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Languages on Corsica

There are two recognised administrative languages on Corsica: French and Corsican. Traditionally France has refused to cultivate regional languages in its state territories since French domination is seen as an elementary factor in ensuring national unity. This meant that the Corsican language was banned from schools and public life for decades.



Corsican (Corso) is an Italo-Romance dialect and can be divided on the island into the northern dialects, which are related to Tuscan, and the southern dialects, which are related to the northern Sardinian dialects Sassarese and Gallurese.

Central and southern Italian influence

As a result of the shared past during the period of the pre-Roman occupations, Sardinia and Corsica formed a single language area that was only gradually penetrated by the Latin influence and which in linguistic terms meant that Corsica was influenced by central and southern Italian. When the island became part of various empires during the 9th century, this unity disintegrated and Corsica first came under the control of Pisa before coming under Genoese administration shortly afterwards. There the Tuscan literary language was used, which is why Corsica was linguistically “Tuscanised” during the almost 500 years in which it was under the influence of the Genoese.

Decline of the Italian language in the 18th century

Following the French invasion of Corsica in 1768, the inhabitants were expected to adopt the French culture and language. This led to the Italian language being banned from all areas of public life in 1852. When compulsory schooling was introduced thirty years later and French was exclusively taught, Italian – which had previously been the written and cultural language of the island – vanished completely.
As a result, this led to a revival of the Corsican language, which the inhabitants used to assert their identity as Corsicans. For the first time literary texts and newspapers were produced in Corsican. The “Partiu corsu d’azzione” political party, which was founded in the 1920s, exploited the development of Corso as a written language as part of their ideology, which was aimed at achieving Corsican independence.

Late recognition of the banned Corsican language

In 1973, Jean Rocchi founded summer schools where children were given an opportunity to learn the banned Corsican language. The language still held enormous symbolic character in affirming Corsican identity. One year later, Corsican was recognised by the French Republic as a regional language and in 1989 it was conferred equal status as an administrative language. To a limited extent, it is again being taught in schools and at the University of Corsica in Corte. However, many inhabitants of Corsica are demanding the formal institutionalisation of the Corsican language as part of a commitment to official bilingualism. 
According to more generous estimates, almost 400,000 people can speak Corsican, which includes 100,000 people who live on Corsica itself, around 33,000 on the French mainland and around 225,000 Sardinians, who speak Sassarese and Gallurese.