Gascon is an Occitano-Romance language spoken mainly in regions of Gascony and Béarn in the southwest of France, and also in the Aran Valley (Val d'Aran) in Catalonia in the northeast of Spain. It is considered a dialect or variety of Occitan by some linguists, and as a separate language by others.
There is a Basque substrate in Gascon, and the name Gascon comes from the Latin root vasco(nem), which is also the root of the word Basque. It is thought that the region of Gascony was originally Basque speaking, and that after the Romans conquered the area, the locals started speaking a mixture of Basque and Latin, which eventually became Gascon. There is also some influence of Gascon in Basque.
According to a poll conducted in Béarn 1982, 51% of the population could speak Gascon, and 70% could understand it. Since then, the number of speakers has declined significantly. Gascon has no official status, and is considered a 'patois' in France.
In Béarn the varieties of Gascon are collectively referred to as Béarnais, and are used to some extent on bilingual signs. There is an organisation, based in Pau, called L'Institut béarnais et gascon or Enstitut biarnes e gascoun which promotes Gason and Béarnais language and culture. They published a French-Béarnais dictionary in 2002, and have produced other material in and about the language [More details - in French].
Gascon first appeared in writing, mixed with Latin, in charters dating from the 12th century. The first piece of writing entirely in Gascon dates from 1189. The language continued to be used in writing until the early 17th century, after which it was used in Béarn, but not elsewhere. Poetry was written in Gascon, as well as a few works of prose and other literature, mainly between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Totas las personas que naishen liuras e egaus en dignitat e en dreit. Que son dotadas de rason e de consciéncia e que'us cau agir enter eras dab un esperit de hrairessa.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about Gascon
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Page last modified: 26.09.21
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