Friday, August 24, 2007

language of the day: Jèrriais

Remembering the usual language vs dialect dilemma, you can think of Jèrriais as either a language in its own right, or a dialect of the Norman language, or of the French language (which is an extreme few linguists would agree with) spoken in Jersey, in the Channel Islands. The last census said that there were only 113 people who spoke Jèrriais as a main language, and about 3,000 who spoke it in total – out of almost 90,000 people that live in Jersey. The Norman language is, like ("standard", you might add) French or Italian, a Romance language – meaning descended from Latin – and includes dialects spoken in Normandy, in France, as well as on the other Channel Islands.

Although only about 3% of the Island's population speak Jèrriais every day, there's reason for optimism: the census figure has indeed increased, particularly regarding children who speak it. There is government support for it and some signs in Jersey, as the one here, from Jersey Airport (from Wikipedia), are bilingual in English and Jèrriais. Jersey being a (British) Crown dependency, English is the main language on the island, having replaced French in the 19th century.

'Good morning/afternoon' is bouônjour and 'good evening' is bônsouair, whereas mèrcie is the word for 'thank you'. What distuingishes Jèrriais from other languages in the area is the voiced dental fricative (don't ask – just think of the 'th' in 'then'), as in extchûthez-mé, meaning 'excuse me', or bouôn annivèrsaithe, which means 'happy birthday'. You can hear these phrases at Les Pages Jèrriaises ('The Jèrriais Pages'), which have loads of information on the language.

(I'm off to bed, wishing you bouonne niet!)


Nacho said...

Cool! I didn't know about this language. Do you know if people who speak it are monolingual? I don't think so but...I better ask.


Nacho :)

muhamedmesic said...

To be honest, Nacho, there's apparently no research on these people being monolingual or not but knowing Jersey, I don't honestly think any of them would be a Jèrriais-only speaker...


Audra said...

This is great info to know.

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