Here is an introduction to the Corsican language and links to sites with more information.

 

The Corsican Language.

An Introduction to Corsican.

Corsican Language Websites.

While Corsican was traditionally an oral (only) language, it now is widely taught and researched as well as having many authors and songwriters who use it for their creations, thus more and more written material is available, so if you are really interested a web search should be rewarding, especially if you start the search in French, eg langue corse, rather than English.

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An Introduction to Corsican.

French is the official language of Corsica, but a large number of Corsicans speak Corsican - Corsu. It has no current legal status, but it taught widely in school (some kids, including my own grandchildren learn in bi-lingual Corsica/French classes) and at the University in Corte. The French Government has yet to ratify the European minority language charter.

 

In a recent survey in Corsica, respondents were overwhelming in their self identity as being Corsican (88%) against 59% who identified themselves as French. In the same survey, 68% of people said that "Corsica would not be Corsica without Corsican-speaking people. they also felt to the same degree that "it is essential that children in Corsica learn Corsican."

 

Corsican is not a dialect of French. It is an Indo-European language of Romance or Latin origin, influenced by Tuscan. It was an oral language and it was only at the end of the C19 that it came to be written. Being orally transmitted, it has many variations, even from village to village. In other words, the northern, central and southern tongues. To the untutored ear, it sounds a bit like Italian and the Corsicans and Italians can understand one another.

 

There are those who deny the existence of 'one' Corsican language, saying that it depends upon where you originate. A Corsican is quoted as saying, 'the day that I speak Sartenais, the language will be dead', meaning that since he hails from Tavagna, his language is quite different to that of the people living in Sartene. There are many differences both in syntax, spelling, pronunciation and words from valley to valley. The biggest variation is from north to south. The Corsican spoken in the far south (Bonifacio region) is closer to gallurian Sardinian, but other local dalects share 80-90% of the same vocabulary.

 

The three main variants, though are lingua suprana, lingua mizana and lingua suttana. These variations is one of the reasons why there is considerable resistance to the 'academisation' of Corsican, which has been until very recently, a spoken not a written language. A very good site to visit if you'd like to see and hear such variations by location is that of the Corsican Language Database - a collaboration between the Region and the University.

 

a lingua ossu un hÓ e ossu tronca - words have no bones, but can break them

 

A recent anthropological study shows a certain genetic differentiation between north and south, which follows the linguistic subdivision differentiation. This is quite apart from the differentiation from the populations of France and Tuscany, which have had such political and cultural influences on Corsica (G Vona et al, in the American Journal of Human Biology, 2003). This one of several studies of DNA differences; another is a further collaboration between Corte and Cagliari Universities. If you want to know more, contact Carla Cal˛ at the anthropology department of the UniversitÓ di Cagliari. I know from personal experience that the north and south of the island feel very different and I have some difficulty in saying quite why. Perhaps my intuition merely reflects these facts.

 

Language is key to the identity of any people, not least here. The three arguments in favour of speaking the language are that it's a key to Corsican identity; that bilinguality helps in the learning of other languages and encourages intellectual agility; that speaking Corsican and French opens the door to the rest of the Latin-speaking world of 500 million people. The presence of Rome in Corsica lasted seven centuries and thus popular latin became the common language. Without important centres of economics or culture, the language evolved through speech, not writing, other than during the latter period through Christian evangelism. It's interesting though, that there are descriptive words of latin origin that have survived in Corsican but not in Italian - such as those for cow's and goat's urine (uberem & mantacu).

 

Pronunciation is easy for Italians, despite all the considerable differences between the two languages. Others should not be deceived by the written language; for example, si (yes) is pronounced ´Ŕ and (no) is pronounced inn-n˛, or vÓ bŔ (okay) is pronounced babŔ and yet again, you say ancu di grazia (happily) ankou i radzya. And these are just the simple ones! There are rules - and lots of exceptions, best learned by ear.

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According to a 1982 survey, 96% of the island's inhabitants who are of Corsican origin (about 170,000 people, or 70% of the total population) understand Corsican and 86% regularly speak the language. For many, it is their first language. The use of Corsican comÔres to other (French) regional languages as follows: Corsican - 130K speakers of whom 90K in Corsica; Basque - 80K and 63K in the basque country; Breton - 295K and 257K in Britany; Alsatian - 545K and 500K in Alsace; Occitan - 786K and 340K in Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees. What is specially interesting now is that currently (INSEE 1999) six parents out of ten retransmit Corsican to their kids, though it's more occasional that habitual.

You can hear a lot of Corsicans speaking the language interspersed with French and when they come to hesitate, the 'umms and errs' are in French. There are many different 'schools'. Some purists will even invent Corsican words to avoid having to see any expression that has a hint of Frenchiness about it. Many teachers of Corsican in school, while they may be encouraged by the 'Rectorat' (schools inspectorate) to take an academic approach, prefer to get their kids to learn a 'living' Corsican.

As the language has no official status, its administrative and legal role is minimal. It is occasionally possible for the public to use Corsican in its dealings with the administration and in court, because the administrative and legal officials themselves speak the language, though never in their official capacity. An active campaign by the consultative Economic and Social Council of the Corsican Assembly has led to the creation of an increasing number of public signs in Corsican and dual sinage on the roads (roads are one of the already devolved responsibilities of the regional government).

Not surprisingly, the use of Corsican is at its highest in connection with traditional singing and in cultural groups (70-80% of those participating), hunting & fishing (60-70%), whereas in church it's down to 11% and in night clubs 4%. So if you want to hear the language, go to polyphony concerts or find someone to take you sanglier hunting! The regular reading of books in Corsican is very low - a mere 6% of people, mind you only 34% of people say that they regularly read books in French. At work, despite a lot of talk about the Corsicisation of employment, there are hardly any employers who have a policy with regard to taking on Corsican speakers (8%) - information from an EU-funded study.

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Corsican is used increasingly on a voluntary basis by teachers at pre-primary level. At primary level the language can be taught three hours a week, and teachers are urged by the regional education service to integrate Corsican in their courses. Some attempts have been made by individual teachers to teach some subjects through Corsican. Indeed there are several schools were bi-lingual teaching is offered as an option. At secondary level Corsican is offered as an optional living language. Currently there are nearly 30 000 schoolkids learning the language. The University of Corsica offers a course in Corsican Studies. Some of the lectures are in Corsican, some in French. Adult courses in Corsican are widely available throughout the island, as well as in some cities on the French mainland.

The regional service of State radio (RCFM, part of the Radio Blue chain) broadcasts several programmes and 5 news bulletins in Corsican daily (between 6 and 11 in the morning) of 5 to 10 minutes duration. One private radio station broadcasts entirely in Corsican and several volunteer stations, like Radio Calvi Citadelle, Voce Nustrale and Radio Corti Vivu broadcast programmes in Corsican. The regional TV service France 3 has been making great efforts to increase hours in the language and has resulted in an increase in programming in Corsican from 20 minutes a week to two hours and sometimes more. The language can be heard twice daily in a news programme and through various documentary and feature programmes. There is no daily or weekly newspaper entirely in Corsican. There are some French-language papers which carry articles in Corsican occasionally, but not systematically. Often Corsican is used in headlines in papers or magazines.

A growing number of books is published in Corsican each year. For many years there have been Corsican language magazines, often sponsored or produced by political parties or cultural associations. There are increasing numbers of theatre productions in Corsican (you could get details of Calvi productions from Svegliu Calvese), but the theatre companies do not have great financial means. Each year the Guissani theatre festival puts on pieces in Corsican. The cultural sponsorship of the language is considerable and of course in the field of song, it is paramount. For more on this see the Corsican Traditional Music page.

Perhaps it is no surprise for a country with an oral tradition that Corsica has the second highest 'penetration' of the mobile telephone after the capital and surrounds (Ile de France): 56 for every 100 man, woman and child!

Since I do not speak Corsican and even when I try, I make awful gaffes like 'salad, sir', instead of 'hello, sir', I shall leave the following sites to help you go further, but best of all come and visit and listen to this very poetic language being spoken and sung.

You may have recognised this little nonsense ditty as having been penned by Edward Lear. He came to Corsica and produced a great illustrated book about the island. The translation is by Marcu Biancarelli.

 

You can buy a bi-lingual (Corsican/French) version of Monopoly, thanks to the work of a company called Servico - a way of learning the language and something about the urban geography of Corsica! There's another board game that could be useful for learning the language - Corsica'mente - based on the culture and traditions of Corsica in French and Corsican. It was invented by Jean-Paul Casta and Dominique Bourgeois and is based on 600 question cards, to which imaginary answers are possible... (more details: 04 95 32 12 99). And now for good measure, there's Corsican Trivial Pursuit available at 55 euros; it's produced by Servico the makers of Corsican Monopoly

 

Don't be fooled when you meet a second person with the same family name as someone you have just met; they are very likely not related, or just as distant cousins. Even in the same town or village you'd need to check out family connections carefully. The fifty most common Corsican names are:

1 Casanova, 2 Albertini, 3 Luciani, 4 Mattei, 5 Rossi, 6 Santoni, 7 Bartoli, 8 Pietri, 9 Poli, 10 Paoli, 11 Nicolai, 12 Filippi, 13 Leca, 14 Mariani, 15 Mondoloni, 16 Agostini, 17 Andreani, 18 Colombani, 19 Orsini, 20 Giudicelli, 21 Cesari, 22 Susini, 23 Graziani, 24 Colonna, 25 Poggi, 26 Alfonsi, 27 Grimaldi, 28 Franceschi, 29 Santini, 30 Costa, 31 Renucci, 32 Acquaviva, 33 Battesti, 34 Peretti, 35 Pieri, 36 Guidicelli, 37 Santucci, 38 Castelli, 39 Ceccaldi, 40 Arrighi, 41 Martinetti, 42 Pasqualini, 43 Carlotti, 44 Ettori, 45 Torre, 46 Giorgi, 47 Bernardini, 48 Geronomi, 49 Quilichini, 50 Leccia.

If you are interested in learning Corsu and you can use their methodology, try the Assimil Le Corse sans peine course. The Assimil method of language learning is described as intuitive. Their (cheaper!) pocket guide is also available. It is under ten euros and might enliven a visit. Its presentation is very light and easy to follow. If you just want to have fun, try Asterix in Corsica in Corsu and also order Asterix in Corsica in English and you may learn quite a bit!

A useful site for anyone wanting to further lingusitic knowledge in general is omniglot.com.

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Corsican Language Websites.

Corsican Proverbs (quote.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corsican_proverbs) - Paul Franceschi pointed out this site to me - there are lots of proverbs here and some even have English translations.

A Lingua Corsa (perso.wanadoo.fr/gbatti-alinguacorsa/) - this is a comprehensive site, pointed out to me by Alison, a Corsica Isula visitor. I'm no Corsican linguist, but it looks very good.

Voce Nustrale (voce.fr.fm) - tune in here and hear Corsican live - words and music from the voluntary radio station of ADECEC, the Cervione-based cultural association.

Lexicon (www.adecec.net/adecec-net/download.html) - this is an excellent lexicon on many categories of specialist terms (eg the kitchen, wine, the weather, electronics...) - from French into Corsican; very extensive. The basic Corsica-French-Corsican dictionary is by Jean-Dominique Culioli and there is a fuller two-volume version (French-Corsican & Corsican-French). There's a short dictionary available at corsica.net.free.fr.

French<->/Corsican Dictionary (http://www.freelang.com/dictionnaire/corse.html) - there is a (quick) download available from this site and if you go to the main Freelang page, you'll find many other language dictionaries major and minor languages to/from French. You want Welsh/French, for example? Well, it's there. The dictionary is by Franšois Colonna, who also did the one below.

Little Dictionary of Corsica (corsica.net.free.fr/html/corsu/dico/dictionnaire.htm) - is another handy little one, though limited and only Corsican-French.

Mini Dico - a little French-Corsican dictionary has been produced with 8 000 words and useful expressions; the authors, Marcellu Acquaviva and Santu Massiani have restricted their choices to the most current words of today and restricted themselves to two micro-regions - the north and the centre; there is also a guide to pronunciation and a few basic grammar rules. You can buy it in local bookshops and supermarkets for Ç6.

Corsicami Dictionary (corsicami.free.fr/dicocf1.htm) - this one is in a site which is also a guide to Corsica and is also Corsica-French and the alphabetisation is strange, since it partly follows French..

Corsican language database (www.adecec.net/infcor/index.html) - INFCOR is an online Corsican language database, which you can search for vocabulary in Corsican or French, as well as terminologies, pronunciation, synonyms, antonyms etc.

Corsican Linguistic Database (www.ac-corse.fr/lcc.htm) - this site has interesting sections like a series of maps of Corsica showing the different pronunciations of words up and down the island; spoken pronunciations of various words; recordings of many Corsican proverbs; a maritime lexicon that gives the many regional variations of different nautical terms.

A dossier of the Corsican language in French education in English (www1.fa.knaw.nl/mercator/regionale_dossiers/regional_dossier_corsican_in_france.htm) - Mercator Education gathers, stores and distributes information on minority langauages in Europe. This is their dossier on the teaching of Corsican in school.

Anthology of Corsican writers (www.adecec.net/adecec-net/Anthologie/index.html) - this is an excellent anthology of Corsican writers past and present, with examples of their writing.

History & use of Corsican (www.uoc.es/euromosaic/web/homean/index1.html) - the Euromosaic project of the EU has a brief history of the language and details of a survey of its current use in Corsica. (To access the study, once on the site, click 'list by languages', then 'Corsican', then 'Corsican language use survey', or to go to the latter direct - a 1998 survey, updated in 2002, click here.).

a volpe perde u pelu ma micca u viziu - the fox may lose his pelt, but never his wiliness

Centru Culturale UniversitÓ di Corsica (www.interromania.net) - one of the best sites for Corsican linguists, with a bibliography of text published by the centre, a theatre section (including info about the international Mediterranean theatre institute), an online version of their revue Bonanova and Inter Romania for the publication of texts in minority Romance languages, including Corsican.

A diary with saints' days (www.adecec.net/adecec-net/2001/index.html) - an annual month-by-month diary with saints' days.

FR3 a bilingual tv site (193.252.81.175/regions/corse/index.htm) - this excellent site of the regional television station has many good features, but for anyone wanting to develop their Corsican language skill, it is not only bilingually presented, but many of the Corsican language transmissions are available on the site, thus you can learn pronunciation too. You can watch the local news twice daily in Corsican, wherever you are!

Jacques Fusina (www.internetcom.fr/corseweb/uk/auteur/jfusina.htm) - Jacques Fusina is a professor of education at Corte and a prolific author including a helpful book for Corsican beginners - Parlons Corse. If you want to know more about the language, why not contact him (Jacques.Fusina@wanadoo.fr). He is a charming and open person.

Pedagogic resources (www.u-paris10.fr/gdr1178/langues/corse.htm) - this is a listing of dictionaries, learning resources and other pedagogic materials, though it is not absolutely up-to-date. Of course most materials go to Corsican from French.

A Corsican lesson (alainleca.ifrance.com/alainleca/Sommaire.htm) - a simple lesson in Corsican basics, with illustrations, so although it goes from French, you can learn some elements of the language.

Corsic@ (corsica.net.free.fr) - a comprehensive personal site with photos, music, Corsican proverbs & literature, traditions, cookery and more.

Corsican sayings and proverbs (www.kalliste.com) - a growing directory of Corsican sayings and proverbs organised by dÚpartement.

A Scuzzulata (multimania.com/ascuzzulata) - a magazine entirely in Corsican.

A monthly chronicle in Corsican (www.taravu.com/cron.htm) - the news via a monthly story by Lisandru Bassani in Corsican.

The Bible in Corsican (www.cristianu.fr.fm) - for people familiar with the scriptures, this may be a good way into the Corsican language.

Lingua in ghjocu (www.chez.com/jeuxcorse/) - Corsican as a game; a fun way of learning or improving your Corsican at different levels.

European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (www.ebul.org) - this is the international organisation concerned with issues of importance to 40 million Europeans who speak a different language to the majority language of the state.

Asterix in Corsica (in Corsican)  - Asterix in Corsica in Corsu.

Alain Leca's language site (www.ifrance.com/alainleca/lingua.htm) - a handy little introduction to the language.

and if you struggle with French, here's an excellent place to go to try and do something about it: Ronald Kenyon's Francophilia site - www.geocities.com/rwkenyon/francophilia.htm

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