Endangered languages are languages which have few native speakers and are at risk of going extinct. These languages are usually spoken in ethnic minorities of a country. While the decline in language has been observed throughout human history, the rate at which languages are going extinct is alarming and is caused by globalization, urbanization, and neocolonialism. There are numerous languages in France that have recorded a decline in their respective number of native speakers but a few are recognized as truly endangered, having a real possibility of going extinct, despite the fact that the official language, French is among the world’s most popular languages. The endangered languages in the country include Auvergnat, Gallo, Basque, and Breton among others. Some of the endangered languages such as Basque and Auvergnat have less than 100,000 native speakers in the country.
Examples of Endangered Languages
Gallo is one of the languages in France that is faced with extinction. The language has an estimated 28,000 native speakers in the country who are concentrated in the Brittany region. Classified as an Oïl language, Gallo has ancient Latin and Celtic roots with its history going back to the 6th century CE.
Basque is another one of France’s endangered languages. While the global population of native speakers of Basque is about 0.72 million, only 51,000 of the native speakers live in France. Years of political repression led to the decline of the Basque language. There has been a recent resurgence in Basque all over the globe and France has seen the population of native speakers slowly increasing.
Another endangered language in France is Auvergnat, a language with only 80,000 native speakers in the country. The language which is natively spoken in the Auvergne region and is made up of two sub-dialects; Southern and Northern Auvergnat. Auvergne is one of the smallest regions in France and is characterized by mountain ranges dotted with pastures.
Causes of Decline
There are several factors that have led to the decline in the use of the endangered languages in France. First was the adoption of French as the official language in the country, as this directive discouraged the use of some of the marginalized languages. The rapid urbanization that coincided with the Industrial Revolution brought together people from different ethnic backgrounds and therefore these people would shun using their ethnic languages and instead use the lingua franca for communication. The emergence of globalization in the 20th century has also led to the decline of marginalized languages, as people turn to international languages such as English to communicate with foreigners.
There have been intense revival exercises that have been employed by local communities to prevent the extinction of the languages. One measure has been the publication of journals in the endangered languages. Breton language is a notable example, with many publications being written in the languages since the early 20th century including the comics and dictionaries. The native language renaissance seen in the 21st century has seen young people gain interest in their native languages and in turn boosted the use of some endangered languages in France. Some languages are also being incorporated into the education system in the country to encourage their use among the young generation.