Published November 25, 2019
This video was recorded by Paulu Ajaccio in Furiani, North Corsica, France. Corsican is spoken on the Mediterranean island of Corsica off the coast of France, where it is a statutory working provincial language mainly used in education. Corsican has five main varieties: Cismuntincu Nordicu, Cismuntincu, Pumontincu di transizione, Pumontincu and Taravesu/Sartinese. Corsican speakers are largely multilingual, with the last known monolingual speakers gone by the 1960s and only 10% speaking Corsican as their first language. Corsican was once the vernacular of the island (meaning in widespread use as a daily language) alongside Italian thanks to its status as language-of-state for the medieval states of Pisa and Genoa, but as French came to supersede Italian in the region, particularly in the 1900s, Corsican also gave way. Though the language was not funded by the French government for some time, and therefore left off the list of languages taught in schools as it was considered only a dialect of Italian, it eventually gained some educational provisions in 1974. Corsican is most closely related to the Tuscan variety of Italian, but it has developed its own distinct and somewhat irregular phonology. Today, written Corsican literature is considered a pillar of Corsican identity, including oral and musical traditions such as the vocero ballad with centuries-old origins, the polyphonic singing known as 'paghjella' and the 'chjam'è rispondi', a sung verbal joust between two people. Given the prominence of written French, many Corsicans do not know how to write in their language today. Given all these conditions, UNESCO has designated Corsican an endangered language. Work is ongoing to reverse this trend, including advocacy for public signs in Corsican and greater educational support. Corsican is spoken by around 125,000 people (with highly variable proficiency) and that number is decreasing. Corsican is a Southern Romance language within the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family.