Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Walloon (Walon) is a regional Romance language spoken in Belgium. It belongs to the langue d'oïl linguistic family, whose most prominent member is the French language, and is sometimes considered a French dialect. Walloon should not be confused with Belgian French, which differs from the French of France only in vocabulary and pronunciation.
- a small part of France, the botte de Givet in northern Ardennes, and several villages in the Nord département, making it one of the regional languages of France
- a small region in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA, owing to fairly large-scale immigration there in the 19th century
- Brussels, by some Walloon residents
- two or three villages in Luxembourg (Doncols, Sonlez), though it is possibly no longer spoken there
Four dialects are found in Wallonia, in four distinct zones:
- central, with the capital of Wallonia, Nameur (Namur), and the cities of Wåve (Wavre), and Dinant
- eastern, with Lidje (Liège), Mâmdi (Malmedy), Vervî (Verviers), Hu (Huy), and Wareme (Waremme)
- western, with Châlerwè (Charleroi), Nivele (Nivelles), and Flipvile (Philippeville)
- southern, with Bastogne, Måtche (Marche), and Li Tchestea (Neufchâteau), all in the Ardennes region.
Despite local phonetic differences, there is a movement towards the adoption of a common spelling, called the "rfondou walon". This orthography is based on diasystems that can be pronounced differently by different readers, a concept inspired by the spelling of Breton. The written forms attempt to reconcile current phonetic uses with ancient traditions (notably the reintroduction of xh and oi that were used for writing Wallon until late 19th century) and the language's own phonological logic.
Other regional languages
Other regional languages spoken in Wallonia, outside the Walloon domain, are:
- Picard, in Mons, Ath, and Tournai
- Lorrain (also called Gaumais locally), in Virton
- Champenois, in Bohan
- Luxembourgish, in Arlon and Martelange
Walloon distinguishes itself from other languages in the langue d'oïl family by its significant borrowing from Germanic languages as expressed in its phonetics, its lexicon, and its grammar. At the same time, Walloon phonetics are singularly conservative: the language has stayed fairly close to the form it took on during the high Middle Ages.
Phonetics and phonology
- Latin [ka] and [g + e, i, a] gave Walloon affricate phonemes spelled "tch" (as in cherry) and "dj" (as in joke): vatche (cow), djambe (leg).
- Latin s subsist: spene (thorn), fistu (wisp of straw).
- Voiced consonants at the end of words are always unvoiced: rodje (red) is pronounced exactly as rotche (rock).
- Nasal vowels may be followed by nasal consonants, as in djonne (young), crinme (cream), mannet (dirty), etc.
- Vowel length has a phonological value. It allows to distinguish e.g. cu (ass) and cû (cooked), i l' hosse (he cradles her) and i l' hôsse (he increases it), messe (mass) and mêsse (master), etc.
- The plural feminine adjectives before the noun take an unstressed ending "-ès" (except in the Ardenne dialect): compare li djaene foye (the yellow leaf) and les djaenès foyes (the yellow leaves).
- There is no gender difference in definite articles and possessives (except in the Ardenne dialect): compare Walloon li vweteure (the car, feminine) and li cir (the sky, masculine), with French la voiture but le ciel; Walloon has si coir (his/her body, masculine) and si finiesse (his/her window, feminine) while French has son corps but sa fenêtre.
- Walloon still has a few Latin remnants which have disappeared from neighboring romance languages, e.g. compare Walloon dispierter (to awake) and Spanish despertar (same meaning).
- But the most striking feature is the number of borrowings from Germanic languages (Flemish and German dialects): compare Walloon flåwe to today's Dutch flauw (weak). Other common borrowings, among hundreds of others, are dringuele (tip; Dutch drinkgeld), crole (curl), spiter (to spatter; same root as the English to spit, or German spützen), li sprewe (the starling; Dutch spreeuw).
- The adjective is often placed before the noun: compare Walloon on foirt ome (a strong man) with French un homme fort; ene blanke måjhon (a white house) and French une maison blanche.
- A borrowing from Germanic languages: the construction Cwè çki c' est di ça po ene fleur (what is this flower?) can be compared word to word to German Was ist das für eine Blume? or Dutch Wat is dat voor een bloem?.
It is inappropriate to speak of a "date of birth" for Walloon, partly because languages are not born overnight. From a linguistic point of view, Louis Remacle has shown that a good number of the developments that we now consider typical of Walloon appeared between the 8th and 12th centuries. Walloon "had a clearly defined identity from the beginning of the 13th century". In any case, linguistic texts from the time do not mention the language, even though they mention others in the langue d'oïl family, such as Picard and Lorrain. During the 15th century, scribes in the region called the language "Roman" when they needed to distinguish it. It is not until the beginning of the 16th century that we find the first occurrence of the word "Walloon" in the same linguistic sense that we use it today. In 1510 or 1511, Jean Lemaire de Belges made the connection between "Rommand" to "Vualon":
- Et ceux cy [les habitants de Nivelles] parlent le vieil langage Gallique que nous appellons Vualon ou Rommand (...). Et de ladite ancienne langue Vualonne, ou Rommande, nous usons en nostre Gaule Belgique: Cestadire en Haynau, Cambresis, Artois, Namur, Liege, Lorraine, Ardenne et le Rommanbrabant, et est beaucoup differente du François, lequel est plus moderne, et plus gaillart.
- And those people [the inhabitants of Nivelles] speak the old Gallic language which we call Vualon or Rommand (...). And we use the said old Vualon or Rommand language in our Belgian Gaul: That is to say in Hainaut, Cambrai, Artois, Namur, Liège, Lorraine, Ardennes and Rommand Brabant, and it is very different from French, which is more fashionable and courtly.
The word "Walloon" thus came closer to its current meaning: the vernacular of the Roman part of the Netherlands and of Liège. One might say that the period which saw the establishment of the unifying supremacy of the Burgundians in the Walloon country was a turning-point in our linguistic history. The crystallization of a Walloon identity as opposed to that of the thiois (i.e. Flemish) regions of the Low Countries, established "Walloon" as a word for designating its people. Somewhat later, the vernacular of these people became more clearly distinct from central French and other neighbouring langues d'oïl, prompting the abandonment of the vague term "Roman" as a linguistic, ethnic, and political designator for "Walloon".
Also at this time, following the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts in 1539, the French language replaced Latin for all administrative purposes in France. French was established as the academic language and became the object of a political effort at normalization, La Pléiade, which posited the view that when two languages of the same linguistic family coexist, each can define itself only in opposition to the other. Around the year 1600, the French writing system became dominant in the Wallonia. From this time, too, dates a tradition of texts written in a language marked by traces of spoken Walloon. The written language of the preceding centuries, scripta, was a composite language with some Walloon characteristics but not attempting to be a systematic reproduction of the spoken language.
Walloon society and culture
Walloon was the predominant language of the Walloon people until the beginning of the 20th century, even though they had a passive knowledge of French. Since that time, the use of French has spread to the extent that now only 30-40% of the Walloon population speak their ancestral language. Breaking the statistics down by age, 70-80% of the population aged over 60 speak Walloon, while only about 10% of those under 30 do so. Passive knowledge of Walloon is much more widespread: claimed by some 36-58% of the younger age bracket.
Legally, Walloon has been recognized since 1990 by the Communauté française de Belgique (the relevant authority in cultural matters for Wallonia) as an "indigenous regional language" which must be studied in schools and encouraged. The Walloon cultural movement includes the Union Culturelle Wallonne, an organization of over 200 amateur theatre circles, writers' groups, and school councils. About a dozen Walloon magazines publish regularly, and the Société de Langue et de Littérature Wallonne, founded in 1856, promotes Walloon literature and the study (dialectology , etymology, etc.) of the regional Roman languages of Wallonia.
|Diè wåde||God keep you / Hello|
|Bondjoû||Good day / Hello|
|A||Hi (often followed by another expression)|
|Come on-z a dit||Bye|
|Comint vos dalez?||How are you?|
|Dji n' sai nén||I don't know|
- Walloons – the people
- Wallonia – the region
- Belgian French – French as spoken in Belgium
- Dialect – "dialect" or "language"
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