Nissart: a regional variety of the Occitan language

Le Niçois

‘Nissart’, the regional language of Nice

Every country has its own regional languages. At a time of globalisation it is important, if we want to hold on to our identity, that we do not forget our roots. In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, several regional languages are spoken. Once, there were two families of Romance languages: the langue d’Oïl, or Oïl language family, spoken in the North, and the langue d’Oc, or Oc family of languages, spoken in the South of France. One of the latter is Niçard, also known as Nissart, a regional variety of Occitan spoken in Nice and the surrounding villages. It’s worth pointing out that Nice has an extremely long history. The city was originally known as Nikaia. Much later, it became part of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and was annexed to France in 1860.

‘Boana jornada’, ‘coma va ?’ or ‘ratapignata’

Nissart is a genuine language with its own grammar rules. For example, in Nissart, nouns do not take an ‘s’, only articles and adjectives change to denote the plural. So, lo professor (‘the teacher’) becomes lu professor in the plural. That’s easier than French, don’t you think? Now, let’s take a look at some vocabulary – that way, you’ll be ready to practice your Nissart when you arrive in the region. Here we go... To ask “how are you?”, say “como va?” “Good afternoon” in Nissart is “boana jornada”. And do you know what “can” means in Nissart? It’s the word for “dog”. “Tchiné” is a “child” and a “babatchou” is a stupid person. To tell someone “I’m from round here”, you would say “sian d’acqui”. Finally if you hear someone talking about “ratapignata”, they’re not talking about a local delicacy, it’s the word for a “bat”, a small animal which has long been a symbol associated with the Nice people.

Let’s speak Nissart

Regional languages are of interest to all types of people. In Nice, nearly 1,500 students learn Nissart at secondary school and, every year, more than 400 choose it as an option for their baccalaureate examinations. There are also organisations which offer free lessons. So, what are you waiting for? Come and discover the culture and language of Nissa la Bella (Nice the Beautiful)!

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