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Corsica's history, landscape and insularity gave rise to the Corsican identity. As an agro-pastoral society taking refuge in the mountains from invasions, the Corsicans developed a culture based on the land, family and ancestors, as well as the community (clan, "pieve" [region], village). Catholicism sets the rhythm to island life (processions, friaries, pilgrimages, festivals...), the Corsican national hymn is a religious chant dedicated to the Virgin Mary: Diu vi Salvi Regina.
Essentially vocal, the Corsican culture is expressed through its songs and language.
The Corsican language was originally a Roman language derived from Latin. It has changed throughout its history, firstly under Tuscan and Genoese influence, then under French influence, creating today's language. Coherent overall, each micro-region has developed a specific dialect with phonetic or lexical variants, in particular for names of the different fauna, flora and vocabulary concerning pastoral life. The Corsican language is the basis for its culture. As a vector for vocal traditions, it is expressed both in song and stories: wonderful bedtime tales, lullabies, nursery rhymes, "chjama è risponde" which are an improvised form of sung, vocal fencing, as well as "voceru" and "lamentu", which accompany the dead. Corsica was traditionally the vernacular language. The official language was reserved for dominating powers. Fading away little by little with modernity, the Corsican language resurged in the 70s. It is now taught in schools and is the co-official language of Corsica alongside French, a strong claim voted in 2013 by the elected officials of the Assembly of Corsica.
Sacred or secular polyphonic songs are emblematic of the Corsican identity. Far from being folklore, they are living chants, privileged witnesses to the island's past and present events. The "Paghjelle" were originally archaic chants sung by shepherds, whose poetic texts were evocative of life events. Comprised from three vocalists (the "Seconda", the "Bassu" and the "Terza"), they accompany social or religious gatherings. Sacred polyphonic songs have been a part of Corsican religious practices since the beginning of time. They accompany religious events, processions and mass, the most renowned of which being the Diu vi Salvi Regina. Corsican secular and liturgical "paghjella" chants were registered on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2009.