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French regional accents mapped

A segment on the France24 news discusses 'glottophobie', which is the common prejudice against non-Parisian accents throughout the country, and during the segment they mention a great online resource that shows the various accents on the map -- it's here:

https://atlas.limsi.fr

They also mention that the Toulouse accent is considered the sexiest in the country, but it's unclear to me whether that's a Languedoc or a Gascogne accent.

(Glottophobia was in the news in the autumn of 2018 when a member of Parliament ridiculed a journalist on camera by pretending that her southern accent was too hard to understand. "Can someone ask a question in French?" he sneered, in French. )

Posted by
1653 posts

Hi,
Interesting resource, but the link is actually about local languages / dialects, which greatly influenced local accents but are a different thing altogether. Heavy centralization and decades of active suppression of local identities mean that most of these languages and dialects are seriously endangered - especially the central-northern ones. To the best of my knowledge, only the most peripheral ones (Breton, Basque, Catalan, Corsican, Alsatian, Flemish) remain in significant daily use or benefit from solid "revival" initiatives...

Posted by
1106 posts

Yes, balso, the segment on France24 emphasized that because France is so centralized the Parisian accent is taken more seriously and people tend to adopt it if they want to have more gravitas.
Sounds like some other countries, doesn't it?

This also has me thinking back to the Jean-Paul Rappeneau film version of Cyrano de Bergerac -- I wonder if Gerard Depardieu is doing a Gascoyne accent and the other figures that he pokes fun at and deflates, like Montfleury, are also adopting not just tones of voice but peculiarities of regional dialect/pronunciation that those of us outside of France wouldn't pick up on.

Posted by
30893 posts

I wasn't able to get that page to display, using two different browers. It was just a blank white square with a border.

Posted by
2213 posts

Hey Ken-give it another try, for me the page took 10-15 seconds, then populated all at once.

(Firefox browser)

Posted by
67 posts

Hmm. Take this map with un grain de sel.

I've lived in the area mapped as Sivignon in Bourgogne for over six years, and despite having interacted with possibly thousands of people from essentially all walks of life over that time, I have never heard anyone speaking with the accent supposedly assigned to that area. No vintner. No farmer. No shop owner. No fellow mowing the fields or trimming the vegetation along rural roads. No doctor. No librarian. No gas station attendant. No auto repair guy. No dentist. No bike shop employee. No banker. No employee of the préfecture or of the mairie. No city dweller or rural resident, working her expansive garden.

Nobody.

I have a feeling those who assembled that map sought out speakers of obscure local dialects, no matter how rare or disused they may be, and recorded them for this map.

Keep in mind that French people can be pretty ignorant of their own country's various backwaters if they haven't had the need to travel there. Possibly, this was put together to pique the interest of French citizens with respect to the unknown diversity of unusual tongues in their own country rather than to represent some kind of catalogue of common French dialects.

Posted by
6691 posts

This may explain a little. This map of the regional languages has been around in one form or another for decades. First, it's languages, not dialects of French, and not régional accents. So if you are listening for French, this isn’t it.

Interestingly, these regional languages were heavily suppressed for decades but are now studied by both scholars and regionalists, along with movements to save the languages and traditions. By the time I named my first child in the late 1970s, the suppression was lifted and the Brittany version of my child’s name was accepted. It hadn’t been previously.

Second, when I first lived in France in the early 1970s, and visited farmers in Burgundy, not far from Beaune to be precise, I couldn't understand any of them. Those R /r/ rolled like a Cuban cigars right on the front of the tongue, among other things. OTOH, I could understand my hosts, though they were born and raised in the same area, because they had lost their accents as butchers in Paris--rue Cler post war until 1970.

Third, the accents have changed tremendously in the past fifty years. We watched a film by Agnes Varda on Kanopy the other night, “Daguerreotype”, filmed in the early 1970s on the rue Daguerre in Paris, in which she interviews shopkeepers who came to Paris post war. All came from the same area, Brittany to Laval, but the differences in accents between the older people and the younger was remarkable.

Until we saw this film, we had forgotten about those old countryside accents because we just don't hear them anymore, except the occasional bachelor shepherd or very rural farmer. And my in-laws, originally from very rural areas of France, had lost their regional accents by the time I joined the family in the 1970s.

So the map is languages, not accents. Accents have moved toward standardization. And, some people are trying to keep the regional languages and traditions alive.

Posted by
1106 posts

One reason why this struck a chord with me was that I remember hearing a story about conscription during WWI where every town in France that was sending men off to fight was also required to send a translator with them - because there were still so many people who didn't speak standard French.

Posted by
6691 posts

I’ve never heard that one, but you are right about the polyglot army. The regional languages were spoken in the home but forbidden in school. Children were shamed for speaking them, just like with the US Native Americans. When registering a birth, only French names were accepted, not a regional name. Even in 1979, we received a book from the government listing acceptable names. No hippie names in that book, but by 1979, regional names and Arabic names were included.

Posted by
11683 posts

I don't have the best ear for French so the only accent I really picked up was Provence. Now I wish I'd paid more attention when I was in Toulouse.