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Old Occitan
Old Provençal
Region Provence
Era 8th–14th centuries
Language codes
ISO 639-2 pro
ISO 639-3 pro
Glottolog oldp1253[1]

Old Occitan (Modern Occitan: occitan ancian, Catalan: occità antic), also called Old Provençal, was the earliest form of the Occitano-Romance languages, as attested in writings dating from the eighth through the fourteenth centuries.[2][3] Old Occitan generally includes Early and Old Occitan. Middle Occitan is sometimes included in Old Occitan, sometimes in Modern Occitan.[4] As the term occitanus appeared around the year 1300,[5] Old Occitan is referred to as "Romance" (Occitan: romans) or "Provençal" (Occitan: proensals) in medieval texts.


Among the earliest records of Occitan are the Tomida femina, the Boecis, and the Cançó de Santa Fe. Old Occitan, the language used by the troubadours, was the first Romance language with a literary corpus and had an enormous influence on the development of lyric poetry in other European languages. The interpunct was a feature of the language, and survives today in Catalan and Gascon.

The Old Catalan language diverged from Old Occitan between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries.[6] Early texts in the Catalan dialect are the Homilies d'Organyà and the Greuges de Guitard Isarn. It never underwent the shift from /u/ to /y/, nor the shift from /o/ to /u/ (except in unstressed syllables in some dialects), so it had diverged phonologically before those changes affected Old Occitan.


Old Occitan changed and evolved somewhat during its history, but the basic sound system can be summarised as follows:[7]


Old Occitan consonants
Bilabial Labio-
Nasal      m      n      ɲ
Plosive p   b t   d k   ɡ
Fricative f   v s   z
Affricate ts   dz  
Lateral      l      ʎ
Trill r
Tap ɾ


  • Written ch is believed to have represented the affricate [tʃ]; but, since the spelling often alternates with c, it may also have represented [k].
  • Word-final g may sometimes represent [tʃ], as in gaug "joy" (also spelled gauch).
  • Intervocalic z could represent either [z] or [dz].
  • Written j could represent either [dʒ] or [j].



Old Occitan vowels
  Front Back
Close i   y u
Close-mid e (o)
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a ɑ


  • [o] apparently raised to [u] during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; but the spelling was unaffected, hence flor /fluɾ/ "flower".[8]
  • The open-mid vowels [ɛ] and [ɔ] appear as allophones of /e/ and /u/ respectively under certain circumstances in stressed syllables.

Diphthongs and triphthongs[edit]

Old Occitan diphthongs and triphthongs
IPA Example Meaning
/aj/ paire father
/aw/ autre other
/uj/ conoiser to know
/uw/ dous sweet
/ɔj/ pois then
/ɔw/ mou it moves
/ej/ vei I see
/ew/ beure to drink
/ɛj/ seis six
/ɛw/ breu short
/yj/ cuid I believe
/iw/ estiu summer
/jɛ/ miels better
/wɛ/ cuelh he receives
/wɔ/ cuolh he receives
stress always falls on middle vowel
/jɛj/ lieis her
/jɛw/ ieu I
/wɔj/ nuoit night
/wɛj/ pueis then
/wɔw/ uou egg
/wɛw/ bueu ox


  • From Bertran de Born's Ab joi mou lo vers e·l comens (ca. 1200, translated by James H. Donalson):

Bela Domna·l vostre cors gens
E·lh vostre bel olh m'an conquis,
E·l doutz esgartz e lo clars vis,
E·l vostre bels essenhamens,
Que, can be m'en pren esmansa,
De beutat no·us trob egansa:
La genser etz c'om posc'e·l mon chauzir,
O no·i vei clar dels olhs ab que·us remir.

O pretty lady, all your grace
and eyes of beauty conquered me,
sweet glance and brightness of your face
and all your nature has to tell
so if I make an appraisal
I find no one like in beauty:
most pleasing to be found in all the world
or else the eyes I see you with have dimmed.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Nathaniel B. Smith, Thomas Goddard Bergin, An Old Provençal primer, Garland, 1984, ISBN 0-8240-9030-6
  • Paden, William D. 1998. An Introduction to Old Occitan. Modern Language Association of America. ISBN 0-87352-293-1.
  • Povl Skårup, Morphologie élémentaire de l'ancien occitan, Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997, ISBN 87-7289-428-8
  • Romieu, Maurice; Bianchi, André (2002). Iniciacion a l'occitan ancian / Initiation à l'ancien occitan (in Occitan and French). Pessac: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux. ISBN 2-86781-275-5. 


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Old Provençal". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Rebecca Posner, The Romance Languages, Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-521-28139-3
  3. ^ Frank M. Chambers, An Introduction to Old Provençal Versification. Diane, 1985 ISBN 0-87169-167-1
  4. ^ "The Early Occitan period is generally considered to extend from ca. 800 to 1000, Old Occitan from 1000 to 1350, and Middle Occitan from 1350 to 1550" in William W. Kibler, Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, Routledge, 1995, ISBN 0-8240-4444-4
  5. ^ Smith and Bergin, Old Provençal Primer, p. 2
  6. ^ Riquer, Martí de, Història de la Literatura Catalana, vol. 1. Barcelona: Edicions Ariel, 1964
  7. ^ The charts are based on phonologies given in Paden, William D., An Introduction to Old Occitan, New York 1998
  8. ^ See Paden 1998, p. 101

External links[edit]

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