Saintongeais (saintonjhais) is a dialect of Poitevin spoken halfway down the western coast of France in the former provinces of Saintonge, Aunis and Angoumois, all of which have been incorporated into the current departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime as well as in parts of their neighbouring departments of Gironde and a town in Dordogne. Although many of the same words are used in both Charente departments, they differ in what they mean or in how they are pronounced.
|Region||Charente, Charente-Maritime, Northern Gironde.|
Saintongeais has significantly influenced the Acadian and Cajun dialects of French spoken in Canada and the United States respectively. However, Québécois has been influenced by three dialects of langues d'oïl: Norman, Francien and Saintongeais.
Its area covers the entire department of Charente-Maritime (except the very north), the west and centre of the department of Charente, the northern department of Gironde with its Pays Gabaye and its enclaves around Saintonge, Monségur. Today, Saintongeais is no longer widely spoken except in the countryside. It is still used in shows, magazines, and radio. Some words from Saintongeais are still used in the region. Words like since (floorcloth) are so widespread that they can be wrongly considered to be French.
Along with French, Saintongeais is used in the magazine Xaintonge, which is published twice a year. The great promoters of spoken Charentais at the beginning of the twentieth century were "le Barde Saintongeais" Goulebenéze, succeeded by Odette Comandon, author of comedy and folk tales, patois actress and storyteller. Country doctor Athanase Jean also wrote several plays in the dialect and helped promote the Saintonge culture.