Abelhas e Mapas? : on Valéry, Gilliéron and a “Language and Territory” conference in 2021


A colloquium will be held in the French region of Occitanie next year from 14 to 20 June to “discuss the different ways that languages and territories are linked, and will show the political, social and economic stakes that arise from the relationships between them”.

Paper proposals -in English, French, Spanish or Occitan- can deal with the themes detailed in the whopping list below:

  • “Language and Virtual Territory
  • Language, Territory and Planning
  • Language, Territory and Contacts
  • Language, Territories and Conflict
  • Language, Territory and Law
  • Language, Territory and Economy
  • Language, Territory and Education
  • Language, Territory and History
  • Language, Territory and Identity
  • Language, Territory and Imagination
  • Language, Territory and Literature
  • Language, Territory and Minorities
  • Language, Territory and Mobility
  • Language, Territory and Globalization
  • Language, Territory and Digital Technology
  • Language, Territory and Politics
  • Language, Territory and Philosophy
  • Language, Territory and Nation
  • Language, Territory and First Nations
  • Language, Territory and Religion
  • Language, Territory and Networks
  • Language, Territory and Companies
  • New language(s), new Territory(ies)
  • Languages, Territory and Writing
  • Language “without territory”, territory “without language”.
  • Language, Territory and Heritage”

Deadline for proposals is 21 November 2020. More information here:

I will do my best to attend and will post more details when I receive the full program next Spring. The event, held at Montpellier’s University, which is named after one of my favorite poets, Paul Valéry (1871-1945), will no doubt be of interest for linguists, geographers and accross the social sciences.

Valéry never wrote about linguistic geography, nor did he seem familiar with its development, but it is a pleasant coincidence that “L’abeille” (“The Bee”), one of my favorite poems of his, was published in Charmes (1922) only a couple months after Jules Gilliéron (1854-1926) published his “Complementary notes on the name of the bee”, a sequel to his landmark study Généalogie des mots qui désignent l’abeille [full pdf from Gallica], from the Atlas Linguistique Linguistique de la France (ALF) (1902-1910/1920).

François Jacquesson mentioned this classic bee example on his excellent blog last year, and Mathieu Avanzi published his own take on Jules Gilliéron and Edmont Edmont’s bee on Twitter last month!











A very useful tool here is the Cartodialect website, where it is possible to visualise maps from the ALF. The map for “Abeille” is of course the first of them!

L’attribut alt de cette image est vide, son nom de fichier est Screen-Shot-2020-11-04-at-12.27.54-417x500.png.


Below is Valéry’s Bee in French and in an English translation by Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody published by The Brooklyn Rail in In Translation recently:


À Francis de Miomandre.

Quelle, et si fine, et si mortelle,
Que soit ta pointe, blonde abeille,
Je n’ai, sur ma tendre corbeille,
Jeté qu’un songe de dentelle.

Pique du sein la gourde belle,
Sur qui l’Amour meurt ou sommeille,
Qu’un peu de moi-même vermeille,
Vienne à la chair ronde et rebelle !

J’ai grand besoin d’un prompt tourment :
Un mal vif et bien terminé
Vaut mieux qu’un supplice dormant !

Soit donc mon sens illuminé
Par cette infime alerte d’or
Sans qui l’Amour meurt ou s’endort !


However keen may be your sting,
However fatal, yellow bee,
Over my basket I have draped
The merest dream of floating lace.

So prick that swelling gourd, my breast
Where Love is sleeping, or has died.
A little of myself will rise
Scarlet to plump, rebellious flesh!

A sudden pang is what I need:
A pain that quickens and is gone
I’d rather than this slumbering grief.

Illuminate my senses with
Your microscopic gold alarm
Without which Love slumbers or dies!

(English translation copyright (c) Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody, 2014)


Last but not least, Gilliéron’s introductory comments on the names of the bee:



(Jules Gilliéron, Généalogie des mots qui désignent l’abeille : d’après l’Atlas linguistique de la France, Paris: Champion, 1918, p.19)

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