‘It’s all in the name: road signs and language memory in Brittany’.

Discarded in the hedgerow on a minor road in western Brittany, France was a signpost to Goulitquer; three metres away by the road, upright and mounted on a shiny new pole, emblazoned with a tiny coat of arms a sign to Goulitkêr. ‘Goulitquer’, ‘Goulitkêr’ are the same place of course, but the change of ‘q’ and ‘u’ for a ‘k’ and a circumflex? They are the orthographic alchemy that transforms the name from ‘French’ to ‘Breton’ and is a symbolic redress for the marginalization of the regional language in the past. Similar schemes for replacing local signs have proliferated throughout the region and tourists are surprised by the abundance of bilingual Breton/French signs, even on major roads, perhaps learning in the process that the frequent hamlets called ‘Croissant’ are not the birthplace of the buttery breakfast roll but a kroashent or crossroads. The inhabitants of Brittany now live in a visual environment occupied by Breton, for the first time in the language’s history.

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