Picard (, also , French: [pikaʁ] ()) is a langue d'oïl of the Romance language family spoken in the northernmost part of France and Hainaut province in Belgium. Administratively, this area is divided between the French Hauts-de-France region and the Belgian Wallonia along the border between both countries due to its traditional core being the districts of Tournai and Mons (Walloon Picardy).
Picard is referred to by different names as residents of Picardy simply call it Picard, but it is more commonly known as ch'ti or ch'timi in the more populated Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Romance Flanders around the metropolis of Lille and Douai, and northeast Artois around Béthune and Lens). It is also named Rouchi around Valenciennes, Roubaignot around Roubaix, or simply patois in general.
In 1998, Picard native speakers amounted to 700,000 individuals, the vast majority of which were elderly people (aged 65 and over). Since its daily use had drastically declined, Picard was declared by the (UNESCO) a "seriously endangered language".
Belgium's French Community gave full official recognition to Picard as a regional language along with Walloon, Gaumais (Lorraine), Champenois (Champagne) and Lorraine German in its 1990 decree. The French government has not followed suit and has not recognized Picard as an official regional language (in line with its policy of linguistic unity, which allows for only one official language in France), but some reports have recognized Picard as a language distinct from French.
A 1999 report by Bernard Cerquiglini, the director of the Institut national de la langue française (National Institute of the French Language) stated:
The gap has continued to widen between French and the varieties of langues d'oïl, which today we would call "French dialects"; Franc-comtois, Walloon, Picard, Norman, Gallo, Poitevin, Saintongeais, Bourguignon-morvandiau, Lorrain must be accepted among the regional languages of France; by placing them on the list [of French regional languages], they will be known from then on as langues d'oïl.
Even if it has no official status as a language in France, Picard, along with all the other languages spoken in France, benefits from actions led by the Culture Minister's (la Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France).
Picard, like French, is one of the langues d'oïl and belongs to the Gallo-Roman family of languages. It consists of all the varieties used for writing (Latin: scriptae) in the north of France from before 1000 (in the south of France at that time the Occitan language was used). Often, the langues d'oïl are referred to simply as Old French. Picard is phonetically quite different from the North-central langues d'oïl, which evolved into modern French. Among the most notable traits, the evolution in Picard towards palatalization is less marked than in the central langues d'oïl in which it is particularly striking; /k/ or /ɡ/ before /j/, tonic /i/ and /e/, as well as in front of tonic /a/ and /ɔ/ (from earlier *au; the open /o/ of the French porte) in central Old French but not in Picard:
There are striking differences, such as Picard cachier ('to hunt') ~ Old French chacier, which later took the modern French form of chasser. Because of the proximity of Paris to the northernmost regions of France, French (that is, the languages that were spoken in and around Paris) greatly influenced Picard and vice versa. The closeness between Picard and French made the former not always be recognised as a language in its own right, but rather a "distortion of French" as it is often viewed.
Despite being geographically and syntactically affiliated according to some linguists due to their inter-comprehensible morphosyntactic features, Picard in Picardy, Ch'timi and Rouchi still intrinsically maintain conspicuous discrepancies. Picard includes a variety of very closely related dialects. It is difficult to list them all accurately in the absence of specific studies on the dialectal variations, but these varieties can probably provisionally be distinguished: Amiénois, Vimeu-Ponthieu, Vermandois, Thiérache, Beauvaisis, "chtimi" (Bassin Minier, Lille), dialects in other regions near Lille (Roubaix, Tourcoing, Mouscron, Comines), "rouchi" (Valenciennois) and Tournaisis, Borain, Artésien rural, Boulonnais. The varieties are defined by specific phonetic, morphological and lexical traits and sometimes by a distinctive literary tradition.
The Ch'ti language was re-popularised by the 2008 French comedy film Welcome to the Sticks (French: Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis; French pronunciation: [bjɛ̃vny ʃe le ʃti]) which broke nearly every box office record in France and earned over $245,000,000 worldwide on an 11 million euro budget.
The first person plural often appears in spoken Picard in the form of the neutral third person in; however, the written form prioritizes os (as in French, where on is used for nous). On the other hand, the spelling of conjugated verbs will depend on the pronunciation, which varies within the Picard domain. For instance southern Picard would read il étoait / étoét while northern Picard would read il étot. This is noted as variants in the following:
Here are several typical phrases in Picard, accompanied by French and English translations:Quind un Ch'ti mi i'est à l'agonie, savez vous bin che qui li rind la vie ? I bot un d'mi.Quand un gars du Nord est à l'agonie, savez-vous bien ce qui lui rend la vie ? Il boit un demi.
Picard is not taught in French schools (apart from a few one-off and isolated courses) and is generally only spoken among friends or family members. It has nevertheless been the object of scholarly research at universities in Lille and Amiens, as well as at Indiana University. Since people are now able to move around France more easily than in past centuries, the different varieties of Picard are converging and becoming more similar. In its daily use, Picard is tending to lose its distinctive features and may be confused with regional French. At the same time, even though most Northerners can understand Picard today, fewer and fewer are able to speak it, and people who speak Picard as their first language are increasingly rare, particularly under 50.
Today Picard is primarily a spoken language, but in the medieval period, there is a wealth of literary texts in Picard. However, Picard was not able to compete with French and was slowly reduced to the status of a regional language.
A more recent body of Picard literature, written during the last two centuries, also exists. Modern written Picard is generally a transcription of the spoken language. For that reason, words are often spelled in a variety of different ways (in the same way that English and French were before they were standardized).
One system of spelling for Picard words is similar to that of French. It is undoubtedly the easiest for French speakers to understand but can also contribute the stereotype that Picard is only a corruption of French rather than a language in its own right.
Various spelling methods have been proposed since the 1960s to offset the disadvantage and to give Picard a visual identity that is distinct from French. There is now a consensus, at least between universities, in favor of the written form known as Feller-Carton (based on the Walloon spelling system, which was developed by Jules Feller, and adapted for Picard by Professor Fernand Carton).
Picard, although primarily a spoken language, has a body of written literature: poetry, songs ("P'tit quinquin" for example), comic books, etc.
A number of dictionaries and patois guides also exist (for French speakers):