Modern Provençal: Part 5

Questions & Answers

This is part five in a series on the modern Provençal language. See part one to start from the beginning.

In this article we will take a deeper look at how to ask and reply to questions.

A group of pink flamingos standing in shallow water.
Parade of pink flamingos in the Camargue region of southern France. Source: Wikimedia.

Table of Contents

  1. First article in the series
  2. Previous article in the series
  3. All articles in the series
  4. Disclaimer
  5. Questions and Answers
    1. Who or what
      1. Demonstratives
      2. Possessives
    2. Quantities
      1. Indefinite quantities
    3. How and why

Disclaimer

I am not a native speaker, nor any kind of authority on Provence or the Provençal language. I'm compiling these notes from limited and fragmented resources as a way to teach myself, and while I've made every effort to be as accurate and in-depth as possible, mistakes are bound to happen.

I try to verify and weigh information against multiple sources, but something may ultimately come down to a difference between dialects or individual speakers. If you have any comments or corrections, please contact me, including your source(s) and/or credentials.

For now, consider this a work-in-progress.

Questions & Answers

We've already seen how to ask simple yes/no questions by simply changing the tone of voice:

I a una rata dins l'ostau
There is a mouse in the house
I a una rata dins l'ostau?
Is there a mouse in the house?

Who or what

To ask "what", use que (or qu' in front of a vowel):

Que fas uei?
What are you doing today?
Qu'avètz dins la boita?
What do you have in the box?
Qu'es l'amor?
What is love?
Qu'es tròp?
What is too much?

To ask "who", use cu (or quau; the two are synonyms):

Cu siatz?
Who are you?
Cu es aquí?
Who is there?
Cu saup s'es pron caud?
Who knows if it is hot enough?
Cu a tròp de temps?
Who has too much time?
De cu parlam?
Who are we talking about?
Of who are we speaking?
Demonstratives

In English, we distinguish between "this thing" (the thing is in some sense close to the speaker) and "that thing" (the thing is in some sense further away from the speaker). Same with the plural "these things" versus "those things".

We also distinquish between the use of these words as either determiners or pronouns: "I eat this apple" (the word "this" is a determiner which modifies the noun "apple") or "I eat this" (the word "this" is a pronoun which stands on its own).

In Provençal, the demonstrative determiners depend on distance from the speaker, exactly like in English, as well as the gender of the noun they modify:

The demonstrative determiners
Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine
Close aqueste aquesta aquestei
this these
Distant aqueu aquela aquelei
that those
Cu regarda aquesta filme?
Who is watching this movie?
Que viu sus aquesta planeta?
What lives on this planet?
Que fan aquesta setmana?
What are they doing this week?
Que son lei respònsas d'aquestei questions?
What are the answers to these questions?
Cu es la femna d'aqueu òme?
Who is that man's wife?
Cu saup lo nom dau paire d'aquela dròlla?
Who knows the name of that girl's father?
Que fan aquelei ratapenadas? Son puslèu minhòtas
What are those bats doing? They are rather cute

In English, we use the same four demonstratives as pronouns (as well as determiners): "I eat this", "I eat that", "I eat these", "I eat those," but in Provençal, we use a different one: aquò:

Qu'es aquò?
What is this/that?
Que son aquò?
What are these/those?
Aquò son de libres de magia negra
These/those are books of black magic

When aquò comes before es (the third-person present singular of "to be") it is typically shortened to aquò's.

Aquò's ma mòstra novèla
This/that is my new watch.
Aquò's pas una luna
This/that is not a moon.
Possessives

We've already looked at possessive pronouns such as "my" and "your" in sentences like "it is my dog" and "they are your apples". To say instead "the dog is mine" and "the apples are yours" we need even more possessive pronouns.

The possessive pronouns
Person Possessee
Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine
Possessor Singular 1st lo mieu la mieuna lei mieus lei mieunas
mine
2nd lo tieu la tieuna lei tieus lei tieunas
yours
3rd lo sieu la sieuna lei sieus lei sieunas
his/hers/its
Plural 1st lo nòstre la nòstra lei nòstres lei nòstras
ours
2nd lo vòstre la vòstra lei vòstres lei vòstras
yours
3rd lo sieu la sieuna lei sieus lei sieunas
theirs

In English we wouldn't say "the apple is the mine", but in Provençal the definite article is required. Also notice once more the ambiguity between third person singular and plural.

Aqueste torton es lo tieu o lo mieu?
Is this cake yours or mine?
An uèch veituras mai vòlon lei vòstras
They have eight cars but they want yours
L'ors a la nòstra e avèm la sieuna
The bear has ours and we have its
Lei tartugas a la nòstra e avèm la sieuna
The turtles have ours and we have theirs

To ask "whose", or "to who", use a cu (or a quau):

A cu son aquelei cauçaduras?
Whose shoes are these?
A cu deve m'adreiçar?
Who do I have to address myself to?
Who must I address myself to?
Who should I address myself to?
A cu vas sonar?
Who are you going to call?

To ask "which", use quin, quina, and quinei:

Quin trabalh?
Which job?
Quina pagina?
Which page?
Quinei jòcs?
Which games?

Quantities

To ask "how many" or "how much" of something, use quant. It is also used when asking how old someone is.

Quant siatz?
How many are you?
Quant as de libres?
How many books do you have?
Quant an d'ans?
How old are they?
Literally: How many years do they have?
Quant de gents son aqui?
How many people are here?

Both lei gents and lo monde mean "the people" or just "people" in general. Be aware that even though lo monde uses the singular article it must use plural verb forms and adjectives.

Lei gents de Provença son ben aimables
Lo monde de Provença son ben aimables
People from Provence are very kind
I a pas de gents aquí mai i a fòrça fantaumas
I a pas de monde aquí mai i a fòrça fantaumas
There are no people here but there are a lot of ghosts

When talking about totei lei gents or tot lo monde ("everyone", literally "all the people" and "all the world"), you can simply say totei:

Totei son aquí?
Is everyone here?
Totei an fòrça paur
Everyone is very afraid
Indefinite quantities

In English we can ask "How many almonds do you want?" If almonds have been mentioned or implied already, we could also say "How many of them do you want?" Here, "of them" refers back to the aforementioned almonds. In English we don't need to include "of them", we can simply say "How many do you want?"

In Provençal, we aren't allowed to leave out that "of them".

Quant d'ametlas vòles?
How many almonds do you want?
Quant ne'n vòles?
How many (of them) do you want?

The pronoun ne'n takes the place the object of the verb. When it appears in front of a vowel, it becomes n'; when it appears after one of the pronouns me, te, or se it becomes 'n; and when it appears after one of the pronouns nos, vos, li, lo, la, l', or lei it becomes en.

Ne'n volètz?
Do you want some (of it/them)?
N'i a seissanta sèt
There are 67 (of them)

If you're familiar with French, the above may look like negatives, but they're not; they're the equivalent of the French en.

The verb anar means "to go", as we've seen before, but when it is combined with a reflexive pronoun and ne'n, it means "to leave" or "to be going away":

Me'n vau
I am leaving
Nos n'anam
We are leaving

The verb pregar means "to pray" or "to beg", but it is also used to say "be my guest" or "you're welcome":

Te'n prègue
Vos en prègue
Please do
Go ahead
Be my guest
You're welcome
Literally: I beg you

How and why

To ask "how", use coma, which can also mean "like" or "as":

Coma fasètz aquò?
How do you do that?
Coma conjugue aqueste vèrbe?
How do I conjugate that verb?
Coma cantes coma aquò?
How do you sing like that?

In English we say "I know how to knit"; in Provençal we don't need the "how":

Coma sabes tricotar?
How do you know how to knit?
Literally: How do you know to knit?

In English we ask someone "what" their name is; in Provençal we ask instead "how" they call themselves:

Coma te dises? Me dise Marià
What is your name? My name is Maria
Literally: How do you call yourself? I call myself Maria

However, when asking what "his" or "her" name is, you don't ask how he or she calls himself, but how "they" call him or her.

Coma li dison?
What is his/her/their name?
Literally: How do they call him/her/it/them?

Why? That's a very good question. To ask "why", use perqué, and to answer "because", use per que:

Perqué lo disètz coma aquò?
Why do you say it like that?
Sabe pas perqué
I don't know why.
Perqué l'ors dòrm?
Why does the bear sleep?
Why is the bear sleeping?
Per que es ivèrn
Because it's winter.