The terms Arpitan and Arpitania (Arpitanie) are neologisms coined in the 1970s, due to Joseph Henriet (born 1945), who was influenced by Basque activist Federico Krutwig. In his Garaldea (published 1978), Krutwig names the Basques "Garalditans". Looking for racial or linguistic remnants of the "Garalditans", he moved to the Aosta Valley in 1970, constructing Basque etymologies for local placenames.
In Aosta, Krutwig befriended the young Maoist activist Joseph Henriet. Influenced by Krutwig, Henriet declared the local patois the descendant of the Neolithic "Garalditan language". He later replaced garalditan by harpitan,
a conflation of the patois terms arpa "alp", arpian "one who works on an alp", and the Basque etymology Basque harri-pe "under the rocks" proposed by Krutwig.
Around 1980, Harriet dropped the Basque-inspired initial h-, now proposing an "Arpitan confederation" (Confédération arpitane) uniting Savoy and the Valais (but not including the patois-speaking Vaud).
The term arpitan since the 1990s has found usage beyond the immediate sphere of Henriet's activities, especially driven by online use. Pichard (2009) suggests its success was due to the happy rhyme with Occitan, the unwieldiness of the alternative francoprovençal. The alternative term patois, while viewed with affection in Switzerland, has a condescending or "humiliating" connotation in France. An Aliance Cultutèla Arpitana was founded in 2004.
Jozé Harrieta [Joseph Henriet], La lingua arpitana, 1976.
Les Alpes et leurs noms de lieux, 6000 ans d'histoire ? : Les appellations d'origine pré-indo-européenne., Paul-Louis Rousset, 1988, ISBN2-901193-02-1
Les mots de la montagne autour du Mont-Blanc, Hubert Bessat et Claudette Germi, Ed. Ellug, Programme Rhône-Alpes, Recherches en Sciences Humaines, 1991, ISBN2-902709-68-4.
^online use reported in 2014.
Manuel Meune in: Ex(tra)territorial: Reassessing Territory in Literature, Culture and Languages / Les Territoires littéraires, culturels et linguistiques en question, Didier Lassalle, Dirk Weissmann (eds.), 2014, p. 278.