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Breton in France

Language designations:

  • In the language itself: Brezhoneg
  • ISO 639-3 standard: bre

Language vitality:

Linguistic aspects:

  • Classification: Indo-European → Celtic → Breton
  • For more information, see bret1244 at Glottolog

Language standardization:

Breton knows several varieties, with Kerneveg, Leoneg, Tregerieg in the centre and north-western part of Brittany, and Gwenedeg in the southeast.1)

Breton has known many ortographies, and Breton has been written since the 6th Century2). In the 20th century, several orthographies were produced to try encompass the regional variations an/or to create a universal spelling:

  • 1941: Peurunvan('totally unified')/zedacheg (for digraph zh)/KLTGw (the four variety's initials).
    • Peurunvan remains the most popular in use3) 4).
  • 1954: Orthographie Universitaire
  • 1970: Etrerannyezhel (‘interdialectal’)

A unified language has emerged in the 20th century, a development which has been reinforced by the development of bilingual education and by the media.5) In 2019, almost all speakers under the age of 50 could read and write the language to some extent.6)


Language Area

Map showing the Breton language area in Brittany, depicting the four language varieties with Kerneveg (Cornouaillais, in bright green), Leoneg (Léonard, in blue), Tregerieg (Trégorrois, in orange) and Gwenedeg (Vannetaisin, in turquoise) 7)

Speaker numbers

Language and education legislation:

History of education legislation

European language legislation:

Breton is not covered under the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages as France has signed, but has not ratified the the Charter.

Legislation on national level:

On April 8, 2021, the French National Assembly passed a bill Protection et promotion des langues régionales (Eng: protection and promotion of regional languages) by 247 votes in favour and 76 against. The approval has been described as 'historic', as it opens the door to implement language immersion through the medium of minoritised languages in public schools, as well as to allow for better funding of immersive, community-run private schools.8)9)10)

On May 21, 2021, the Constitutional Council of France concluded that the law for the protection and promotion of regional languages ​​as partially unconstitutional. One of the two articles deemed inconstitutioanl, article 4, concerns immersive education. The report of the Constitutional Council states: “By providing that the teaching of a regional language can take the form of immersive teaching, article 4 of the referred law disregards article 2 of the Constitution. It is therefore contrary to the Constitution.”11) Article 2 of the Constitution states that French is the language of the Republic. The immersive bilingual Diwan school network has issued a statement shortly after: “From now on, we are in the legal, financial and operational unknown. However, with the ambiguity to our advantage, we will continue our mission as every day for 44 years, with determination.” 12)

Education in practice

Since 1977, there is a bilingual school network, Diwan, which teaches by language immersion, and teaches Breton only in the first years of education. The Diwan schools do not receive state financial support. 13) In 2021, the Diwan school network has 48 schools, 6 secondary schools (colleges), and 2 upper secondary schools (lycées) and had 4,063 students enrolled at the start of the 2020 school year, around 2/3 at primary level, and 1/3 at secondary level.14)

14,710 children (corresponding to 2.4% of school children in Brittany) learned Breton 2012 and 2013, opposed to 5 children in 1985.15)

Bodies controlling enforcement of educational laws:

Learning resources and educational institutions:

Mercator's Regional Dossier:

Read more about Breton language education in Mercator's Regional Dossier (2019).

1) , 5) , 6)
Vallerie, M. & Bouroulleg, C. (2019). Breton: The Breton language in education in France (3rd ed.). Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualismand Language Learning.
2) , 4)
Ager, S. (n.d.). Breton (ar brezhoneg). Omniglot.
Gutman, A. & Avanzati, B. (2013).Breton.The Language Gulper.
Breton_dialectes.svg (2019). Breton dialectes. Wikimedia. Retrieved April 25, 2024, from
Nationalia (2021, April 8). France passes “historic” law to allow minoritised language immersion in public schools Better funding for immersive community-run schools expected. Nationalia.'.
Lagain, A., Louis, N., France Bleu, France Bleu Breizh Izel (2021, April 8). Loi sur les langues régionales : la proposition est adoptée par l'Assemblée nationale.
Louis, N., France Bleu Breizh Izel, France Bleu Armorique, France Bleu, France Bleu Alsace, France Bleu Elsass, France Bleu Pays Basque, France Bleu Roussillon, France Bleu RCFM, France Bleu Périgord (2021, May 21).La loi sur les langues régionales censurée en partie par le Conseil Constitutionnel. France Bleu.
Diwan (2021, May 25). Face à l'incompréhension, montrons notre force et notre détermination ! A l'attention des élèves, parents, bénévoles, enseignant.e.s et personnels de Diwan . Diwan.
Vallerie, M. & Bouroulleg, C. Breton: Breton language in education in France| 3rd Edition Mercator Research Centre.
Diwan (2021). Diwan en bref. Diwan.
Goalabre, F. (2015). Immersion Education and the Revitalisation of Breton and Gaelic as Community Languages. Policy and Planning for Endangered Languages
languages/breton_in_france.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/25 12:07 by ydwine

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