New Breton books

Since travelling abroad is not a possibility I have gone on-line to look for more books about the Breton language. I have missed my European language studies, which I haven’t undertaken since 2009 [1]. I would like to continue both Breton and Romansch but as my 2009 experience showed, it was not a good idea to go from one language to another with only a weekend between the two. It is better to concentrate on one language at a time. Had COVID not existed I might have resumed my studies already or at least investigated courses offered this summer. Nevertheless I often visit the website of Coop Breizh, the leading publisher of Breton books, to look for interesting titles. I visited the bricks-and-mortar store when there used to be one in Paris.

Since I can’t purchase these books in person in the foreseeable future I decided to place an order on-line. Here’s my latest Breton book haul:

Langues régionales: au bord du gouffre? De l’utilité de «nationaliser» les langues régionales by Thierry Kranzer was published in 2015. The cover art speaks volumes: a unicyclist rides a tightrope stretched over an abyss shaped like metropolitan France. Stretched precariously over a drop to certain death is a balance pole draped with the flags of eight areas home to linguistic minorities, including Breton, Corsican and Basque. In order to build a case for strong French nationalism, do the country’s regional languages have to perish?

Atlas des Nations sans État en Europe: Peuples minoritaires en quête de reconnaissance from 2011 was full of colour maps with a chapter on the Romansch family of languages and separate pages on Friulian and Dolomitic Ladin. I was happy to see not only sections on the Sami languages as well as Finnic languages such as Ingrian, Votic and Livonian, but also a section on the Swedish areas of Finland and the Åland Islands. As this book was published in Brittany, the first languages covered are from the Celtic family, with Breton leading them all.

Questions d’Identité: Pourquoi et comment être Breton? from 2015 profiled French writers, researchers, politicians, musicians among a dozen others to find out how being Breton affects them. The second part of the book dealt with chapters such as Breton unity, the threatened state of the language, the viability of language instruction (especially among adults) and the state of new Breton, where the language is taught in schools versus being passed on via older generations.

Mon copain parle breton from 2017 was a triglot for children with each language presented in a different colour text box. Two boys attend the same school but one of them takes Breton classes:

I was most excited to see this: a Breton-Basque/Basque-Breton dictionary! It was a block of a book, at 686 pages containing 4500 entries. For linguists this is a most interesting resource as I like to compare vocabularies yet I seriously wonder who would ever use this as a practical tool. It was written for Breton speakers so its target audience is Bretons who visit Euskal Herria, or those who study the Basque language. For all I know there might be a sizable number of Bretons who do visit the Basque Country. While there are various Breton-French bidirectional dictionaries (as a portion of Euskal Herria lies in France) the number of Breton-Spanish dictionaries is smaller (if any even exist) and if Breton travellers are able to decipher Basque signs and communicate with the locals, then this dictionary must be a godsend.

I already own two quirky Finnish pocket dictionaries and phrasebooks: one, Euskara-finlandiera hiztegia / Suomi-baski-sanakirja, a pocket dictionary of Basque and Finnish (164 pages); and Georgia-Suomi keskustelusanasto, a Georgian-Finnish phrasebook (96 pages).

Although I always focus on the books I buy, I sometimes talk about music and along with the five books I also bought one CD with songs in Corsican, Basque and Breton:

[1] In 2000 I studied Finnish in Finland; from 2005 to 2007 and in 2009 I studied Romansch in Graubünden, Switzerland and in 2009 I also studied Breton in Brittany, France.

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