Pellerino, Rosella – abstract

Rosella Pellerino, Scientific Director, Espaci Occitan, Dronero (Cuneo), Italy

Son de Lenga – Espaci Occitan
Museum of Occitan Language and Culture in Dronero

Occitan is a new Latin or Romance language. In the 14th century Dante Alighieri tried to classify Romance languages according to their affirmative particle and fixed three tongues: sì language, Italian, oil language, Oiltan or French, and òc language, Occitan. Òc comes from Latin hoc est, so this is; Occitania became the name given to the regions where òc language was spoken. Occitania showed a remarkable cultural vitality: the literary age of trobadors was its best expression, but there was also Frédéric Mistral, the author of Mirèio and Calendau, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1904.

Today Occitan is spoken in famous regions of southern France, such as Gascony, Languedoc, Auvergne, Limousin and Provence. Occitan is also present in Aran valley in Spain. In Italy, the Occitan language is spoken in 120 villages inhabited by 180,000 people in Imperia, Cuneo and Torino provinces, as well as in Calabria, in Guardia Piemontese, a village populated in the 15th century by Waldensians coming from Piedmont.

Espaci Occitan – an association of public institutions of the alpine Occitan territory – based in Dronero, aims at promoting culture, language and tourism in the Occitan valleys. Featuring the Institute of Occitan Studies, Sòn de Lenga Museum and the Occitan Library, Espaci Occitan is the first cultural centre dedicated to the Occitan world.

The Institute of Studies numbers thousands of books and CDs about language, culture and traditions of the Occitan territory; it also offers the opportunity to hear and watch music and movies. Moreover, it has an on-line Linguistic Service, offering translations, linguistic and toponymic advices and frontal or on-line language courses. Sòn de Lenga, a museum dedicated to the Occitan Language, is a pleasant way to approach Occitan culture: as on a virtual journey, it illustrates literature, music, tradition, history, material and social life of the Occitan territory.

The multimedia museum was created in 2002 and completely renovated in 2015 thanks to private and public funds. It features ten computerized stations dedicated to geography, history, art, literature and others main themes of Occitan culture, such as the musical heritage from troubadours’ music to religious compositions, dances and rock, and the ancient instruments that have retained their charm through the centuries.

A section of the museum provides a vocal dictionary; another presents the most typical costumes of ancient folk festivals with the opportunity to wear them through computer animation. An important part of the museum is dedicated to territory, language, politics, history and culture of the forty most important linguistic groups in Europe: Albanian, Breton, Catalan, Welsh, Basque, Frisian, Friulian, Galician, Ladin, Occitan, Samic, Sardinian, Sorbian, Slovenian, and many more.

The workstations, available in Italian, Occitan, English and French, alternate didactic explanations and captivating presentations using movies, music and a rich collection of ancient ethnographic objects. The museum is visited mostly by schoolchildren and tourists from Italy, France and Germany.

First Gallery of the Espaci Occitan