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History of the Breton Language
The history of the Breton language began with the appearance of the Bretons in Britain in the 6th century BC. These Celtic people thus came after the Goidels (or Gaels) and the Picts. After the fruitless attempt of the invasion of Britain by Caesar in 56 BC, it was a century later (in 60 AD) before the Romans established a foothold on the isle and subdued the Bretons. Unlike the Celts on the continent (the Gauls), the Bretons were careful to conserve their language.
From Britain to Armor
After the fall of the Roman Empire, successive waves of Bretons immigrated to Armor (the coastal region of Brittany) and there founded kingdoms that soon unified under Nominoe against the Frank enemy (the Battle of Ballon in 845 AD).
In Britain the Breton kingdoms slowly collapsed under the pressure of the Saxons, and their battles gave birth to the Arthurian legend.
This ancient Breton language (Brythonic), which is spoken from the south of Scotland to the mouth of the Loire (from Dumbarton to St. Nazaire), is thus divided into three branches: Welsh and Cornish on the isle of Britain, and Breton on the Continent (where Gallic has disappeared).
From Brythonic to Breton
The history of the Breton language is divided into three periods:
At the beginning of the 20th century, Breton literature was honored with the names of Malmanche in theater and of Kalloc'h in poetry. Then the GWALARN movement, founded by Roparz Hemon, became the origin of a modern Breton literature, with the story writer Jakez Riou and the novelists Abeozen and Youenn Drezen.
After the Second World War the literary revue Al Liamm took up the torch from Gwalarn and continued, with others, the publication of works by new writers.
In 1908 took place the first orthographic unification, that of the three dialects of Cornouaille, Leon and Tregor (KLT), whereas Vannetais kept its way of writing.
In 1941 took place the second orthographic unification with the Vannetais (KLTG). This unified spelling is used today by the great majority of publications and teachers of Breton. It is characterized by the use of zh, in Breizh and brezhoneg for example.
Regulations for Breton in Education
In 1951, the Deixonne law authorized the teaching of Breton, which was prohibited until then.
In 1976 the first preschool was created, with a half dozen students. In 1994 DIWAN enrolled more than 1500 students from preschool through high school and foreshadowed the opening of new schools and colleges by preparing to open a high school. By 2000, the association included a high school and three colleges.
In 1978 the teaching of Breton was authorized as LV2, then as LV3 in 1982.
In 1981 the Breton degree was created, and in 1986 the CAPES, but it was not until 1989 that the creation of the DEUG was obtained.
In 1993 successive French governments, left and right, refused to sign the European Charter of Minority Languages and to recognize the linguistic rights of the Bretons.
In addition to Diwan, the students of the bilingual program of the college Charles Le Goffic de Lannion saw themselves refused the right of taking history and geography examinations for the college certificate in Breton.
In the Media
While there are occasionally radio and television broadcasts in Breton, there still are not channels broadcasting in Breton, as for example there are Welsh channels in Wales.
On the radio the local channels air several hours of Breton each week, but without the prospect of expansion.
Television less than one hour weekly, regularly shortened for sporting events, is far from satisfying the Breton-speaking public. There are no telecasts for children, nor for persons learning the language. It should be noted that France-3 receives more funding from the subsidies of the general council of Finistre than from the regional council for the development of these telecasts. The results: nothing. Where does the money go?
In public life
There is no official statue for Breton in the public life. The fact that all of the governments, on the left or on the right, have always refused even the idea of a debate in Parliament on an ordinance of "regional" languages says much about the degree of broad-mindedness of the public authority on such a subject.
According to the revised Constitution of the Fifth Republic, "French is the language of the Republic". The Breton language will be therefore an anachronism of the Old Regime. French (as opposed to Breton, which does not exist legally) thus benefits from the protection of the Constitution and the laws, because although all citizens are equal, one single language is more equal than the others.
The law of 1975 that protects French is used against Breton, as too until now has been the royal edict of Villers-Cotterets in 1539, by the republican tribunals of today. The use of the Breton language in legal and commercial documents, as well as in publicity, is against French law. Bills or posters of festou-noz in Breton are therefore illegal.
Breton (and those who speak it) is thus formally outlawed. France, which recognizes the rights of the ethnic and linguistic minorities except on its own soil, has always refused to sign Article 27 of the Declaration of Civil and Political Rights which would obligate it to respect the linguistic rights of Bretons. Likewise, it refuses today to sign the European Charter of Indigenous Minority Languages.