Friday, August 04, 2006


How French is Corsica?

I had a note from a young man in the USA yesterday asking if Corsica was French or what? As the answer would affect the content of his High School project on the island, I rushed an answer to him as quick as I could.

The straight answer to his question is "Yes, it's part of France", but in reality the question deserves a fuller answer. The island comprises two French d├ępartements - Haute Corse and Corse du Sud, so politically Corsica remains French. The French language is spoken throughout the island, so linguistically it's French as well. There is however a strong Corsican language spoken by many people and taught in schools, and this language is far closer to the languages spoken in pre-Unification Italy than that of mainland France. So close in fact, that Italians and Corsicans can understand each other pretty well.

Historically, the answer becomes even more complex. For centuries, most of Corsica was ruled by the Genoese and only became French as a result of some political and financial juggling in the 18th Century. So it's hardly surprising that the people of Corsica see themselves as somewhat remote from France, and I suspect that the main reasons why Corsican's voted 51%:49% against a measure of independence in a referendum last year were pragmatic ones.

A young Corsican lad I know has found himself a girl pen-friend at the other end of the island, and they have chosen to correspond with each other in the Corsican language. It's things like this that make you wonder... just how French is Corsica?

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