The Occitan language spelling was codified centuries before French. The first literary texts in «langue d’oc» are Limousin and were written during the first half of the 11th century.
Occitan was a major vehicle of culture throughout Europe from the 11th to the 13th century. The rich and refined language used by the troubadours in their poetry, influenced several European courts.
It was the golden age of Limousin, home to famous troubadours such as Arnaut Daniel, Bernat de Ventadorn, Bertran de Born, Gaucelm Faidit, Guiraut de Bornelh,…
Occitan is one of the first European languages to have replaced Latin in the writing down of official texts, legal and administrative deeds, and scholarly treatises.
For example in Limousin…:
Egletons/Aus Gletons – extracts from the city life rules in 1270 :
“… Tot òme que, per mal far, o per gaitar, surtiria en armas de la viala sens lo Conselh daus cossols, V sòus…”
… Any man who, either to do wrong or to watch, would go out of town in arms without the approval of the Council of consuls, 5 pence…
In spite of an ever growing French influence, Occitan literary works were produced at all times and still are.
In 1904, Frederic Mistral (1830-1914) was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work Mirelha.
In Limousin, the 18th century witnessed a revival thanks to «patois-speaking priests», among whom Francès Richard, a songwriter and Jan Foucaud, the author of some lovely fables : Fables de La Fontaine, imitées et traduites en patois.
Josep Ros marked the end of the 19th century : born in Tulle, he was the first Limousin «félibre» and will be the first to write Occitan in its classical norm ; with the help of some twenty other writers, he worked for the promotion of the Occitan language and culture in Lemouzi magazine.
From the 1970’s until today, the Limousin Occitan literature has been blooming again : writers have had a try at all literary genres, from poetry to songs, from plays to short stories or novels.
To name only a few: Micheu Chapduelh, Jan dau Melhau, Jan Ganhaire, and above all, Marcela Delpastre (1925-1998), author of a colossal poetic as well as ethnographic work (Saumes pagans, Paraulas per questa terra, Bestiari lemosin, Las vias priondas de la memòria, …).
We shouln’t forget Ives Lavalada for his tremendous linguistic and toponymic work, and numerous publications among which his essential dictionaries, Dictionnaire français-occitan and Dictionnaire d’usage occitan-français.
Occitan remained the only language spoken by a large portion of the population until the 1900’s.
A whole popular culture of tales, songs, sayings, stories still alive in Limousin is rooted in this language.
When it rains:
«Plòu, plòu ramalhaud,
Las vachas baten los buòus,
Dins los prats los parpalhòus
E los ’limaçs leven lu còu.»
It is raining, it is raining tadpole, / The cows are beating the oxen, / In the fields the butterflies / And the slugs are raising their heads».
Collected in Roussac, July 2003.
Trauca sac, pana blat
Apres disen que ’quò es los rats.»
Miller, flour man, / make holes in the sacks, steal the wheat / Then put the blame on rats.
Collected in Beaulieu, March 2003.
Occitan is still a means of exchange and communication for several millions of people, tens of thousands in Limousin.
It is the source of artistic creation for numerous contemporary writers and music groups : Jan dau Melhau, Bernat Combi in Limousin, and also the Fabulous Troubadours, Massilia Sound System, La Talvera, Lo Còr de la Plana, Familha Artús, La Mal coiffée…