Occitan, also called Provençal, is a Romance language spoken across the southern third of France, as well as in some of the Alpine valleys of Italy and in the Aran Valley of Spain. Occitan was the vehicle for the first vernacular poetry of medieval Europe, that of the troubadors. With the gradual imposition of French royal power over its territory, Occitan declined in status from the fourteenth century on. Though it was still the everyday language of most of the rural population of the South well into the twentieth century, it had been replaced in more formal uses by French. Today there are still several million native speakers of Occitan, though they are to be found mostly in the older generations. Ethnic activism, particularly the Occitan-language preschools, the Calandretas, have reintroduced the language to the young.
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