Jacques-Louis M&#233;n&#233;tra and his experience of the <i>langue d&#8217;oc</i>

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The <i>M&#233;moires</i> of an autodidact Parisian glazier, Jacques-Louis M&#233;n&#233;tra, contain valuable data for linguists reconstructing vernacular speech in eighteenth-century France. As a young man, M&#233;n&#233;tra spent several years travelling about the Occitan-speaking south. What was his experience of the <i>langue d&#8217;oc</i>&#63; Upper-class Parisian travellers saw the south as, linguistically speaking, a foreign country, but M&#233;n&#233;tra encountered no linguistic difficulties whatsoever. Why&#63; Part of the answer may lie in the progress of standardisation, but the essential factor is probably one of language attitudes: M&#233;n&#233;tra&#8217;s tolerance of language variation and his capacity for linguistic accommodation reflect age-old attitudes to vernacular speech which were very distant from the new ideology of standardisation developing among the metropolitan elites.


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