By Timothy Pooley

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With so much that is positive about the region, one would expect, even in times of considerable change, that its people would manifest some local pride by the way they speak. As Fernand Carton (1981:28) predicted, 'longtemps encore la région Nord-Picardie gardera son originalité linguistique'. The anecdotes already alluded to give the range of this linguistic uniqueness. Terms like chicon 'endive' and wassingue 'floor cloth' (SF 'serpillère') are generally accepted as Regional French, which is for the people of the Nord simply French 'le français tout court' (Carton, 1981:17).

Littré) Such developments resulted in a situation where in northern France (in a broad sense), only French and patois had a real existence, in that they were actually spoken. Dialect became an abstraction, a cover term for a family of patois. Le patois est une unité concrète, attachée au lieu où on le parle. Le paysan qui use d'un patois . . a le sens d'une famille de patois qui est un dialecte, unité abstraite définie par l'élimination de toutes les différences locales. (Grand Larousse, 1976) In English the distinction between language and dialect appears to rest on the same criteria of prestige, extension and the existence of a written form (Hudson, 1980:22).

Whether by abandonment or by assimilation, the end result is the same. The minority language loses that essential element of linguistic vitality - living speakers, even second language speakers - and it dies out. Many will ask whether it is of any great importance that a linguistic variety that has not enjoyed social prestige for hundreds of years should no longer be spoken. After all, 'tongues will cease'. Even the officially recognised regional Page 3 languages of France are hard put to find a place, or more saliently, a clearly recognised functional load, in a society that has embraced modernity, industrialisation, urbanisation and more recently what might be called the postindustrial economy and internationalisation with great openness.

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