AskDefine | Define Gascon

Extensive Definition

Gascon (Gascon, [gasˈku]; French, [gaskɔ̃]) is a dialect of the Occitan language. Gascon is mostly spoken in Gascony and Bearn (in the following French départements: a part of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Landes, Gers, the greatest part of Gironde, a part of Lot-et-Garonne, a part of Haute-Garonne, and a part of Ariège; and in the small Spanish valley Val d'Aran, in the Northwest of Catalonia). Around the world it is spoken by 253,814 people.
Only Aranese, a southern Gascon variety, is spoken in Spain. Aranese has been greatly influenced recently by Catalan and Spanish. Both these influences tend to differentiate it more and more from the dialects of Gascon spoken in France. Aranese is co-official with Catalan and Spanish in the Val d'Aran.

Basque substrate

The language spoken in Gascony before Roman rule was part of the Basque dialectal continuum (see Aquitanian language); the fact that the word 'Gascon' comes from the Latin root vasco/vasconem, which is the same root that gives us 'Basque,' implies that the speakers identified themselves at some moment as Basque. There is a proven Basque substrate in the development of Gascon. This explains some of the major differences that exist between Gascon and other Occitan languages.
A typically Gascon feature that may arise from this substrate is the so-called '"f" to "h" change.' Where a word originally began with [f] in Latin, such as festa 'party/feast,' this sound was weakened to aspirated [h] and then, in some areas, lost altogether; according to the substrate theory, this is due to the Basque dialects' lack of an equivalent /f/ phoneme. Thus we have Gascon hèsta [ˈhɛsto] or [ˈɛsto]. A similar change took place in continental Spanish Thus Latin facere gives Spanish hacer ([aˈθɛɾ]) (or, in some remote areas, particularly in south-western Andalusia, [haˈθɛɾ]).
However, some linguists deny the plausibility of the Basque substrate theory; many have sought a language-internal explanation for this and other changes. The fact that this particular change occurs in both Gascon and Spanish, both of which developed in originally Basque-speaking areas, may be coincidental. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely and some linguists agree with historians to underline the connection between Gascon and Basque.
Note that modern Basque has had lexical influence from Gascon in words like beira ("glass"), polit ("pretty", Gascon polit/polida).

Usage of the language

A poll conducted in Béarn in 1982 indicated that 51% of the population spoke Gascon, 70% understood it, and 85% expressed a favourable opinion regarding the protection of the language. However, use of the language has declined dramatically over recent years as Gascon is rarely transmitted to young generations any longer. The usual term for Gascon is "patois", a word designating in France a non-official and devaluated dialect whatever the concerned region. It is mainly in Béarn that the population uses concurrently the term "Béarnais" to designate its Gascon forms. This is because of the political past of Béarn, which was a sovereign state from 1347 to 1620. In fact, there is no unified Béarnais dialect; the language differs considerably throughout the province. Many of the differences in pronunciation can be divided into east, west, and south (the mountainous regions). For example, the a at the end of words is pronounced "ah" in the west, "o" in the east, and "œ" in the south. Because of Béarn's specific political past, Béarnais is distinguished from Gascon since the 16th century, though not for linguistic reasons.


Gascon comprises three main linguistic areas:
  • The 'Garonnais Gascon' used on and next to the river Garonne valley. These regions know the least specific Gascon forms.
  • The 'Southern Gascon' used in the south and in the south-west of the linguistic Gascon zone. The Gascon of these regions is the one with the most distinctive characteristics of Gascon, coming mainly from a supposed Basque substratum.
  • The 'Intermediary Gascon' in an intermediary zone between the two just mentionned.

English words of Gascon origin


See also: Languages of France


  • Le Gascon de poche, Jean-Marc Leclercq & Sèrgi Javaloyès, Assimil 2004, ISBN 2-7005-0345-7
Gascon in Afrikaans: Gaskons
Gascon in Aragonese: Gascón
Gascon in Franco-Provençal: Gascon
Gascon in Breton: Gwaskoneg
Gascon in Catalan: Gascó
Gascon in German: Gaskognische Sprache
Gascon in Spanish: Idioma gascón
Gascon in Esperanto: Gaskona lingvo
Gascon in Basque: Gaskoiera
Gascon in French: Gascon
Gascon in Galician: Dialecto gascón
Gascon in Korean: 가스콩어
Gascon in Ido: Gaskoniana linguo
Gascon in Italian: Dialetto guascone
Gascon in Cornish: Gaskoynek
Gascon in Dutch: Gascons
Gascon in Japanese: ガスコーニュ語
Gascon in Occitan (post 1500): Gascon (dialècte)
Gascon in Piemontese: Lenga gascon-a
Gascon in Polish: Język gaskoński
Gascon in Portuguese: Gascão
Gascon in Russian: Гасконский язык-диалект
Gascon in Finnish: Oksitaani
Gascon in Turkish: Gaskonca
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