Picard language

Native to France, Belgium
Native speakers
ca. 700,000 (2008)[1]
Official status
Official language in
(official recognition as regional language by Belgium)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pcd
Glottolog pica1241[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-he

Picard is a language or a set of languages closely related to French, and as such is one of the larger group of Romance languages. It is spoken in one region in the far north of France (Hauts-de-France) and in parts of the Belgian region of Wallonia, the district of Tournai (Wallonie Picarde) and a part of the district of Mons (toward Tournai and the Belgian border).

Picard is known by several different names. Residents of Picardy simply call it picard, but it is more commonly known as chti or chtimi in the south part of French Flanders (around Lille and Douai) and in North-East Artois (around Béthune and Lens), or rouchi around Valenciennes; or simply as patois by Northerners in general. Linguists group all of them under the name Picard. In general, the variety spoken in Picardy is understood by speakers in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and vice versa.


The geographical spread of Picard and Chtimi among the Oïl languages (other than French) can be seen in shades of green and yellow on this map.

Belgium's French Community gave full official recognition to Picard as a regional language along with Walloon, Gaumais (Lorraine), Champenois (Champagne) and Lorraine German in its 1990 decree. The French government has not followed suit and has not recognised Picard as a regional language (in line with its policy of linguistic unity, which allows for only one official language in France), but some reports have recognized Picard as a language distinct from French.

A 1999 report by Bernard Cerquiglini, the director of the Institut national de la langue française (National Institute of the French Language) stated:

The gap has continued to widen between French and the varieties of langues d'oïl, which today we would call "French dialects"; Franc-comtois, Walloon, Picard, Norman, Gallo, Poitevin, Saintongeais, Bourguignon-morvandiau, Lorrain must be accepted among the regional languages of France; by placing them on the list [of French regional languages], they will be known from then on as langues d'oïl.[3]

Even if it has no official status as a language in France, Picard, along with all the other languages spoken in France, benefits from actions led by the Culture Minister's General Commission on the French Language and the Languages of France (la Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France).

Origins and dialectic variations

spread of Picard
(Picard, Chti, Rouchi, ...)

Picard, like French, is one of the langues d'oïl and belongs to the Gallo-Roman family of languages. It consists of all the varieties used for writing (Latin: scriptae) in the north of France from before 1000 (in the south of France at that time the Occitan language was used). Often, the langues d'oïl are referred to simply as Old French.

Picard is phonetically quite different from the central langues d'oïl, which evolved into modern French. Among the most notable traits, the evolution in Picard towards palatalization is less marked than in the central langues d'oïl in which it is particularly striking; /k/ or /ɡ/ before /j/, tonic /i/ and /e/, as well as in front of tonic /ɡ/ and /ɔ/ (the open /o/ of the French porte) in central Old French but not in Picard:

The effects of palatalization can be summarised as this:

There are striking differences, such as Picard cachier ('to hunt') ~ Old French chacier, which later took the modern French form of chasser.

Because of the proximity of Paris to the northernmost regions of France, French (that is, the languages that were spoken in and around Paris) greatly influenced Picard and vice versa. The closeness between Picard and French made the former not always be recognised as a language in its own right, as opposed to a "distortion of French" as it is often viewed.

Picard includes a variety of very closely related dialects. It is difficult to list them all accurately in the absence of specific studies on the dialectical variations, but these varieties can probably provisionally be distinguished : Amiénois, Vimeu-Ponthieu, Vermandois, Thiérache, Beauvaisis, "chtimi" (Bassin Minier, Lille), dialects in other regions near Lille (Roubaix, Tourcoing, Mouscron, Comines), "rouchi" (Valenciennois) and Tournaisis, Borain, Artésien rural, Boulonnais.

The varieties are defined by specific phonetic, morphological and lexical traits and sometimes by a distinctive literary tradition.


The majority of Picard words derive from Vulgar Latin.

English Picard French
English Inglé Anglais
Hello! Bojour ! or Bojour mes gins ! (formal) or Salut ti z’aute ! (informal) Bonjour (lit.: Bonjour mes gens ! or Salut vous autres !)
Good evening! Bonsoèr ! Bonsoir
Good night! La boinne nuit ! Bonne nuit !
Goodbye! À l’arvoïure ! or À t’ervir ! Au revoir !
Have a nice day! Eune boinne jornée ! Bonne journée !
Please/if you please Sins vos komander (formal) or Sins t' komander (informal) S'il vous plaît (lit: sans vous commander)
Thank you Merchi Merci
I am sorry Pardon or Échtchusez-mi Pardon or Excusez-moi
What is your name? Kmint qu’os vos aplez ? Comment vous appelez-vous ?
How much? Combin qu’cha coûte ? Combien ça coute ?
I do not understand. Éj n'comprinds poin. Je ne comprends pas.
Yes, I understand. Oui, j' comprinds. Oui, je comprends.
Help! À la rescousse ! À l'aide (lit.: À la rescousse !)
Can you help me please? Povez-vos m’aider, sins vos komander ? Pouvez-vous m'aider, s'il vous plaît ?
Where are the toilets? D'ousqu'il est ech tchioér ? Où sont les toillettes ? (Slang: Où sont les chiottes ?)
Do you speak English? Parlez-vos inglé ? Parlez-vous anglais ?
I do not speak Picard. Éj n’pérle poin picard. Je ne parle pas picard.
I do not know. Éj n’sais mie. Je ne sais pas. (lit: Je ne sais mie.)
I know. Éj sais. Je sais.
I am thirsty. J’ai soé. (literally, "I have thirst") J'ai soif.
I am hungry. J’ai fan. (literally, "I have hunger") J'ai faim.
How are you? / How are things going? / How is everything? Comint qu’i va ? (formal) or Cha va t’i ? Comment vas-tu ? or Ça va ?
I am fine. Cha va fin bien. Ça va bien.
Sugar Chuque Sucre
Crybaby Brayou Pleurnicheur (lit: brailleur)

Some phrases

Many words are very similar to French, but a large number are totally specific to Picard - principally terms relating to mining or farming.

Here are several typical phrases in Picard, accompanied by French and English translations:

J'ai prins min louchet por mi aler fouir min gardin.
J'ai pris ma bêche pour aller bêcher mon jardin.
"I took my spade to go dig my garden."
Mi, à quate heures, j'archine eune bonne tartine.
Moi, à quatre heures, je mange une bonne tartine.
"At four o'clock, I eat a good snack."
Quind un Ch'ti mi i'est à l'agonie, savez vous bin che qui li rind la vie ? I bot un d'mi. (Les Capenoules (a music group))
Quand un gars du Nord est à l'agonie, savez-vous bien ce qui lui rend la vie ? Il boit un demi.
"When a northerner is dying, do you know what revives him? He drinks a pint."
Pindant l'briquet un galibot composot, assis sur un bos,
L'air d'eune musique qu'i sifflotot
Ch'étot tellemint bin fabriqué, qu'les mineurs lâchant leurs briquets
Comminssotent à's'mette à'l'danser (Edmond Tanière - La polka du mineur)
Pendant le casse-croûte un jeune mineur composa, assis sur un bout de bois
L'air d'une musique qu'il sifflota
C'était tellement bien fait que les mineurs, lâchant leurs casse-croûte
Commencèrent à danser.
"During lunch a young miner composed, seated on a piece of wood
"The melody of a tune that he whistled
"It was so well done that the miners, leaving their sandwiches,
"Started to dance to it" (Edmond Tanière - La polka du mineur, "The Miner's Polka")
I n'faut pas qu'ches glaines is cantent pus fort que ch'co.
Il ne faut pas que les poules chantent plus fort que le coq.
"Hens must not sing louder than the rooster" (n. b. this saying really refers to men and women rather than poultry)
J' m'in vo à chlofe, lo qu'i n'passe poin d'caroche.
Je vais au lit, là où il ne passe pas de carrosse.
"I go to bed where no car is running."
Moqueu d'gins
railleur, persifleur (lit. moqueur des gens)
"someone who mocks or jeers at people" (compare gens, which is French for "people")
Ramaseu d'sous
personne âpre au gain (lit. ramasseur de sous)
"a greedy person"


Cardinal numbers in Picard from 1 to 20 are as follows:


Picard language signage in Cayeux-sur-Mer

Picard is not taught in French schools (apart from a few one-off and isolated courses) and is generally only spoken among friends or family members. It has nevertheless been the object of scholarly research at universities in Lille and Amiens, as well as at Indiana University.[4] Since people are now able to move around France more easily than in past centuries, the different varieties of Picard are converging and becoming more similar. In its daily use, Picard is tending to lose its distinctive features and may be confused with regional French. At the same time, even though most Northerners can understand Picard today, fewer and fewer are able to speak it, and people who speak Picard as their first language are increasingly rare, particularly under 50.[5]

The 2008 film Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, starring comedian Dany Boon, deals with Ch'ti language and culture and the perceptions of the region by outsiders.

Written Picard

Today Picard is primarily a spoken language, but in the medieval period, there is a wealth of literary texts in Picard. However, Picard was not able to compete with French to become the interregional literary language and was slowly reduced to the status of a regional language.

A more recent body of Picard literature, written during the last two centuries, also exists. Modern written Picard is generally a transcription of the spoken language. For that reason, words are often spelled in a variety of different ways (in the same way that English and French were before they were standardised).

One system of spelling for Picard words is very similar to that of French. It is undoubtedly the easiest for French speakers to understand but can also contribute the stereotype that Picard is only a corruption of French rather than a language in its own right.

Various spelling methods have been proposed since the 1960s to offset the disadvantage and to give Picard a visual identity that is distinct from French. There is now a consensus, at least between universities, in favor of the written form known as Feller-Carton (based on the Walloon spelling system, which was developed by Jules Feller, and adapted for Picard by Professor Fernand Carton).

Learning Picard

Picard, although primarily a spoken language, has a body of written literature: poetry, songs ("P'tit quinquin" for example), comic books, etc.

A number of dictionaries and patois guides also exist (for French speakers):

See also

Picard edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  1. Julie Auger, Indiana University, “Issues of authenticity, purity, and autonomy in minority languages: What is “real” Picard, and who is an “authentic” speaker?”, Congress Minority and Diasporic Languages of Europe , 14-17 Feb. 2003 , Berkeley, US, in Pawel Nowak & Corey Yoquelet (eds.), Berkeley Linguistics Society (BLS 29).
    * - in France: ca. 500 000 speakers [fr]
    - in Belgium : a rough approximation is about 12% to 15% of people in province of Hainaut, i.e. ca. 150 000 to 200 000 speakers.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Picard". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Bernard Cerquiglini, The Languages of France, Report to the Minister of National Education, Research and Technology, and the Minister of Culture and Communication, April 1999
  4. Julie Auger, Department of French and Italian, Indiana University
  5. William Orem, "The Princess & Picard", Research & Creative Activity, April 2000 Volume XXIII Number 1, Indiana University

Linguistic studies of Picard


Centre de Ressources pour la Description de l'Oral - picard (CRDO)
COllections de COrpus Oraux Numériques - picard (COCOON)
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