THE CORSICAN LANGUAGE

The Corsican Language
'Most people of Corsican origin speak Corsican in their private lives, but use of the language in public and in formal contexts is limited, especially when recourse is made to the written word.'
The Corsican language is a language of diverse origins, which, at the time of the Roman Empire was massively influenced by Latin, and in modern times first by Toscan, a variety of Italian, and latterly by French. Consequently, the language may be described as a member of the romance family with vestiges of a more archaic language. Contrary to popular belief therefore, the language is not directly descended from Toscan. Significantly in this context, certain scholars have in recent years emphasised the specificity of the Corsican language, alongside that of Italian and Sardinian, for example. Also in recent years, Corsican has, for the first time, been described as a distinct language within the western Indo-European family.

The first written works in Corsican date to the late 17th century at which time the Corsican people were becoming aware of their linguistic culture. However, insular writings from the earlier centuries of the millennium, written in Latin or in Toscan, also show traces of Corsican influence. In these works, certain characteristics distinguish the language from other idioms in neighbouring spheres. Thus, final u (tuttu, vivu ct tutto, vivo), attested in a document from 1242, the article lu rather than Toscan lo, the relative particle chì, not che, and the gender of certain nouns, fiche (fig-tree), feminine rather than masculine as in Toscan. For a fuller treatment of this subject, we invite the reader to refer to the French pages of this edition of Transcript.

Today, the Corsican language enjoys official status within the French Republic, but only to a certain degree. It is on an equal footing with the other languages traditionally spoken within French territories, none of which are official state-languages. Deixonnes Law (1951), which makes provision for some teaching of regional languages, was extended to include Corsican in 1973. But despite much progress, and although its existence is officially recognised, the Corsican language today does not have any real legal status. Most people of Corsican origin speak Corsican in their private lives, but use of the language in public and in formal contexts is limited, especially when recourse is made to the written word. Thus, in the Assembly of Corsica, most of the debating is done in French, and, in general, the local authorities make use of the French language in official documents.


The English language translations in this issue of Transcript are the work of Francis Beretti.











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