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  • Apr 01, 2012
  • 08:21 PM

Enclave of "extinct" Gaulish speakers discovered in France

Ouelières, France - A small enclave of speakers of the ancient Gaulish language has been discovered in a remote village in the Auvergne region of France, astonished linguists and anthropologists announced on Sunday at a special conference in Paris.

Gaulish, one of the Celtic languages, was thought to have died out over a thousand years ago, surviving only in fragmentary inscriptions and scattered French loanwords. It was gradually replaced by the Latin language brought by Roman soldiers and settlers, which in time evolved into French. Its closest relatives are Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and Breton, endangered languages spoken on the fringes of Europe.

How the Gaulish language managed to survive unnoticed for so long is not yet wholly understood, and with only 12 speakers left, most of them over the age of 60, linguists fear for the language's future. The speakers belong to several farming families that have apparently had little contact with outsiders for generations. Some who did encounter them noted their "degenerate, incomprehensible patois," but no further inquiry was made until recently.

A linguist who arrived to investigate was misled at first by the heavy French influence on the language, but over several weeks determined that its basic grammatical structure and vocabulary was in fact descended from the ancient Gaulish tongue.

Following the conference, French president Nicolas Sarkozy responded to the news, saying: "This incredible discovery is a testament to the amazingly rich history and culture of France, and gives us another reason to be proud of our great country." Asked what steps would be taken to protect the language, the president was quick to reply, "As president I accept full responsibility for the fate of these families, and will personally ensure the swift organization of French language courses for them, so they can integrate into the larger society and their dialect can be eradicated as soon as possible. Curious and quaint as this incomprehensible patois may be, we cannot allow any threat to the unity of the Republic."

The preceding has been a work of satire. APRIL FOOLS!

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