Spoken in  Guernsey
Native speakers 1,330 fluent  (date missing)
2% of population
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List fra-dge
Linguasphere 51-AAA-hc

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 by the semi-disparaging name "patois". As one of the Oïl languages, it has its roots in Latin, but has had strong influence from both Norse and English at different points in its history.

There is intercomprehension (with some difficulty) with Jèrriais-speakers from Jersey and Norman-speakers from mainland Normandy. Guernésiais most closely resembles the Norman dialect of La Hague in the Cotentin Peninsula (Cotentinais).

Guernésiais has been influenced less by French than has Jèrriais, but conversely has been influenced to a greater extent by English. New words have been imported for modern phenomena "le bike", "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 beauty of the island. The island's greatest poet was Georges 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 in the island newspaper and privately.

Wrote Métivier, Que l'lingo seit bouan ou mauvais / J'pâlron coum'nou pâlait autefais (whether the “lingo” be good or bad, I’m going to speak like dear old dad).

The most recent dictionary of Guernésiais, titled "Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernesiais" (English-Guernsey Dictionary) and published by La Société Guernesiaise, April 1967 (revised edition published 1982), was written by Marie de Garis (1910–2010). In 1999 De Garis received an MBE for her work.


Current status

Dgèrnésiais tops this list of welcome messages at Guernsey's tourism office in St. Peter Port

The 2001 census showed that 1,327 (1,262 Guernsey-born) or 2 percent of the population speak the language fluently while 3 percent fully understand the language. However most of these, 70% or 934 of the 1,327 fluent speakers are aged over 64. 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.
  • Dgèrnésiais is recognised (along with Jèrriais, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx and Lowland Scots (in Scotland and Northern Ireland)) 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, the latter with sometimes misleading phonetics.[citation needed]
  • A Guernsey language development officer was appointed (with effect from January 2008).[1]

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

Despite the clear historical development of the Norman languages, many believe that Dgèrnésiais is not a language in its own right, instead viewing it as a dialect of French. As the writing system of Dgèrnésiais is based on that of French, a native French-speaker can understand much of written Dgèrnésiais.


  • 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 a translation of the Parable of the Sower in Dgèrnésiais 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.[2]
T H Mahy, author of Dires et Pensées du Courtil Poussin
  • 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.
  • Métivier's dictionary was superseded by Marie de Garis' (born 1910) 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.[3]


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
j'ai j'aëus j'avais j'érai j'érais
t'as t'aëus t'avais t'éras t'érais
il a il aëut il avait il éra il érait
all' a all' aeut all' avait all' éra all' érait
j'avaöns j'eûnmes j'avaëmes j'éraöns j'éraëmes
vous avaïz vous aeutes vous avaites vous éraïz vous éraites
il aönt il aëurent il avaient il éraönt il éraient

oimaïr - to love (regular conjugation)

present preterite imperfect future conditional
j'oime j'oimis j'oimais j'oim'rai j' oim'rais
t'oimes t'oimis t'oimais t'oim'ras t'oim'rais
il oime il oimit il oimait il oim'ra il oim'rait
all' oime all' oimit all' oimait all' oim'ra all' oim'rait
j'oimaöns j'oimaëmes j'oimaëmes j'oim'rons j' oim'raëmes
vous oimaïz vous oimites vous oimaites vous oim'raïz vous oim'raites
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 ?
Colloquial: Quel temps qu'il fait ?
I' fait caoud ogniet It's warm today Il fait chaud aujourd'hui
Tchi qu’est vote naom? What's your name? Comment vous appelez-vous ?
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 ?
Coll: comment que vont les affaires ?
Quaï heure qu'il est? What's the time? Quelle heure est-il ?
Coll: Quelle heure qu'il est ?
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


  1. ^ "Guernesiais promoter starts work". BBC. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ P'tites Lures Guernésiaises, edited Hazel Tomlinson, Jersey 2006, ISBN1903341477

See also


  • De Garis, Marie (5 November 1982). Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernésiais. Phillimore & Co Ltd. ISBN 978-0850334623. 

External links

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