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Breton Orthographies and Dialects - Vol. 1

The Twentieth-Century Orthography War in Brittany


Iwan Wmffre

This work is for comparative linguists and celticists who are keen to study Breton but may be too daunted to undertake such a venture by the wide variety of orthographical conventions which exist in Breton.
The chronological development of the Breton orthographical debates during the twentieth century is charted along with an attempt to discern the ideological, political and personal motivations which lay behind those debates. Based on a substantial corpus of hitherto unpublished original documents and personal interviews, the research throws new light on the nature of the political, ideological and linguistic divisions of the Breton movement of that period (not least the events that occurred during the 1939-45 war).
The historical and societal background of the language is succinctly delineated and points of orthographical contention are discussed, each in turn, so that their correlation to the spoken varieties of Breton can be judged by the reader.
The work should dispel once and for all the notion – boosted by the existing orthographical instability and variety – that Breton is too dialectally fragmented to be studied profitably without an inordinate amount of effort.
Contents: The Development of Modern Breton Standards – A historical summary of the Breton orthographic debate – Dialects and Variation – Orthographies: KLT and the Vannetais - The origins of the ZH orthography - The establishment of ZH - Weisgerber and Hemon: German cultural policy towards the Breton nationalists - Wartime reactions to ZH - State teaching of Breton 1940-44 - Retrospect on the establishment of ZH - Post-war backlash - The origins and establishment of the H orthography - The reaction to H - The Hemon-Mordiern letters - A time of dissension - The origins and establishment of the SS orthography - The failure of SS - Other proposed orthographic systems since 1975 - The survival of the Vannetais standard – Ideologies: Western Brittany against the Duchy - Nationalism against regionalism - Hemon’s anti-scholarly streak - Orthographic inflexibility - Harmful repercussions of orthographic censorship on publishing and scholarship - The phonological quality of <c’h> - Quis custodiet custodies? - Criticism of the Breton of native speakers - Criticism of the Breton of learners - An orthographic quasi-monopoly: ZH since the 1980s - A clash of principles: a supradialectal or a localised base for a norm? - Problems of standardisation - Purism and neologisms.