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The Patois

17 / 11 / 2022

The patois of Evolène is part of the vast landscape of Romance languages and belongs to the Francoprovençal linguistic domain.

The language represents the most beautiful expression of the heritage to which the people of Evolène show their strong attachment. Not only does the dialect constitute a rich tool of communication and offers the means to express the world but especially it builds the vision of the world and forms the thought of the speakers. The regional civilization as well as the environment are deeply shaped by the patois language which has been transmitted without interruption from one generation to the next so much so that, today, Evolène is the last commune in the French-speaking part of Switzerland where children speak spontaneously in patois. Fortunately, the patois remains the language of communication on the whole territory.


The patois of Evolène is part of the vast landscape of Romance languages and belongs to the Francoprovençal linguistic domain: it is not a variant of French. It stands out from other contemporary patois by the richness of its vocabulary and the complexity of its grammar. The Francoprovençal patois unfolds in the abundance of speech, escaping the standardization of written languages. As a manifestation of orality, variation, inherent to the patois, develops within the limits that the evolving community draws and respects.

The lexicon, in addition to the essential part going back to the Latin, includes pre-Romanic elements such as "lù bârma", overhanging rock or "lù byeùnyo", glacier, and others which came from the Germanic languages like "lù bârda", big axe, as well as borrowings to the Alemannic "brèhà", to crush the hemp, to the French, or, more recently, to the English... The language of a land, a language rich in community experience, the patois of Evolène continues to resonate in the concert of modern languages.


The richness of the patois encompasses all notions and invites to formulate the totality of the human experience, the native language is not reduced to the only denomination of the agro-pastoral activities. The precision relating to the division of reality characterizes the dialect in particular. The stone sculpts the alpine landscape, so the patois reflects the importance of this environment. As an indication, the small uncountable stones are designated as follows: "dè lyavìn", gravel; "dè lyék", deposit of small stones. As for the stones that can be removed one by one, we have a relatively precise terminology: "oùnna purrèta", a small stone like the one that slips into the shoe; "oùnna pîrra", a pebble; "oùnna rôtse", a stone that can be easily transported; "oùnna groùnma", a round stone that can be held in one hand and thrown. In the terrain, we find: " oun légjyè ", an outcropping rock; " oun grùtchyo ", a stone fixed in the ground; " oun grèpê ", a large stone; " oun ché ", a rock; " oùnna paréi dè ché ", a cliff; " lè chèrre ", the high peaks. According to the shape, the patoisant distinguishes the flattened stones as follows: " oun palètt ", a flat and rounded stone, used in an old boy's game, a small slab placed on the keels that support our barns and attics; " oun larpé ", a slab; " oùnna lé ", a roofing slate.

The scale that orders reality is fixed as much by the patois nomenclature as by the representation that the patois speaker makes of it. The evolénarde community guarantees that its members share the same way of seeing and expressing.


Lulled by the reassuring murmur of the family language, carried by a vigorous speech that is rooted in a space and in a relationship of proximity, the patois speaker feels to what extent the patois structures his personality. The language constitutes a treasure in the figurative expression to mean abstract notions. Thanks to oral transmission, the dialect expresses, through legends, stories, proverbs, fixed expressions and common references, a system of values which founds the social link. In the word heard and shared, the patois is defined as the language of the heart.

copyright : commune of Evolène