By Joe Cannavo
Corsican by definition is a romance language of the Italian-Romanic group spoken by about 341,000 people. Most of the speakers live in Corsica, though there some in Paris and Marseilles and also in Bolivia, Canada, Cuba, Italy, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, the United States and Venezuela. Corsican has no official status in Corsica and French is the official language there.
Corsican is closely related to Italian, particularly to the dialect of Tuscany, and there is considerable mutual intelligibility between these languages. Corsican is essentially an oral language and as a result, there is considerable regional variation, particularly between the north and south of Corsica.
Corsican first appeared in writing towards the end of the 19th century though the spelling system wasn’t standardized until the 1970s. An orthography proposed by P. Marchetti and D. Geronimi was generally accepted though it isn’t always followed. In older Corsican texts there is considerable variation in spelling.
Corsican is used at all levels of education in Corsica. In most cases it is taught as a subject but a few schools use it as a medium of instruction along side French. Corsican courses for adults are widely available throughout Corsica, as well as in some cities on the French mainland.
The regional service of State radio (RCFM) broadcasts several programs and a number of news bulletins in Corsican every day. One private radio station broadcasts entirely in Corsican and several volunteer stations, such as Radio Calvi Citadelle, Voce Nustrale and Radio Corti Vivu, broadcast programs in Corsican. The regional TV station, France 3 Corse, broadcasts at least two hours of programs in Corsican per week.
There is no daily or weekly newspaper entirely in Corsican though some French-language papers do occasionally publish articles in the language. Corsican is also often used for headlines in papers or magazines.
An increasing number of books is published in Corsican annually. There are also a number of Corsican language magazines, often sponsored or produced by political parties or cultural associations, and an increasing number of theatre productions.
While the above appears to be that the French rulers are liberal about the use of Corsican, the French rulers on halfheartedly condone the use of this Italian-based language. Today, contrarily to Corsican, the other Italian languages and dialects are somewhat in excellent health through natural mutual understanding between them, but that does not exist between the Corsican and French. Many Corsicans do not hesitate to get in touch with these other Italic language speakers in Italy, and feel an attachment to Italy that goes back centuries.
This month’s Corsican proverb:
Corsican: U mondu ghje un mare di lacrime
Italian: Il mondo è un mare di lacrime.
English: The world is an ocean of tears.