Lyonnais Dialect - Number of Speakers

Number of Speakers

The Franco-Provençal dialect with the greatest population of active daily speakers is Valdôtain. Approximately 68,000 people speak the language in the Aosta Valley region of Italy according to reports conducted after the 1981 census. The alpine valleys of the adjacent province of Turin have an estimated 22,000 speakers. The Faetar and Cigliàje dialect is spoken by just 1,400 speakers who live in an isolated pocket of the province of Foggia in the southern Italian Apulia region (figures for Italy: EUROPA, 2005). Beginning in 1951, heavy emigration from the town of Celle Di San Vito established the Cigliàje variety of this dialect in Brantford, Ontario Canada where at its peak it was used daily by several hundred people. As of 2012 this community has dwindled to fewer than 50 daily speakers across three generations.

Contrary to this official information reported by the European Commission, a poll by the Fondation Émile Chanoux in 2001 revealed that only 15% of all Aosta Valley residents claimed Franco-Provençal as their mother tongue. This is a substantial reduction to the figures reported on the Italian census 20 years earlier that was used in the commission report. Only 7% of the inhabitants (approximately 8,200 people) claimed to be able to speak any dialect. A report published by Laval University in Quebec City, which analyzed this data, reports that it is "probable" that the language will be "on the road to extinction" in this region in ten years. Note: The most recent edition of ethnologue.com (Lewis, 2009) reports that there are 70,000 Franco-Provençal speakers in Italy. However, these figures are derived from the 1971 census.

In rural areas of the cantons of Valais and Fribourg in Switzerland, various dialects are spoken as a second language by about 7,000 residents (figures for Switzerland: Lewis, 2009). In the other cantons of Romandie where Franco-Provençal dialects used to be spoken, they are now all but extinct.

Until the mid-19th century, Franco-Provençal dialects were the most widely spoken language in their domain in France. Today, regional vernaculars are limited to a small number of speakers in secluded towns. A 2002 report by the INED (Institut national d'études démographiques) states that the language loss by generation, that is, "the proportion of fathers who did not usually speak to their 5-year-old children in the language that their own father usually spoke in to them at the same age" was 90%. This was a greater loss than any language in France, a loss called "critical". The report estimated that fewer than 15,000 speakers in France were handing down some knowledge of Franco-Provençal to their children (figures for France: Héran, Filhon, & Deprez, 2002; figure 1, 1-C, p. 2.)

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