Language in Toulouse

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Toulouse is a large, cosmopolitan but relaxed and laid back southern French city. It feels like it has as much in common with nearby Spain as with northern France.

The bilingual street signs here are a tantalising reminder of how the city’s history could have been different. Had Occitanie remained a distinct culture and society from that of Northern France, Toulouse would have been its capital. Perhaps the street signs would have Occitan on top, and might not even be accompanied by a French translation.

In fact, you will not see Occitan on commercial signs, or hear it spoken on the streets (or, at least, I did not) in Toulouse — after French, Arabic and English predominate. And yet, the bilingual street signs serve as a reminder that, although clearly integrated for a long time into the French Republic, there is something distinctively Toulousain. This is an example of the use of language as a common shared heritage, a cultural signifier, if you will, rather than simply as a means of communication.

This entry was written by Donal Hanley , posted on Tuesday February 26 2008at 01:02 am , filed under Art and Design, Europe, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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