Benedicte Pivot

Managing minority language diversity in a French region: francoprovençal in Rhône-Alpes


Wednesday 6 November, 11.30-12.00, E0103

In 2009, the Regional Council of Rhône-Alpes passed a resolution entitled "Recognizing, valuing, and promoting Occitan and Francoprovençal, regional languages of Rhône-Alpes." Since then, various programs and actions are carried out by the Institution, which are aimed at highlighting the existence of two regional languages of the region (Costa & Bert, 2011), but it is clear that this mainly dealing with languages as "objects" and finally very little with speakers.  Francoprovençal, the language upon which this presentation will be based, is spoken by about 50,000 in France, Switzerland and Italy. Outside Italy, it has very few speakers under the age of 50.

Using a case study based on my doctoral research in progress in the Francoprovençal region of central France, I suggest to examine how Francoprovenal, a language "invented" by linguists in the 19th century, is at the heart of a dual approach to recognition, or even to political advancement. Drawing on discourse analysis and participant observation work, I will endeavor to explain how there is a mismatch between the demands and expectations of the institution on the one hand and regional language advocacy associations on the other hand, and what are the challenges implied. It is difficult for such organizations to meet the quality criteria that the region requires, so as to appear more attractive than (just) a group of elderly people focused on the (re) production of (some) local folklore than on transmission of language to new speakers through creativity and art. How then can associations present language diversity as something else than local heritage? And for whose benefit? For speakers (who would integrate this into a dynamics of resilience) or for the institutions (who could stand out in the exercising of their real or imagined power), placing themselves as champions of human linguistic minorities and linguistic diversity?