|sercquiais, lé sèrtchais|
Sercquiais, also known as Sarkese or Sark-French (lé sèrtchais), is the Norman dialect of the Channel Island of Sark (Bailiwick of Guernsey). In the island it is sometimes known, slightly disparagingly, as the "patois", a French term meaning "regional language".
Sarkese is in fact a descendant of the 16th century Jèrriais used by the original colonists, 40 families mostly from Saint Ouen, Jersey who settled the then uninhabited island, although influenced in the interim by Guernésiais (the dialect of Guernsey). It is still spoken by older inhabitants of the island. Although the lexis is heavily anglicised, the phonology retains features lost in Jèrriais since the 16th century. Most of the local placenames are in Sarkese. In former times, there may have been two subdialects of Sercquiais. It is also closely related to the Auregnais (Alderney) dialect, as well as Continental Norman.
Relatively little Sercquiais has been transcribed, and as there is no widely accepted form, it has received a certain amount of stigma as a result. A ruler of Sark, Sibyl Hathaway, who was a speaker herself, claimed that it could "never be written down", and this myth has continued in the years since then.
The earliest published text in Sercquiais so far identified is the Parable of the Sower (Parabol du smeaux) from the Gospel of Matthew. Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, linguist, visited the Channel Islands in September 1862 in order to transcribe samples of the insular language varieties, which he subsequently published in 1863:
Which in the NIV is translated as:
|fere||féther||to iron||repasser (ferrer: to clad in iron)|
palatalisation of velars /k/ and /?/ (see Joret line) is less fully developed in Sercquiais than in Jèrriais. Palatalisation in Jèrriais of /k/ to [t?] and /?/ to [d?] has the equivalent in Sercquiais of /kj/ and /?j/. For example, hiccup is hitchet in Jèrriais and hekyet in Sercquiais; war is respectively dgèrre and gyer.
Palatalisation of /tj/ in Jèrriais leads to [t?], but in Sercquiais /t/ is generally retained: profession, trade in Sercquiais is meeti, whereas Jèrriais has palatalised to mêtchi.
[d?] is retained in Sercquiais where Jèrriais has reduced to [?], as in to eat: mãdji (Sercquiais) - mangi (Jèrriais).
Final consonants of masculine nouns in the singular are in free variation with null in all positions except in liaison. Final consonants are usually pronounced at ends of phrases. Final consonants are always lost in plural forms of masculine nouns. A cat may therefore be kat or ka in Sercquiais, but cats are kaa. For comparison, Jèrriais cat is usually pronounced /ka/, and the plural has the long vowel as in Sercquiais. It can also therefore be seen that length is phonemic and may denote plurality.
Sercquiais has also retained final consonants that have been entirely lost in Jèrriais, such as final /t/ in pret (meadow - pré in Jèrriais as in French).
Metathesis of /r/ is uncommon in Sercquiais, and in Jèrriais, by comparison with Guernésiais.
The palatalised l, which in Jèrriais has been generally palatalised to /j/ in initial position and following a consonant, is maintained in Sercquiais.
(li representing /j/)
|blyaky?||bliatchîn||shoe polish (blacking)|
|dje dmãdde||jé d'mand'dai||je d'mànd'rai||I'll ask|
However, Sercquiais does not geminate palatal fricatives, unlike Jèrriais:
The St. Ouennais origins of Sercquiais can be seen in the 2nd and 3rd person plural forms of the preterite. Sercquiais uses an ending -dr which is typical of the St. Ouennais dialect of Jèrriais, but generally not used elsewhere in Jersey (nor nowadays by younger speakers in St. Ouen).
|i vuliidr||i' voulîdrent||i' voulîtent||they wanted|
|uu paaliidr||ou pâlîdres||ou pâlîtes||you spoke|
|i füüdr||i' fûdrent||i' fûtent||they were|
|uu prdr||ou prîndres||ou prîntes||you took|