Documentation of Guernesiais, the indigenous language of Guernsey, Channel Islands

Documentation of Guernesiais, the indigenous language of Guernsey, Channel Islands

Language: Guernesiais
Depositor: Jan Marquis (Yan), Julia Sallabank
Location: Channel Islands
Deposit Id: 0116
Grant id: SG0021
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

The initial deposit consists of three recordings of conversations with native speakers of Guernesiais, made as part of a training field trip in 2009 with MA students from the SOAS MA in Language Documentation and Description and transcribed by Yan Marquis.

The second deposit consists of 53 recordings with 41 consultants, recorded and transcribed by Yan Marquis in 2013 with funding from the Guernsey Language Commission and Guernsey Museums Service. 10% of these recordings have been transcribed.

Learners and teachers of Guernesiais, interested family and community members, and language researchers will find in this deposit a rich source of recordings of Guernesiais as spoken by native speakers in the 21st century.

Group represented

Language information

Guernesiais / Dgernesiais / Gierrnesiei / Giérnesiei / Gernesiés/ Guernsey Norman French. Also known as ‘Guernsey French’ and ‘Guernsey Patois’.

Language family: Indo-European – Romance – Langue d’Oïl - Norman

Deposit contents
The recordings consist of WAV files transcribed using ELAN, and cover various topics such as: the German occupation of Guernsey during the Second World War, evacuation and liberation, a comment on some local news stories, Giernesiei, its decline and future, traditional industries, indoor tomato cultivation, stonemasonry, fishing (fish, shellfish and crustacea (preparing and cooking)), farming (animals & vegetables), types of weather, gardening, running a small bakery and bread delivery round etc. Details of consultants, conversation topics and stimuli such as pictures used in the recordings and PDF files of transcriptions are also included in the deposit.

Acknowledgement and citation

From material collected by Julia Sallabank, Yan Marquis and students from the SOAS MA in Language Documentation and Description in March-April 2009, transcribed by Yan Marquis. With thanks to Peter Brehaut for providing the photos of Guernsey past.


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Jan Marquis (Yan)
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Julia Sallabank
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Affiliation: SOAS University of London

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2020 October 23 to 2020 October 23
Deposit hits:6
Downloaded files
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Showing 1 - 10 of 110 Items

Consultants discuss the following: their children's university education; language, French/Dgernesiais; their grand children and great grand children; their family history and origins; the SOAS students and work prospects in the UK and Guernsey; the German Occupation of Guernsey, aspects of living through it; their vegetable garden; the weather, heavy rainfall and hard soil; the building of their house; music and the piano (name for keyboard); working in the growing industry and the cost of heating fuels; swimming in the sea; shore-gathering ormers (haliotis tuberculata (ormer or abalone)) and crustacea, including their market prices; the money in circulation before decimalisation; Guernsey family names; how they [the consultants] met; French hymns, the change from French to English use in chapel services; St. Peter Port Town of bygone days; how much more people walked in the past.

Recorded on: 2009-03-23

WLT01 was not present at the beginning of the session. The session began without WLT01; the media file named 20090324_hn_wlt1 records the part of the session before he arrived. The media file 20090324_hn_wlt2 records the session following his arrival.

Recorded on: 2009-03-24

Keywords: Guernesiais - dialogue - HN01 - WLT01

FDG01 was not present at beginning of session

Recorded on: 2009-03-24

Keywords: Guernesiais - dialogue - FDG01 - JDG01

Consultant names some people from Torteval who speak Guernesiais, along with some of his relatives. He also talks about a house that is for sale, Le Rocher, and describes characteristics of the surrounding land, he then talks about goats. He moves on to describe the fruit trees in his greenhouses, his poor melon crop, bumble bees, and the weather (types of wind and their effect on crops). He talks about about Christmas and his daughters, where they live (some direction/location information) and his grand children and great grand children.

Recorded on: 2012-11-09

JDG01 talks about: endangerment and a people who hadn’t changed their way of life for 400 years (TV documentary she had watched); being tidy/house proud. Recording suspended to remove ticking clock from the room.

Recorded on: 2012-11-15

JDG01 talks about: her parents, where they came from and where they lived (one house (Les Fontaines) had a path leading to the Castel Church); the meaning of the house name Les Plats Pieds; the surrounding fields and hedges, ploughing with horses; a sheet of paper with two sketches, one of a park and people, she describes the sketch and what the people in it might be talking about, mother and baby/children language. FDG01 enters room and they continue talking about the same picture, what the people sitting on the bench, playing football, in the boat might be saying to each other. JDG01 & FDG01 talk about: the other sketch of a house and its garden with people working and playing in it, catch/fetch with a dog (some imperatives and discussion of verbs for ‘to throw’ a stick/away, literal/figurative meaning); a sheet of paper with two sketches of a street with people, shops and motor vehicles, what the people are doing and might say when in town shopping (some articles of clothing); imperatives for ‘out of the way’, former shop names in St. Peter Port. FDG01 & JDG01 discuss: small sketches of actions on another sheet of paper; listening, reading, climbing, running, boating, shopping, skiing (and living in England during WWII and snow), racket games, sunbathing, swimming, table tennis, television, tennis, on holiday, telescope, emotions (angry, upset, depressed), small boat and holding on to it. FDG01 & JDG01 talk about: not speaking Guernesiais during WWII and their experiences when returning to Guernsey; today, tending to their son’s herd of cows; feeding the cat; house prices; Guernsey Family Names.

Recorded on: 2012-11-15

Consultant suggests a name for a water diviner. He then talks about: pruning fruit trees and names them; poultry and associated terminology; working on the farm, feed for animals (cows & horses) and ploughing with a former German mare, acquired after the Occupation, and ox (some imperatives), he describes the German mare as a substantial beast that was a good worker, but had quite an appetite and tells a few tales about it. He also talks about: rearing pigs, slaughtering them on the farm and preparing the meat, different parts of the animal, an Occupation experience concerning the slaughter of a pig. Consultant describes stimuli: a picture of people sitting at a table in the sun; a scene at the park/in the country; people waiting for, and on, a bus; characteristics picture (frightened), action hitting nail in wood, knocking on door, stupefied/ecstatic, pain on side of the face, cup of tea, boiling kettle, a boiled egg, man throwing ball, seated, various positions, bending, crouching; sheet with small pictures people and objects showing positions (prepositions of position), on, against, right above, to land/take off (jet aircraft), crossing stream, clock: 5 past six; man lent against a stone wall resting, man with woman pointing, behind, beneath, under, between, up/down, in.

Recorded on: 2012-11-16

Recorded on: Unknown

EO01 talks about: her children and grandchildren, their professional lives, and university subject. EO01 & KL01 talk about: the ecclesiastical court; a sketch of people sitting at a table in the sun, describe the sketch and what the people are doing in it; farms and cows; seagulls and pheasants (hanging them); meat and vegetables eaten at Christmas; ormers (haliotis tuberculata); and ormering (shore gathering them) catching sand eels (ammodytae?); gathering vraic (seaweed for fertilizer); two sheets of paper of small sketches of actions and prepositions (mouse, cat, hitting nail with hammer, plane in sky, people climbing a hill, churches); a sketch of people waiting for a bus at the station; Guernsey buses; what they [EO01, KL01] have done today and yesterday; living downstairs as you grow older; using a cash dispenser (description of this action by EO01).

Recorded on: 2012-11-20

CM01 talks about: how he is, personal situation (widowed); church and his late wife; former home at Le Bourg; LR01 displays some old fashioned tools; discussion about collections; CM01 fetches family photo album and there is a discussion about family members; various tools discussed (thatching, digging parsnips); furze oven usage; consultant(s) shown a sketch countryside with people in it; consultant(s) shown an old photo of two men in a old fishing boat; consultant(s) shown an old photo of vraic gathering; consultant(s) shown an old photo of men hand weeding; consultant(s) shown an old photo of butter making; consultant(s) shown old photo of man sitting on milking stool milking a cow; consultant(s) shown an old photo of boat with a mast; consultant(s) shown an old photo men building a house; consultant(s) shown an old photo of the Vale Mill; consultant(s) shown an old photo of dairy maid with bowl; consultant(s) shown an old photo man making Guernsey (milk) can; consultant(s) shown an old photo of man and woman making butter; consultant(s) shown an old photo of people picking flowers in a field; CM01 talks about St. Saviour’s parish matters: community hall, church etc.

Recorded on: 2012-11-21