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What is an Occitan sonnet? 

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The Occitan sonnet was one of the original forms of this kind of poem, which has its roots in southern Europe in the Middle Ages. "Occitan" is a word which refers to the area now called the Pays D'Oc (so called because it was the part of France where the...

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The Occitan sonnet was one of the original forms of this kind of poem, which has its roots in southern Europe in the Middle Ages. "Occitan" is a word which refers to the area now called the Pays D'Oc (so called because it was the part of France where the word for "yes" was "oc," rather than "oui" as in the north). Today this area crosses the border between France and Italy, but it was known as the land of the troubadours, or traveling bards. The word "sonnet" itself derives from the French "chanson," meaning "song." The "net" suffix indicates something small; so a sonnet is a small song (specifically of fourteen lines). After the Occitain sonnet, all subsequent forms of sonnet adhered to the fourteen-line structure, but the Occitan sonnet originated this tradition.

The rhyme scheme of a sonnet is usually what sets the different types apart; unlike a Shakespearean sonnet, the rhyme scheme of an Occitan sonnet would have been ABABABABCDCD.

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An Occitan sonnet is a type of sonnet that first appeared in written form in 13th century Italian poetry. Occitan sonnets are characterized by a rhyming scheme of a/b/a/b, a/b/a/b, c/d/c/d/c/d. Although these sonnets first emerged in Italy, the format is actually named after the now largely dead Occitan dialect of the Languedoc region in southern medieval France, which is probably where the form comes from. Sonnets were probably originally sung by troubadours, perhaps as a form of the chansons de geste. In fact, the word "sonnet" itself is believed to be derived from Occitan, and means, roughly, "little song." 

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