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Occitania and the occitan language

The Occitan language: is thus a neo-Latin language whose geographic diffusion is central with respect to all the languages derived from Latin. Occitan, compared to modern French, is more similar to Italian. The population of south France, named at the Roman time Gallia Narbonensis, was one of the first romanized population, already at the republican time, in the 2nd century before Christ. Within the Latin-derived languages, known as Romance languages, Occitan belongs to the sub-group of the Gallo-Roman languages, including, besides French, Franco-Provençal and Catalan, several dialects of North of Italy (Piedmontese, Ligurian, Lombard, Emilian-Romagnol), Friulian and Ladin.Occitania is home to some 15.6 million inhabitants and Occitan is spoken as first language by as many as two million people and up to 7 million people understand the language. There are six regional variants of the language: gascon (gascon), languedoc (lengadocian), provençal (provençau), limousin (lemosin), auvernhat (auvernhat) and vivaroalpenc (vivaroaupenc). The latter includes the languages spoken in the Piedmonts alpine valleys, the so called  «lenga nostra» or «parlar a modo nostro». Why Occitan is considered a language and not simply a dialect? That occurs owing to the centuries-old literary tradition written in Lenga d’òc.


Occitania: is an historical region in the middle of the European continent spread over three countries. It has never been a political entity, however the population share a common language, Occitan, and culture. It stretches from the Italian alpine valleys, through southern France, up to the Aran valley in Spain. In Italy, Occitan is spoken in several western alpine valleys (Valadas occitanas). Small Occitan communities are  found in the Ligurian Alps, in province of Imperia: Olivetta S. Michele (Auriveta) in the Roja valley, Realdo (Reaud) and Verdeggia (Verdeja), hamlets of the village of Triora, in the upper Tanaro valley. A very small Occitan-speaking community with Piedmontese origins, Guardia Piemontese, exists in Calabria, in the province of Cosenza. At first sight, this territory may appear very heterogeneous with regard to its natural environment, costumes, traditions, nationality. Yet, many common elements may be found. First of all, the language, comprehensible by all Occitan-speaking people, from the Alps to the Pyrenees. Then, Occitan music, that, thanks to its universal language, crosses political and physical borders, with a repertoire dating back to the medieval tradition of troubadours. Together with music comes Occitan dance, representing a vast and lively heritage performed successfully also outside the Occitan territory.

Occitania is associated with the symbol of the Toulouse cross, appearing on the flags waving outside the  Occitan town halls or on t-shirts, pendants and other gadgets. That cross is also found carved on ancient monuments in a geographic area larger than the mere linguistic Occitan area.
Within this vast territory, the Occitan valleys of Piedmont have been accessible with great difficulty for much of human history and have for this reason preserved the language, the traditions and, in the Waldensian valleys, the existence of one of the most enlightened medieval religious movements. The valleys have suffered a strong population decline due to emigration since the end of World War II, but at present they rely on Occitan culture, tourism, traditional agricultural and farming activities to implement a sustainable model of development.
Visiting the Occitan valleys is a way to contribute to keeping alive the Occitan culture which is revealed in the warmth of its inhabitants, in the traditional local food and craftworks, in a vast hiking and climbing itineraries in a natural environment of extraordinary beauty.

The Occitan languageknown also as Òc language, comes from òc, the Occitan word for yes, which comes from the Latin word hoc. The Italian medieval poet Dante was the first to distinguish three literary languages based on each language word for yes: the òc language (Occitan), the oïl language (French) and the sì language (Italian). Dante in The Divine Comedy (Purgatory, Canto XXVI) uses Occitan, as unique foreign language, to express the thought of the troubadour Arnaud Daniel (12th century):  
“Tan m’abellis vostre cortes deman, 
qu’ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrire. Ieu siu Arnaut que plor e vau cantan;
consiros vei la passada folor, 
e vei jausen lo joi qu’esper, denan.
Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l’escalina, 
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor!”

Your courteous question pleases me so,
that I cannot and will not hide from you.
I am Arnaut, who weeping and singing go:
Contrite I see the folly of the past,
And, joyous, I foresee the joy I hope for one day.
Therefore do I implore you, by that power
Which guides you to the summit of the stairs,
Remember my suffering, in the right time