Occitan (ôksētäNˈ) [key] or Provençal prôväNsälˈ, member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Romance languages). The language label Provençal is often restricted in its reference to the dialects of Provence, a region of SE France, but it can be extended to include other related dialects of S France. In its latter, broader sense, Occitan is spoken today, usually along with French, by as many as 5 million people in France; however, it has no official status in that country. Additional speakers are also found in Pyrenean Catalonia, Spain, and in parts of Italy (mainly in the northwest).
In the Middle Ages, Provençal, also called langue d'oc (see langue d'oc and langue d'oïl), became important as the medium of the great literature of the troubadours, who developed it into a standard local Romance language. After the Albigensian Crusade (see under Albigenses) weakened S France, Provençal culture declined and in time the Provençal language was wholly replaced by French as the standard language of France. In the 19th cent. an unsuccessful movement arose to bring back the former glory of Provençal by restoring it as the literary and regional tongue of S France.
See D. C. Haskell, Provençal Literature and Language (1925).