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The Counts of Toulouse and the Cross of Toulouse:  Occitan:  The Revival.

The French Revolution and its strongly centralizing Jacobeans appeared to doom all other languages in favour of French linguistic unity. Despite this, several important Occitan speaking figures appeared in the nineteenth century. A barber from Agen, by the name of Gensemin, became well known for his poems throughout Occitania, and was praised by the romantic scholars of Paris. V. Gelu was another popular figure, an exponent of popular realism, whose work was assured of an even wider audience when it was censured by the imperial authorities as offending public morality. The most significant figure of the century was Frederic Mistral, an Occitan poet who was largely responsible for the birth of the Felibritge movement (1854). This group included other important Occitan writers, notably Romanilha and Aubanel. Il Felibritge was highly influential by the end of the nineteenth century. Mistral devised the most complete Occitan language dictionary ever, "The treasure of Felibritge". He was awarded a Nobel prize for literature in 1904 and died in 1914.

The large body of troubadour literature from the Middle Ages was supplemented not only by Mistral, but a host of twentieth century, including Joan Bedon, Marcèla Delpastre and Bernat Manciet.

As Occitan declined as an everyday language, more and more interest was taken in it by intellectuals. The two contradictory trends have continued until today. Finally, belatedly, Governments are waking up to the great inheritance within their national borders, but some more than others. The legal situation of Occitan is different in the three countries where it is spoken.

In Spain (Val d'Aran), Occitan is co-official language, on equal terms with Catalan and Spanish. The Aranese speech, pertaining to Gascon dialect is used. Official documents and traffic signs are in Occitan. The language is taught in schools and some teaching is conducted in the language. Public authorities help the language by financing newspapers and books.

In Italy Occitan has been declared a protected minority language by a law passed in December 1999. Occitan is the official language (along with Italian) of any municipality whose council declares itself part of the 'Occitan-Speaking Territory'. Most councils of the relevant municipalities have already passed a resolution making such a declaration.

In France, within the modern borders of which most of Occitania lies, Occitan has no official status. The second article of the constitution, modified in 1992, states that French is the only language of the State. Outside a few public courses, all attempts at keeping the language alive are private initiatives. Occitan is considered as a "regional language". With this status, it can be taught in schools (but does not have to be), rather like a foreign language. In practice the administration is often hostile, and laws are ambiguous and contradictory.


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The Revival
of Occitan