Francoprovençal language

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This article is about the Francoprovençal language. For other uses of the term Provençal, please see Provençal (disambiguation).

Francoprovençal—sometimes called Arpitan—(in its own language: francoprovençâl, arpitan, arpetan) is a Romance language spoken in a territory called Arpitania which comprises central eastern France, western Switzerland and part of northwestern Italy.

Despite its name, “Francoprovençal” is a fully independent language: it is not a mix between French and Provençal, nor a variety of French, nor a variety of Provençal (see below: Name).

The Francoprovençal-speaking area, called Arpitania, is located between that of French (to the North), that of Occitan (to the South) and those of Northern Italian and German (to the East). It includes the boundary cities of Neuchâtel, Roanne, Saint-Étienne, Grenoble, Aosta and Fribourg and it is centered around the major cities of Lyon, Geneva and Lausanne.

This minority language enjoys a legal protection in Italy, especially in the Aosta Valley, but has no official recognition in France nor in Switzerland. Its usage remains quite important in Italy albeit the domination of Italian. It is severely threatened in Switzerland and France in front of the domination of French.

Most Francoprovençal speakers call their language a patois, often seeing it as a regional variety of French, but the consciousness of a Francoprovençal language has made some progress since the end of the 20th century.

Intents of codification are quite recent and a standard written variety has appeared in the 2000s, carried out by linguist Dominique Stich.[1]

Despite its weak language consciousness, Francoprovençal has enjoyed a worthy and varied literature since the 13th century.[2]


The geographic situation between French and Occitan (or Provençal) explains the name Franco-Provençal, initially spelled with a hyphen: it was coined so by linguist Graziado Isaia Ascoli in 1873 when he revealed to the World the very scientific existence of this language.[3] But such a name appears to be misleading because Francoprovençal has original features and can't be described just as a mix of French and Occitan.[4] So several attempts have been made to adopt a better name:

  • Since the 1970s, specialists have agreed that Franco-Provençal has tot be respelled Francoprovençal (without hyphen) to underline the cohesion of this language.
  • The alternative name, Arpitan (from the root Arp- “Alps”), has been promoted by cultural activists since the 1970s but scholars are reluctant to use it.


  1. STICH Dominique (1998) Parlons francoprovençal, Paris: L’Harmattan — STICH Dominique (2001) Francoprovençal: proposition d’une orthographe supra-dialectale standardisée [PhD thesis], Paris: Université Paris V-René Descartes — STICH Dominique (2003) (collab. Xavier GOUVERT, Alain FAVRE) Dictionnaire francoprovençal-français, français-francoprovençal, Thonon-les-Bains: Le Carré.
  2. TUAILLON Gaston (2001) La littérature en francoprovençal avant 1700, Grenoble: Ellug / Université Stendhal
  3. ASCOLI Graziado Isaia (1878) "Schizzi franco-provenzali", Archivio glottologico italiano III: 61-120 [first version in 1873]
  4. TUAILLON Gaston (1972) “Le francoprovençal: progrès d’une définition”, Travaux de linguistique et de littérature vol. X/1: 293-339