in Picard”. Language Variation and Change 13,3:253-303.
  • Auger, Julie. 2000 “Phonology, variation, and prosodic structure: Word-final epenthesis in Vimeu Picard”. In J. M. Fontana et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the First International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE). Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra. pp. 14–24.

External links


Centre de Ressources pour la Description de l'Oral (CRDO) ( http://www.language-archives.org/language/pcd )

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