Academy of Gallo

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Linguistic Files of the Academy of Gallo

    "Yves DONGUY" Files

Born on June 01, 1941 in
, Yves DONGUY died on February 07, 2020 after a long stay at the Centre Bretagne hospital in Noyal-Pontivy. Severe renal insufficiency, prolonged dialysis, cardiac malaise. But all his life, he was animated by an untiring passion to study and understand.

If we do not mention him here, his life and his contributions are likely to go unnoticed.

We leave the floor to Jean-Jacques MONNIER who evokes here more than half a century of shared struggles.

Breton music, History and Politics

Born in Rennes, he played in a bagad when he was young. Then he studied law.

JI met him, when I was studying history and geography, in a group of the Breton Student Youth (JEB), chaired by Herri Gourmelen. This group had asked me to give a weekly lecture on the history of Brittany. Not having this course at the university, I prepared it with one week in advance, essentially from the 5 volumes of the monumental history of Borderie since the offer in books of this type was still rare.

Yves did not express himself with ease, so that many never measured the extent of his culture and his knowledge. I found him the following year within the local UDB, then on my return to Brittany and after my military service, for sales of the Peuple breton in front of the university restaurant in the Street of Fougères, the section having been emptied by a crisis and exclusions.

A thankless exercise in terms of results for two discreet individuals! Times had changed, the UDB had bad press and the politicized wave of the 1960s had entered the job market.

I saw Yves from time to time, sometimes engaged in cod fishing in Newfoundland, sometimes in a cannery, then as a permanent member of a cultural association. Faithful in friendship, we would meet at the summer meetings and eventually at some congresses and parties of the UDB or at peaceful demonstrations for cultural rights and the environment.

A Titan's work

He then worked for associations on Gallo, notably Maezoe, working all the time on future dictionaries. Several, under different authors' names, report his contributions.
     His main source was a dictionary of Romance dialects written in German by a Swiss linguist, Walther Von Wartburg. As soon as he could afford it, Yves bought a new booklet and integrated its contributions into his project of a large dictionary of Gallo.
     Ironically, these numerous booklets cost a fortune but they are now put online by the University of Nancy!

Noting the indifference of the population of Le Mené to these dialectal researches and the very rapid qualitative decline of Gallo, Yves then focused on the Breton language, which he wanted to make accessible to English speakers.

After the replacement of Maezoe by Maezoe Teunant, following a bankruptcy of the association linked to the stop of the subsidy and in front of the ageing of the members of the association and in particular of its president Alan Raude -deceased since then- Yves informed me of his wish to see the collection of books and magazines given to a library out of the metropolises, in order not to reserve the legacies to the big libraries

Teamwork: thanks to Françoise Ramel-Flageul, UDB city councillor in Pontivy and the agreement of the mayor Jean-Pierre Le Roch and his city council just before the March 2014 municipal election, the collection of several thousand items could be given to the archives adjacent to the media library in Pontivy where it is being classified.

The handing over of the collection to a library in Central Brittany was an important symbolic act for us.

It will remain to recall this legacy to obtain its development and an animation around a documentation without equal and largely European concerning the languages of Brittany.

Isolation but shared convictions

Yves, who in the meantime had overcome a lymphoma - the disease that had taken the life of President Pompidou in a few months - went back to work: readings and the beginnings of a synthesis of history, to show the construction, from the Middle Ages onwards, of the history of France, taught and mediatized by ignoring the reality of the Breton kingdoms by setting aside both Welsh texts and the lives of Breton saints, which should be criticised but certainly not rejected.

His other project, which he was also unable to complete, was an English-Breton dictionary to open the Breton language to the immense world of English speakers.

On these two fields, we should be able to benefit from the contributions of Yves Donguy's work. We were updating each week - at least! - by phone, I asked him many questions and the precise answers came to me during the following telephone exchange.

Yves worked until the end, despite difficult material conditions - reduced financial resources, a digital black hole, a distant and often closed cybercommunity point, a house in the most isolated part of Mené - in addition to a faltering health.

This pioneer of Bretagne Vivante had maintained a nature reserve (peat bog), today saved by the acquisition by the commune, and tried to elaborate a way of life respectful of the planet and based on the principles of an ecology anchored in the realities of Central Brittany.

At his funeral, in Dinard and then Saint-Briac, activists of the association recalled this early awareness, from the 1970s.

Imaginative, cultured but extremely discreet, not very comfortable with grandstanding, isolated by illness, Yves Donguy deserves to be remembered and his work shared.

Dalc’homp soñj !

Jean-Jacques MONNIER

February 20th, 2020