LINGUIST List 6.1047

Thu Aug 3 1995

Sum: Walloon

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. "Larry Trask", Sum: Walloon

Message 1: Sum: Walloon

Date: Thu, 03 Aug 1995 10:38:18 Sum: Walloon
From: "Larry Trask" <>
Subject: Sum: Walloon

Several weeks ago I posted a passage in the local Walloon of the
Bastogne area of Belgium and asked for a translation. I had quite a
number of responses, and it appears that the responders had a good
time wrestling with the passage.

Here is the passage:

I-gn-e` a po^ pre`s kinze ans du d' ci, dj' asto amon Albe^rt
Le`yona^rd e`t dj' rawa^rdo pace k' on m' avot dit k' ou profe`sseu^r
do Se'mine^re vlot nos ve`y po pa^rler do walon. Dju m' sovin co k'
dj' e^ dmande' a c,' momint la: <<Kin-a^dje k' il e`, don c,' cure'
la ?>> Dj' e^ vite avou compris k' i n' astot nin pus cure' k' mi,
surtout cand dj' l' e^ ve`you avou oune be`le bwe^ce`le ki n'
compurdot we^re lu walon, me^s k' astot bin de`cide' a l' aprinde
avou de`s profe`sseu^rs come Pierrot, come Jeannot, come Roger, ou
come mi, di-st-i l' fou.

And here is the consensus translation:

Il y a a` peu pre`s quinze ans d'ici, j'e'tais chez <<Albert
Le'onard>> et j'attendais parce qu'on m'avait dit qu'un professeur du
Se'minaire voulait nous voir pour parler du wallon. Je me souviens ce
que j'ai demande' a` ce moment-la`: <<Quel a^ge a-t-il donc, ce
cure'-la`?>> J'avais vite compris qu'il n'e'tais pas plus cure' que
moi, surtout quand je l'ai vu avec une belle jeune demoiselle qui ne
comprenait gue`re le wallon, mais qui e'tait bien de'cide'e a`
l'apprendre avec des professeurs comme Pierrot, comme Jeannot, comme
Roger, ou comme moi, dit-il, le fou.

There were some uncertainties and disagreements; I've gone with the
majority view in each case. The biggest problem was the very last
bit, which caused havoc, though the gist of it seems generally clear.
There was some disagreement as to whether it was the non-priest or the
young girl who wanted to learn Walloon; most people went for the
woman, which is what the syntax appears to say.

The strange form <rawa^rdo> in the second line appears to be the same
word as French <regarder>, but I am told that, in northern dialects,
this word is widely used in the sense of `wait, wait for, watch for'.
Another headache was the word <bwe^ce`le> in line 6. This clearly
means something like <demoiselle>, and it is possibly the same word as
French <pucelle> `virgin, maiden', which is unlikely to be the sense

I am told that speakers of Walloon are now generally elderly, apart
from some younger people who are enthusiasts (though the Belgian
student I consulted here told me she had a friend who spoke Walloon).
Some younger people of limited education are also said to have a grasp
of the variety, and, engagingly, I am told that obscenities and
insults tend to persist especially well. One respondent objected to my
speaking of Walloon as a dialect of French, preferring to see it as a
distinct language.

Here's an English version:

It's fifteen years ago now; I was at the "Albert Leonard" [Institute]
and I was curious because I had been told that a teacher from the
Seminary wanted to see us to talk about Walloon. I still remember
what I was wondering at that moment: "So how old is that priest?" I
quickly understood that he was no more a priest than I was,
particularly when I saw him with a beautiful young girl who scarcely
knew any Walloon but who was determined to learn it from teachers like
Pierrot, like Jannot, like Roger, or like me; that's what he said, the

The passage was written by M. Georges Pasau, Pre'sident du Muse'e de
la Parole au Pays de Bastogne; it appeared in issue 4 (1994) of the
magazine _Singuliers_, which is devoted to Walloon. This was a
special number given over to the publication of a new dictionary of
Walloon. The dictionary is Michel Francard (1994), _Dictionnaire des
parlers wallons du pays de Bastogne_, Brussels: DeBoeck/Universite',
ISBN 2-8041-1957-2. Francard is Professor of Romance linguistics at
the University of Louvain in Belgium; his address is Faculte' des
Lettres, Universite' Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-le-Nauve, Belgium,
and his e-mail is I haven't consulted him
yet, but plan to do so. The orthography used here for Walloon was, I
believe, invented by Francard specifically for the dictionary. The
dictionary contains some nice dialect maps and some linguistic
information about Walloon.

My thanks to Jean-Francois Carrasco, Richard Coates, Jean-Francois
Delannoy, Roger Feron, Frederik Fouvry, Vincent Granville, Ted
Harding, Yolande Meessen, Philippe Mennecier, Bernd Moebius (and his
mother!), Joseph Reisdoerfer, Thierry J. van Steenberghe, Guido Vanden
Wyngaerd, and Max Wheeler.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
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