Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Guernsey French study under way

Guernsey French books
Guernsey French is derived from Norman French

The most far-reaching study of Guernsey French (Dgernésiais) "ever undertaken" has begun in the island.

A team of researchers from the University of London will spend two weeks recording as many Guernsey French speakers as they can find.

The language, which derives from Norman French, has been classed as "severely endangered" by Unesco.

The project aims to capture the language as it is currently used, including accent.

The language is severely endangered, it's on the critical list
Jan Marquis, language officer

Jan Marquis, the States language support officer, said: "This is the most far-reaching study of its kind ever done in the island."

The research team is being led by Dr Julia Sallabank, from the University of London.

They began by filming the Guernsey French performances at the Guernsey Eisteddfod, which took place on Friday night.

Mr Marquis hopes the project will help linguists develop new teaching materials.

"The language is severely endangered, it's on the critical list," he said.

About 1,300 islanders claimed to speak Guernsey French in the 2001 census, but Mr Marquis estimates that number has now dropped to 1,000.

Language development

Extra-curricular language classes are held at some island primary schools, but Mr Marquis said it was not just up to teachers to keep Guernsey French alive.

"Maybe grandparents could speak it to their grandchildren in the home, that's the natural environment to learn," he suggested.

In addition to the recording project, a new Guernsey French Language Advisory Panel has been set up and met for the first time earlier.

One of its members, Deputy Gloria Dudley-Owen, described its formation as a "hugely important step for the development of the language."

The panel will make decisions about the future form of Dgernésiais and how it is learned.

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