Dgèrnésiais, Guernsey French
guernésiais, dgèrnésiais
Native toGuernsey
Native speakers
200 (2014)[1]
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3nrf (incl. Jèrriais)

Guernésiais, also known as Dgèrnésiais, Guernsey French, and Guernsey Norman French, is the variety of the Norman language spoken in Guernsey. It is sometimes known on the island simply as "patois". As one of the langues d'oïl, it has its roots in Latin, but has had strong influence from both Old Norse and English at different points in its history.

There is mutual intelligibility (with some difficulty) with Jèrriais speakers from Jersey and Continental Norman speakers from Normandy. Guernésiais most closely resembles the Norman dialect of Cotentinais spoken in La Hague in the Cotentin Peninsula of France.

Guernésiais has been influenced less by Standard French than Jèrriais, but conversely more so by English. New words have been imported for modern phenomena: e.g. le bike and le gas-cooker.

There is a rich tradition of poetry in the Guernsey language. Guernsey songs were inspired by the sea, by colourful figures of speech, by traditional folk-lore, as well as by the natural environment of the island. The island's greatest poet was George Métivier (1790–1881), a contemporary of Victor Hugo, who influenced and inspired local poets to print and publish their traditional poetry. Métivier blended local place-names, bird and animal names, traditional sayings and orally transmitted fragments of medieval poetry to create his Rimes Guernesiaises (1831). Denys Corbet (1826–1910) was considered the "Last Poet" of Guernsey French and published many poems in his day in his native tongue, both in the island newspaper and privately.

The most recent dictionary of Guernésiais, Dictiounnaire Angllais-guernesiais by Marie de Garis, was published in 1967 and revised in 1982.[4]

Current status

Guernésiais tops this list of welcome messages at Guernsey's tourism office in Saint Peter Port

The 2001 census showed that 1327 (1262 Guernsey-born) or 2% of the population speak the language fluently while 3% fully understand the language. However most of these, 70% or 934 of the 1327 fluent speakers, are over 64 years old. Among the young only 0.1% or one in a thousand are fluent speakers. However, 14% of the population claim some understanding of the language.

  • L'Assembllaïe d'Guernesiais, an association for speakers of the language founded in 1957, has published a periodical. Les Ravigoteurs, another association, has published a storybook and cassette for children.
  • Forest School hosts an annual speaking contest of the island's primary school children (Year 6).
  • The annual Eisteddfod provides an opportunity for performances in the language, and radio and newspaper outlets furnish regular media output.
  • There is some teaching of the language in voluntary classes in schools in Guernsey.[5]
  • Evening classes are available, as of 2013.[5]
  • Lunchtime classes are offered at the Guernsey Museum, as of 2013.
  • Along with Jèrriais, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx and Scots (in Scotland as well as the Ulster Scots dialects), Guernésiais is recognised as a regional language by the British and Irish governments within the framework of the British–Irish Council.
  • BBC Radio Guernsey and the Guernsey Press both feature occasional lessons.[citation needed]
  • A Guernésiais language development officer was appointed (with effect from January 2008).[6]

There is little broadcasting in the language, with ITV Channel Television more or less ignoring the language, and only the occasional short feature on BBC Radio Guernsey, usually for learners.

The creation of a Guernsey Language Commission was announced on 7 February 2013[7] as an initiative by government to preserve the linguistic culture. The Commission has operated since Liberation Day, 9 May 2013.


  • Guernsey poet George Métivier (1790–1881) – nicknamed the Guernsey Burns, was the first to produce a dictionary of the Norman language in the Channel Islands, the Dictionnaire Franco-Normand (1870). This established the first standard orthography – later modified and modernised. Among his poetical works are Rimes Guernesiaises published in 1831.
  • Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte published the Gospel of Matthew by George Métivier in Dgèrnésiais in London in 1863 as part of his philological research.
  • Like Métivier, Tam Lenfestey (1818–1885) published poetry in Guernsey newspapers and in book form.
  • Denys Corbet (1826–1909) described himself as the Draïn Rimeux (last poet), but literary production continued. Corbet is best known for his poems, especially the epic L'Touar de Guernesy, a picaresque tour of the parishes of Guernsey. As editor of the French-language newspaper Le Bailliage, he also wrote feuilletons in Dgèrnésiais under the pen name Badlagoule ("chatterbox"). In 2009 the island held a special exhibition in the Forest Parish on Corbet and his work acknowledging the centenary of his death and unveiling a contemporary portrait painting of the artist by Christian Corbet a cousin to Denys Corbet.
  • Thomas Martin (1839–1921) translated into Guernésiais the Bible, the plays of William Shakespeare, twelve plays by Pierre Corneille, three plays by Thomas Corneille, twenty seven plays by Molière, twenty plays by Voltaire and The Spanish Student by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.[8]
  • Thomas Henry Mahy (1862–21 April 1936) wrote Dires et Pensées du Courtil Poussin, a regular column in La Gazette Officielle de Guernesey, from 1916. A collection was published in booklet form in 1922. He was still publishing occasional pieces of poetry and prose by the start of the 1930s.
  • Thomas Alfred Grut (1852–1933) published Des lures guernesiaises in 1927, once again a collection of newspaper columns. He also translated some of the Jèrriais stories of Philippe Le Sueur Mourant into Dgèrnésiais.
  • Marjorie Ozanne (1897–1973) wrote stories, published in the Guernsey Evening Press between 1949 and 1965. Some earlier pieces can be found in La Gazette de Guernesey in the 1920s.
  • Ken Hill translated many of Marjorie Ozanne's short stories and poems into English with the Guernsey accent of the early 20th century. The work was published by the Guernsey society.
  • Métivier's dictionary was superseded by Marie de Garis' (1910–2010) Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernésiais; first edition published in 1967, supplements 1969 and 1973, third edition 1982.
  • When the Channel Islands were invaded by Germany in World War II, Dgèrnésiais experienced a minor revival. Many Guernsey people did not always wish the occupying forces to understand what they were saying, especially as some of the soldiers had knowledge of English.
  • Victor Hugo includes the odd word of Dgèrnésiais in some of his Channel Island novels. Hugo's novel Toilers of the Sea (French: Les Travailleurs de la mer), is credited with introducing the Guernesiais word for octopus, pieuvre, into the French language (standard French for octopus is poulpe).
  • A collection of short stories P'tites Lures Guernésiaises (in Guernésiais with parallel English translation) by various writers was published in 2006.[9]

Bible translations

  • George Métivier translated the Gospel of Matthew into Guernésiais and it was published in London in 1863. This is now online.[10]
  • Thomas Martin translated the whole Bible into Guernésiais[citation needed] and this has never been published.


Guernésiais Consonants[11][12]
Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar/
Nasal m n ɲ
unvoiced p t () k
voiced b d (ɡʲ) ɡ
Fricative unvoiced f s ʃ h
voiced v z ʒ
Rhotic r
Approximant plain l j
labial ɥ w
  • /r/ may also be heard as a tap sound [ɾ].
  • /, / are heard by different dialects as well as older speakers as palatalized plosives [, ɡʲ].
Guernésiais Oral Vowels
  Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close i y u
Close-mid e ø øː o
Open-mid ɛ ɛː œ œː ɔ ɔː
Open a ɑ ɑː
Nasal Vowels
Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close-mid ẽː õ õː
Open-mid ɛ̃ ɛ̃ː œ̃ œ̃ː ɔ̃ ɔ̃ː
Open ã ãː ɑ̃ ɑ̃ː

Metathesis of /r/ is common in Guernésiais, by comparison with Sercquiais and Jèrriais.

Guernésiais Sercquiais Jèrriais French English
kérouaïe krwee crouaix croix cross
méquerdi mekrëdi Mêcrédi mercredi Wednesday

Other examples are pourmenade (promenade), persentaïr (present), terpid (tripod).


aver, have (auxiliary verb)

present preterite imperfect future conditional
1 sg. j'ai j'aëus j'avais j'érai j'érais
2 sg. t'as t'aëus t'avais t'éras t'érais
3 sg. (m) il a il aëut il avait il éra il érait
3 sg. (f) all' a all' aeut all' avait all' éra all' érait
1 pl. j'avaöns j'eûnmes j'avaëmes j'éraöns j'éraëmes
2 pl. vous avaïz vous aeutes vous avaites vous éraïz vous éraites
3 pl. il' aönt il' aëurent il' avaient il' éraönt il' éraient

oimaïr, to love (regular conjugation)

present preterite imperfect future conditional
1 sg. j'oime j'oimis j'oimais j'oim'rai j' oim'rais
2 sg. t'oimes t'oimis t'oimais t'oim'ras t'oim'rais
3 sg. (m) il oime il oimit il oimait il oim'ra il oim'rait
3 sg. (f) all' oime all' oimit all' oimait all' oim'ra all' oim'rait
1 pl. j'oimaöns j'oimaëmes j'oimaëmes j'oim'rons j' oim'raëmes
2 pl. vous oimaïz vous oimites vous oimaites vous oim'raïz vous oim'raites
3 pl. il' oiment il' oimirent il' oimaient il' oim'raönt il' oim'raient


"Learn Guernésiais with the BBC
BBC Guernsey
Your voice in the Islands"
English French
Quaï temps qu’i fait? What's the weather like? Quel temps fait-il ?
I' fait caoud ogniet It's warm today Il fait chaud aujourd'hui
Tchi qu’est vote naom? What's your name? Formal: Comment vous appellez-vous ?
Colloquial: Comment t'appelles-tu ? / Comment tu t'appelles ?
Quel est votre nom ?
Coume tchi que l’affaire va?
(kum chik la-fehr va)
How are you?
Lit. How's business going?
Comment vont les affaires ?
Quaï heure qu'il est? What's the time? Quelle heure est-il ?
À la perchoine
(a la per-shoy-n)
See you next time Au revoir
À la prochaine
Mercie bian Thank you very much Merci beaucoup
Coll: Merci bien
chén-chin this ceci
ch'techin this one celui-ci
Lâtchiz-mé Leave me Laissez-moi

See also


  1. ^ Guernésiais at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Jèrriais/Guernésiais". IANA language subtag registry. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Guernsey". IANA language subtag registry. 29 March 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  4. ^ Dictiounnaire Angllais-guernesiais. Société guernesiaise. 1967.
  5. ^ a b "Learn Guernsey's language in a lunch break". IFC – Guernsey. 2013-10-11. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  6. ^ "Guernesiais promoter starts work". BBC. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  7. ^ "Language commission to be formed". Guernsey Press. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  8. ^ The Guernsey Norman French Translations of Thomas Martin: A Linguistic Study of an Unpublished Archive, Mari C. Jones, Leuven 2008, ISBN 978-90-429-2113-9
  9. ^ P'tites Lures Guernésiaises, edited Hazel Tomlinson, Jersey 2006, ISBN 1-903341-47-7
  10. ^ "Sâint Makyu 1, L' Sâint Évàngile Siévant Sâint Makyu 1863 (GUE1863) - Chapter 1 - The Bible App -". Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  11. ^ Simmonds, Helen Margaret (2012). Channeling Change: Evolution in Guernsey Norman French Phonology. University of Exeter.
  12. ^ Jones, Mari (2015). Variation and Change in Mainland and Insular Norman: A Study of Superstrate Influence. Brill: Leiden. pp. 34–99.


  • De Garis, Marie (5 November 1982). Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernésiais. Phillimore & Co Ltd. ISBN 978-0-85033-462-3.

External links

  • What is Dgernesiais?
  • Guernesiais today by Julia Sallabank – from the BBC
  • Texts in Dgèrnésiais
  • La Societe Guernesiaise
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