Croissant (linguistic)

For things named Crescent, see Crescent (disambiguation).

The Croissant (Occitan:[1] lo Creissent; French: le Croissant) is a linguistic transitional zone between the Langue d'oc (also referred to as Occitan) dialects and the Langue d'oïl dialects, situated in the centre of France where Occitan dialects are spoken (Limousin and Auvergnat) that have transitional traits toward French (Langue d'oïl[2]). The name derives from the contours of the zone that resemble a crescent shape.

Northern parts of the Lemosin and Auvernhat dialects.
Chansou par lou petiots, Texte in marchese occitan (marchois) by Marcel Remy (La Souterraine), in "Patoiseries de "La Soutrane"" (1944) , Société creusoise d'édition - Guéret (FR - 23)
Nadau, Texte in marchese occitan (marchois) by Marcel Remy, in "Patoiseries de "La Soutrane"" (1944) , Société creusoise d'édition - Guéret

The first author to use the term Croissant was the linguist, Jules Ronjat, in his 1913 thesis.[3]

There are two main Croissant dialects. Marchois, which is closer to the Limousin[4] dialect, is found in the west, going from Confolentais (Charente) to Montluçon and its surrounds (west of Allier/Gorges du Cher), and passing through the north of Creuse and Guéret.[5][6][7] The dialects in the eastern two-thirds of the Bourbonnais d'oc dialect region are, as far as they are concerned, Arverno-Bourbonnais dialects belonging to the Auvergnat dialect zone of the Croissant, centered around Chantelle and Vichy, with influences from Francoprovençal.[8]


The Croissant’s territory is shaped like a tapered crescent, joining the Tardoire valley in Charente to the west, to Monts de la Madeleine in Allier to the east. The crescent is very narrow between its westernmost point and Le Dorat (between 10 and 15 km wide), and widens towards the east: between 30 km (at Guéret) and 45 km (at Culan).

Principal communes in the zone:

o    Charente : Saint-Claud, Champagne-Mouton

o    Vienne : Pressac, Availles-Limouzine

o    Haute-Vienne : Bussière-Poitevine, Le Dorat, Magnac-Laval, Saint-Sulpice-les-Feuilles

o    Indre : Saint-Benoît-du-Sault, Lourdoueix-Saint-Michel, Éguzon-Chantôme

o    Creuse : La Souterraine, Crozant, Guéret, Dun-le-Palestel, Genouillac, Bonnat, Boussac

o    Cher : Culan, Vesdun, Préveranges, Saint-Priest-la-Marche

o    Puy-de-Dôme : Saint-Éloy-les-Mines

o    Allier : Montluçon, Néris-les-Bains, Commentry, Chantelle, Montmarault, Vichy, Saint-Germain-des-Fossés, Cusset, Le Mayet-de-Montagne, Audes

The main Langue d’oc cities in the Croissant are Guéret, Montluçon et Vichy.[9]


The majority of linguists specializing in the Croissant dialects confirm it is a predominantly Occtian-speaking zone. (Tourtoulon & Bringuier, Dahmen, Escoffier, Chambon & Olivier, Quint). Only Jules Ronjat expresses a more cautious opinion, refusing to explicitly say if the Croissant comes under Langue d’Oc or Langue d’Oïl (French). Following Ronjat’s hesitation, some books by Occitan scholars (Pierre Bec, Robert Lafont) have been reluctant to present the Croissant as a completely Langue d’oc-speaking zone. However, cultural studies conducted in the Croissant from the 1970’s (Quint, Merle) prove that linguistic and cultural awareness of Langue d’oc is widespread there.

Since the 1970’s, edited maps include nearly all of the Croissant in the Langue d’oc-speaking region. Guylaine Brun-Trigaud even includes the Langue d’oïl dialects with Occitan features.[10]

Likewise, the writer, Valery Larbaud (1881-1957), who originated from Vichy, in the Croissant zone, expressed his support for the idea of a union of Langue d’oc-speaking regions in his work Jaune bleu blanc (Yellow blue white) (1927).

Historical, territorial and linguistic evolutionEdit

The influence of French in the Croissant zone goes back a long way. Due to the presence of French-speaking nobility and administrators, from the second half of the 13th century administrative and legal documents were written in French and not in the local dialects, as well as in Marche County (Limousin-speaking territory) and in Bourbonnais (Auvergnat-speaking territory). In Bourbonnais, the earliest known documents written in the local vernacular are deeds in French with some Occitan forms inserted from 1245. Therefore, the Croissant has been a Langue d’oc-Langue d’oïl diglossia since that time, long before French spread through the rest of the Langue d’oc linguistic area. The border between Langue d’oc and Langue d’oïl was once located further to the north and has moved backwards over the centuries. The French dialects situated at the north of the Croissant (the southern part of Berry and the northern part of Bourbonnais) still contain traces of the Langue d’oc substrate.[11]

The spread of French (Langue d’oïl) towards the Croissant has been a long and progressive process, in contrast to the quite rapid désoccitanisation of Poitou, Saintonge and Angoumois which took place between the 12th and 15th centuries, due principally to the ravages of the Hundred Years War causing the area to be consecutively repopulated.

In the Croissant dialects, the spread of Gallicisms has increased, weakening the local Occitan variants. During the last few centuries, it seems that this progression had been more rapid in Marche County (Limousin-speaking territory) than in Bourbonnais (Auvergnat-speaking territory). But since the 20th century, in all cases, the spread of French has resulted in a diglossia, and linguistic substitutions similar to those across all of the Langue d’oc-speaking regions. That puts into perspective the "gallicised" aspects of the Croissant dialects today, since nearly all Occitan dialects are undergoing a process of gallicization.

Dialectological subdivisionsEdit

There is no clear dialectological subdivision in the Croissant region, and the general impression is that it is largely fragmented. There is no clear border between the Auvergnat dialect region and the Limousin dialect region, given that the "border" between these two dialects is a vast transitional zone spanning the entire eastern part of the Limousin region (well beyond the Croissant).

In any case, from a cultural, and possibly dialectological point of view, the west of the Croissant as far as Montluçon belongs to Limousin or La Marche (Marchois is spoken there).

The eastern part of the Croissant from Montmarault, where the Averno-Bourbonnais dialect is found, is linked to Auvergnat.

Within the Auvergnat area, there is a distinct zone influenced by Francoprovençal in the south-east of Bourbonnais (the south-eastern part of Allier), towards the Bourbonnais Mountains. There, since ancient times, the intervocalic d is dropped, in particular in -aa endings (for -ada), as is also the case in Vivaro-Alpin (where the loss of the d can also be explained by its proximity to Francoprovençal).

Croissant dialect traitsEdit

Whilst the Croissant dialects are quite heterogenous (according to Ronjat), the following characteristics are commonly found:

  • According to accounts from Croissant dialect speakers, intercomprehension is a little difficult, but often possible with other dialects located to the south. It is much more difficult with the dialects located to the north.
  • The final vowels -a and -e are often completely silent in the Croissant, whereas they are very clearly pronounced in the other Occitan dialects. On the other hand, it is possible to hear -as [a(:)] and -es [ej/ij] endings which can potentially bring out the tonic accent. Despite this phenomenon, there are still traces of a mobile tonic accent which can fall either on the second-last syllable of a word (a paroxytone) or on the last syllable (an oxytone), in contrast to modern French, where the tonic accent is always on the last syllable.
  • Expressive uses, despite the invasion of French forms, (for example était starting to take the place of èra), retain a large number of authentic Occitan traits and considerable lexical and idiomatic creativity (Escoffier).


  • BEC Pierre (1995) La langue occitane, coll. Que sais-je? n° 1059, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France [1st ed.1963]
  • BONIN Marcel (1981) Le patois de Langy et de la Forterre (région de Varennes-sur-Allier), Cagnes-sur-Mer: Cahiers Bourbonnais
  • BONIN Marcel (1984) Dictionnaire général des patois bourbonnais, Moulins: impr. Pottier
  • BRUN-TRIGAUD Guylaine (1990) Le Croissant: le concept et le mot. Contribution à l'histoire de la dialectologie française au XIXe siècle [PhD thesis], coll. Série dialectologie, Lyons: Centre d'Études Linguistiques Jacques Goudet
  • CHAMBON Jean-Pierre, & OLIVIER Philippe (2000) "L'histoire linguistique de l'Auvergne et du Velay: notes pour une synthèse provisoire", Travaux de linguistique et de philologie 38: 83-153
  • DAHMEN Wolfgang (1985) Étude de la situation dialectale dans le Centre de la France: un exposé basé sur lAtlas linguistique et ethnographique du Centre, Paris: CNRS [1st ed. in German, 1983, Studien zur dialektalen Situation Zentralfrankreichs: eine Darstellung anhand des 'Atlas linguistique et ethnographique du Centre, coll. Romania Occidentalis vol. 11, Gerbrunn bei Würzburg: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag A. Lehmann]
  • ESCOFFIER Simone (1958a) La rencontre de la langue d'oïl, de la langue d'oc et du franco-provençal entre Loire et Allier: limites phonétiques et morphologiques [PhD thesis], Mâcon: impr. Protat [another similar edition is: coll. Publications de l'Institut de Linguistique Romane de Lyon-vol. 11, Paris: Les Belles Lettres]
  • ESCOFFIER Simone (1958b) Remarques sur le lexique d'une zone marginale aux confins de la langue d'oïl, de la langue d'oc et du francoprovençal, coll. Publications de l'Institut de Linguistique Romane de Lyon-vol. 12, Paris: Les Belles Lettres
  • JAGUENEAU Liliane (1987) Structuration de l'espace linguistique entre Loire et Gironde: analyse dialectométrique des données phonétiques de lAtlas linguistique et ethnographique de l'Ouest [PhD thesis], Tolosa: Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail
  • LAFONT Robert (1987) Clefs pour l'Occitanie, coll. Clefs, Paris: Seghers [1st ed. 1971b]
  • MERLE René (1977) Culture occitane per avançar, Paris: Éditions Sociales
  • QUINT Nicolas (1991) Le parler marchois de Saint-Priest-la-Feuille (Creuse), Limoges: La Clau Lemosina
  • QUINT Nicolas (1996) Grammaire du parler occitan nord-limousin marchois de Gartempe et de Saint-Sylvain-Montaigut (Creuse), Limoges: La Clau Lemosina
  • QUINT Nicolas (2002) "Le marchois: problèmes de norme aux confins occitans" [CAUBET Dominique, & CHAKER Salem, & SIBILLE Jean (Joan) (2002) (dir.) Codification des langues de France, Paris: L'Harmattan, actes dau collòqui "Les langues de France et leur codification", Paris, Inalco, 29–31 May 2000: 63-76]
  • RONJAT Jules (1930–1941) Grammaire istorique [sic] des parlers provençaux modernes, 4 vol. [re-ed. 1980, Marseilles: Laffitte Reprints, 2 vol.]
  • TOURTOULON Charles de, & BRINGUIER Octavien (1876) Étude sur la limite géographique de la langue d'oc et de la langue d'oïl (avec une carte), Paris: Imprimerie Nationale [re-ed. 2004, Masseret-Meuzac: Institut d'Estudis Occitans de Lemosin/Lo Chamin de Sent Jaume]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Pierre Bonnaud (géographe), , Nonette, Créer, 1999, 776 p.(ISBN 2-909797-32-5, lire en ligne [archive]), p. 176.
  2. ^ (oc) Domergue Sumien, «  », Jornalet, 30 avril 2012 (ISSN 2385-4510, lire en ligne [archive])
  3. ^ Jules Ronjat, , Protat frères, 1913, 306 p.Disponible en ligne (University of Toronto - Robarts Library) [archive].
  4. ^ (ca + oc) Manuel Cuyàs, Berta Rosés, Nuria Cicero,  [« Aranés, er occitan de Catalonha »], Barcelone, Généralité de Catalogne, 2020 (lire en ligne [archive])
  5. ^ (fr + oc) , Paris, Éditions CPE, 2010, 160 p. (ISBN 9782845038271)
  6. ^ (en) Linguasphere Observatory, , Linguasphere Observatory, 1999-2000 (lire en ligne [archive]), p. 402
  7. ^ Dominique Caubet, Salem Chaker, Jean Sibille, «  », Codification des langues de France. Actes du colloque Les langues de France et leur codification organisé par l'Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (Inalco, Paris, Mai 2000), Paris, Éditions L'Harmattan, 2002, p. 63-76
  8. ^ Karl-Heinz Reichel, Études et Recherches sur les parlers arverno-bourbonnais aux confins de l'Auvergne, du Bourbonnais, de la Marche et du Forez, 2012 Chamalières, Cercle Terre d'Auvergne.
  9. ^ (oc) Domergue Sumien, «  », Jornalet, Toulouse, Barcelone, Associacion entara Difusion d'Occitània en Catalonha (ADÒC), 2014 (ISSN 2385-4510, lire en ligne [archive])
  10. ^ Guylaine Brun-Trigaud, «  », Langue française, vol. 93, no 1, 1992, p. 23-52 (lire en ligne [archive], consulté le 6 décembre 2016).
  11. ^ (oc) Domergue Sumien, «  », Jornalet, 12 mai 2014 (ISSN 2385-4510, lire en ligne [archive])