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 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 George Métivier (1790â€"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 (1826â€"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 as we used to speak).

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 (1910â€"2010). In 1999 De Garis received an MBE for her work.

Current status


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.
  • Evening classes are available, as of 2013.
  • Lunchtime classes are offered at the Guernsey Museum, as of 2013.
  • 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.
  • A Guernsey language development officer was appointed (with effect from January 2008).

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.

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


  • Guernsey poet, George Métivier (1790â€"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 (1818â€"1885) published poetry in Guernsey newspapers and in book form.
  • Denys Corbet (1826â€"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 (1839â€"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.
  • Thomas Henry Mahy (1862â€"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 (1852â€"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 (1897â€"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' (1910â€"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.


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

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



aver - have (auxiliary verb)

oimaïr - to love (regular conjugation)





See also

  • Sarnia Cherie
  • Auregnais dialect
  • Sercquiais


  • 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 â€" from the BBC
  • Texts in Dgèrnésiais
  • La Societe Guernesiaise


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