Walloons - Orientation

Identification. In the broad sense of the word "Walloon" is the name given to the autochthons of Wallonia inhabiting the Belgian provinces of Hainaut, Namur, Luxembourg, Liège (except for the German cantons in the east), and the district of Nivelles in Brabant. A small percent of the population (centered on people over age 65) still speak Walloon regularly. French is the native language of the vast majority, though there is a particular accent that distinguishes it from the standard French of France. The term "Walha" was used by the ancient Germans to designate romanized Celtic tribes. From this word, "Walloon" was derived ( walon in Walloon and waal in Flemish). "Belgian" refers to a citizen of Belgium, which includes both the Walloons and the Flemish.

Location. Belgium lies to the north of France, the west of Germany and the south of Holland. The provinces that comprise Wallonia (approximately 17,000 square kilometers) are roughly located in the southern half of Belgium. The Walloon landscape ranges from low plateaus to wooded hills in the southeast. To the north live the Flemish, who are separated by a linguistic, rather than a geographic border. Two major rivers cross Wallonia, the Escaut and the Meuse. The weather is cool and rainy year round. The higher elevations of the Ardennes (694 meters is the highest point) receive up to 50 days of snow in a year, as opposed to around five days of snow for the rest of the country.

Demography. The total population of Wallonia is 3,200,000, with 191 persons per square kilometer. Four hundred sixteen thousand, or 13 percent of this population, are foreigners. Most of these foreigners come from southern Europe, with increasing numbers from North Africa. The number of births per thousand stood at 15.5 in 1963, dropping to less than 11.7 by 1983. The death rate is 12.9 per thousand (1983). Age stratification in 1981 is: 0-14, 20 percent; 15-24, 16 percent; 24-64, 50 percent; 65+, 14 percent.

Linguistic Affiliation. Walloon is a Gallo-Romance dialect of the Indo-European Language Family. Being so close to the dialect border, Walloon shares certain sounds and Structures with Germanic dialects, but the base of the language is Romance. Walloon can be divided into Eastern Walloon (with Liège as its capital), Central Walloon (Namur), and Western Walloon (Charleroi, La Louvière, Nivelles). Other dialect areas in southern Wallonia, which still form part of the same general dialect region though they are not called "Walloon," are: Picard or Rouchi (Mons, Ath, Tournai, Mouscron), Gaumais (or Lorraine of Belgium), and Champenois.

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