Retention of Regional French Vocabulary: The Example of Southeastern French
With the development of mass media and compulsory state education, standard
French has extended its scope, at the detriment of regional languages and dialects. In this study, I investigate the extent to which regional vocabulary is retained in Brianc;on, a town in the southeast of France. To discuss the loss and retention of regional vocabulary, it is important to briefly situate this town. Briançon is the second largest town in the administrative unit of Hautes-Alpes with 10,737 inhabitants according to the 1999 !nstitut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques census. Brian<;on boasts of being the highest town in Europe at 1326 meters above sea level. Needless to say, the landscape is mountainous and the few roads leading in and out of this town are high in elevation, winding, and often challenging in the winter. This explains why this region has remained quite isolated for a long time. I refer the reader to Routier (1997) for additional detail on the history of the town. Let us simply say that the area around Brianc;on remained independent from larger political powers (both France and Italy) for many centuries, until the French Revolution. The idea of being away from everything and everywhere is deeply entrenched in the minds of the inhabitants. In fact, one of the buzzwords of the last 10-15 years has been desenclavement (roughly translated as 'de-isolation').
After providing a short explanation of regional languages in France and of regional French, I will explain the methodology. This will be followed by the analysis of the retention or loss of regional vocabulary according to linguistic criteria.