We do not collect your personal data and limit our analysis to statistic data designed to improve our website. For Netscape 6. Select your language and place of delivery. Around this time period, many words from the Arabic language or from Persian via Arabic entered French, mainly indirectly through Medieval Latin , Italian and Spanish. Only after the 19th century development of French colonies in North Africa did French borrow words directly from Arabic e. The earliest extant text in French is the Oaths of Strasbourg from ; Old French became a literary language with the chansons de geste that told tales of the paladins of Charlemagne and the heroes of the Crusades.
The first government authority to adopt Modern French as official was the Aosta Valley in , three years before France itself. Many of the words  of modern French that originate from Italian were introduced in this period, including several denoting artistic concepts scenario , piano , luxury items, and food. The foundation still exists and contributes to the policing of the language and the adaptation of foreign words and expressions. Some recent modifications include the change from software to logiciel , packet-boat to paquebot , and riding-coat to redingote.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, France was the leading power of Europe; thanks to this, together with the influence of the Enlightenment , French was the lingua franca of educated Europe, especially with regards to the arts, literature, and diplomacy ; monarchs like Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia could both not just speak and write in French, but in most excellent French. The Russian, German and Scandinavian Courts spoke French as their main or official language, regarding their national languages as the language of the peasants.
Spread of French to other European countries was also aided by emigration of persecuted Hugenots. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the French language established itself permanently in the Americas. There is an academic debate about how fluent in French the colonists of New France were.
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In any case, a linguistic unification of all the groups coming from France happened either in France, on the ships, or in Canada such that, according to many sources, the then "Canadiens" were all speaking French King's French natively by the end of the 17th century, well before the unification was complete in France.
Canada's reputation was to speak as good French as Paris did. Today, French is the language of about 10 million people not counting French-based creoles, which are also spoken by about 10 million people in the Americas. For some critics, the "best" pronunciation of the French language is considered to be the one used in Touraine around Tours and the Loire valley , but such value judgments are fraught with problems, and with the ever-increasing loss of lifelong attachments to a specific region and the growing importance of the national media, the future of specific "regional" accents is often difficult to predict.
The French nation-state , which appeared after the French Revolution and Napoleon 's empire, unified the French people in particular through the consolidation of the use of the French language.
In the North as in the South of France, almost nobody spoke French. There is some debate in today's France about the preservation of the French language and the influence of English see Franglais , especially with regard to international business, the sciences, and popular culture. There is also pressure, in differing degrees, from some regions as well as minority political or cultural groups for a measure of recognition and support for their regional languages.
Once the key international language in Europe, being the language of diplomacy from the 17th to midth centuries, French lost most of its international significance to English in the 20th century, especially after World War II , with the rise of the United States as a dominant global superpower. A small but increasing number of large multinational firms headquartered in France are using English as their working language even in their French operations, and to gain international recognition, French scientists often publish their work in English.
These trends have met some resistance. French remains the second most-studied foreign language in the world, after English,  and is a lingua franca in some regions, notably in Africa. The legacy of French as a living language outside Europe is mixed: it is nearly extinct in some former French colonies Southeast Asia , while the language has changed to creoles , dialects or pidgins in the French departments in the West Indies , even though people there are still educated in standard French.
In the Canadian province of Quebec , different laws have promoted the use of French in administration, business and education since the s. Bill , for example, obliges every child whose parents did not attend an English-speaking school to be educated in French.
There has been French emigration to the United States of America, Australia and South America, but the descendants of these immigrants have assimilated to the point that few of them still speak French. French has radically transformative sound changes , especially compared with other Romance languages such as Spanish , Portuguese , Italian and Romanian.
Some examples:. In French, however, numerous sound changes resulted in a system with oral vowels and nasal vowels see French phonology. Perhaps the most salient characteristic of French vowel history is the development of a strong stress accent — usually ascribed to the influence of the Germanic languages — that led to the disappearance of most unstressed vowels and to pervasive differences in the pronunciation of stressed vowels in originally open vs. It is commonly thought that stressed vowels in open syllables were lengthened , after which most of the long vowels turned into diphthongs.
The loss of unstressed vowels, particularly those after the stress, ultimately produced the situation in Modern French where the accent is uniformly found on the last syllable of a word. Ironically, in Modern French the stress accent is quite weak, with little difference between the pronunciation of stressed and unstressed vowels. The final schwa was eventually lost as well, but leaves its mark in the spelling, as well as in the pronunciation of final consonants, which normally remain pronounced if a schwa followed but are often lost otherwise: fait "done masc.
Intertonic vowels i. As noted above, stressed vowels developed quite differently depending on whether they occurred in an open syllable followed by at most one consonant or a closed syllable followed by two or more consonants. These latter two changes occurred unconditionally, i. Latin N that ended up not followed by a vowel after the loss of vowels in unstressed syllables was ultimately absorbed into the preceding vowel, producing a series of nasal vowels. There are two separate cases, depending on whether the N originally stood between vowels or next to a consonant i.
See the article on the phonological history of French for full details. Latin S before a consonant ultimately was absorbed into the preceding vowel, producing a long vowel indicated in Modern French spelling with a circumflex accent.
History of French
In most cases, the formerly long vowel is pronounced identically to the formerly short vowel e. Late Vulgar Latin of the French area had a full complement of palatalized consonants, and more developed over time. During the Old French period, l before a consonant became u , producing new diphthongs, which eventually resolved into monophthongs , e. See the article on phonological history of French for details. The sound changes involving consonants are less striking than those involving vowels. In some ways, French is actually relatively conservative.
For example, it preserves initial pl- , fl- , cl- , unlike Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, e. Consonants between vowels were subject to a process called lenition a type of weakening. In French, this was more extensive than in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian.
The following table shows the outcomes:. As described above , Late Vulgar Latin of the French area had an extensive series of palatalized consonants that developed from numerous sources. Latin E and I in hiatus position i. All consonants could be palatalized in this fashion. The resulting consonants developed as follows sometimes developing differently when they became final as a result of early loss of the following vowel :. In Old French , however, all underlying voiced stops and fricatives were pronounced voiceless when word-final.
This was clearly reflected in Old French spelling, e. Most of these alternations have since disappeared due partly to morphological reshaping and partly to respelling once most final consonants were lost, as described below , but the adjectival alternation vif vs. Starting in the Middle French period, most final consonants were gradually lost.
This proceeded in stages:. French is noticeably different from most other Romance languages.
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Some of the changes have been attributed to substrate influence — i. In practice, it is difficult to say with confidence which sound and grammar changes were due to substrate and superstrate influences, since many of the changes in French have parallels in other Romance languages, or are changes commonly undergone by many languages in the process of development. However, the following are likely candidates.
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