Breton language

Huelgoat Chaos mill.jpg
Bilingual sign in Huelgoat, Brittany
Pronunciation[bʁeˈzõːnɛk], [brəhõˈnek]
Native toFrance
RegionBrittany (including Loire-Atlantique)
Native speakers
210,000 in Brittany (2018)[1]
16,000 in Île-de-France[2]
(Number includes students in bilingual education)[3]
Latin script
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
No official status
Regulated byOfis Publik ar Brezhoneg
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
bre – Modern Breton
xbm – Middle Breton
obt – Old Breton
obt Old Breton
Linguasphere50-ABB-b (varieties:50-ABB-ba to -be)
Percentage of breton speakers in the breton countries in 2004.png
Regional distribution of Breton speakers (2004)
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Breton (ən/; brezhoneg [bʁeˈzõːnɛk] (About this soundlisten)[5] or [brəhõˈnek] in Morbihan) is a Southwestern Brittonic Celtic language spoken in Brittany.

Breton was brought from Great Britain to Armorica by migrating Britons during the Early Middle Ages; it is thus an Insular Celtic language, and as such not closely related to the Continental Celtic Gaulish language which had been spoken in pre-Roman Gaul. Breton is most closely related to Cornish, both being Southwestern Brittonic languages.[6] Welsh and the extinct Cumbric are the more distantly related Western Brittonic languages. Due to pressure from French, Breton phonology is closer to that of French than to its relatives in Britain.

The other regional language of Brittany, Gallo, is a langue d'oïl. Gallo is consequently close to French, although not mutually intelligible, and a Romance language descended from Latin (unlike the similarly named ancient Celtic language Gaulish).

Having declined from more than 1,000,000 speakers around 1950 to about 200,000 in the first decade of the 21st century, Breton is classified as "severely endangered" by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. However, the number of children attending bilingual classes has risen 33% between 2006 and 2012 to 14,709.[3][1]

History and status

Breton is spoken in Breton: Breizh-Izel), roughly to the west of a line linking Plouha (west of Saint-Brieuc) and La Roche-Bernard (east of Vannes). It comes from a Brittonic language community that once extended from Great Britain to Armorica (present-day Brittany) and had even established a toehold in Galicia (in present-day Spain). Old Breton is attested from the 9th century. It was the language of the upper classes until the 12th century, after which it became the language of commoners in Lower Brittany. The nobility, followed by the bourgeoisie, adopted French. The written language of the Duchy of Brittany was Latin, switching to French in the 15th century. There exists a limited tradition of Breton literature. Some Old Breton vocabulary remains in the present day as philosophical and scientific terms in Modern Breton. The recognized stages of the Breton language are: Old Breton - c.800 to c.1100, Middle Breton - c.1100 to c.1650, Modern Breton - c.1650 to present.[7]

The French monarchy was not concerned with the minority languages of France spoken by the lower classes, and required the use of French for government business as part of its policy of national unity. During the French Revolution, the government introduced policies favouring French over the regional languages, which it pejoratively referred to as patois. The revolutionaries assumed that reactionary and monarchist forces preferred regional languages to try to keep the peasant masses underinformed. In 1794, Bertrand Barère submitted his "report on the patois" to the Committee of Public Safety in which he said that "federalism and superstition speak Breton".[8]

Since the 19th century, under the Third, Fourth and Fifth Republics, the government has attempted to stamp out minority languages, including Breton, in state schools, in an effort to build a national culture. Teachers humiliated students for using their regional languages, and such practices prevailed until the late 1960s.[8]

In the early 21st century, due to the political centralization of France, the influence of the media, and the increasing mobility of people, only about 200,000 people can speak Breton, a dramatic decline from more than a million in 1950. The majority of today's speakers are more than 60 years old, and Breton is now classified as an endangered language.[3]

At the beginning of the 20th century, half of the population of Lower Brittany knew only Breton; the other half were bilingual. By 1950, there were only 100,000 monolingual Bretons, and this rapid decline has continued, with likely no monolingual speakers left today. A statistical survey in 1997 found around 300,000 speakers in Lower Brittany, of whom about 190,000 were aged 60 or older. Few 15- to 19-year-olds spoke Breton.[9]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Bretons
Alemannisch: Bretonische Sprache
አማርኛ: ብረቶንኛ
العربية: لغة بريتانية
aragonés: Idioma bretón
arpetan: Breton
asturianu: Idioma bretón
azərbaycanca: Breton dili
Bân-lâm-gú: Breton-gí
беларуская: Брэтонская мова
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Брэтонская мова
български: Бретонски език
Boarisch: Bretonisch
brezhoneg: Brezhoneg
català: Bretó
Чӑвашла: Бретон чĕлхи
čeština: Bretonština
Cymraeg: Llydaweg
davvisámegiella: Bretonagiella
Deitsch: Bretonisch
español: Idioma bretón
Esperanto: Bretona lingvo
estremeñu: Luenga bretona
euskara: Bretainiera
Fiji Hindi: Breton bhasa
føroyskt: Bretonskt mál
français: Breton
Frysk: Bretonsk
Gaelg: Britaanish
Gàidhlig: Breatannais
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Brittany-ngî
한국어: 브르타뉴어
հայերեն: Բրետոներեն
hornjoserbsce: Bretonšćina
hrvatski: Bretonski jezik
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Breton
interlingua: Lingua britone
íslenska: Bretónska
italiano: Lingua bretone
עברית: ברטונית
Kapampangan: Breton (amanu)
kernowek: Bretonek
latviešu: Bretoņu valoda
lietuvių: Bretonų kalba
Limburgs: Bretoens
Lingua Franca Nova: Bresonica (lingua)
lumbaart: Lengua bretun
magyar: Breton nyelv
македонски: Бретонски јазик
مازِرونی: برتون
Bahasa Melayu: Bahasa Breton
Nederlands: Bretons (taal)
Nedersaksies: Bretonsk
日本語: ブルトン語
Nordfriisk: Bretoonisch
norsk: Bretonsk
norsk nynorsk: Bretonsk
Nouormand: Bréton
Novial: Bretonum
occitan: Breton
پنجابی: بریطانی
Перем Коми: Брезон кыв
Picard: Berton
Piemontèis: Lenga breton-a
Plattdüütsch: Bretoonsche Spraak
português: Língua bretã
română: Limba bretonă
rumantsch: Lingua bretona
Runa Simi: Britun simi
Seeltersk: Bretonisk
sicilianu: Lingua brètuni
Simple English: Breton language
slovenčina: Bretónčina
slovenščina: Bretonščina
српски / srpski: Бретонски језик
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Bretonski jezik
suomi: Bretoni
svenska: Bretonska
Tagalog: Wikang Breton
Türkçe: Bretonca
українська: Бретонська мова
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: برېتون تىلى
vepsän kel’: Bretanin kel'
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Breton
West-Vlams: Bretoens
粵語: 布禮斯文