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The ancient language of Nice

The Oc language is the old language of southern France, Catalonia, Monaco, parts of Liguria and Piedmont in Italy. Called Occitan, it has several dialects including Provençal, Catalan and Nissart (or Niçard), influenced by Italian and sometimes called Nizzardo.

Derived from Vulgar Latin, Oc is the southern French word for ‘yes’. Consequently the southern French Region took the name Languedoc. Interestingly, the French word for ‘yes’ is Oui and French used to be referred to as the ‘Langue d’Oui’. Originally it was spoken only in Northern France.

During the Middle Ages the Northern French gradually took control of the south. As a result, the ‘Langue d’Oui’ became the official tongue of the whole country. The County of Nice was not French until 1860, however, and up till then was subject to Italian influences rather than French ones.

The revival of Oc

During 19th Century, Oc re-established itself in Provence thanks mainly to the poet Fréderic Mistral and something of a revival took place. Throughout the south you will notice several dual language street signs and occasionally some graffiti defacing those which are not dual language! As you walk round Vieux Nice look out for the dual language street signs. These are often more Italian sounding than those in other parts of the south.

Nissa la Bella is the unofficial anthem of Nice written in Nissard by Menica Rondelly in 1903. Check out the video.

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Language and Etiquette

Vieux Nice (Old Town)

Text © Paul Shawcross

Image by © Paul Shawcross