1.the earliest form of the French language; 9th to 15th century
definition of Wikipedia
langue romane (fr)[Classe]
langue officielle (fr)[Classe]
France, French Republic[Domaine]
Old French (n.)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (May 2011)|
|Spoken in||northern France, parts of Belgium (Wallonia) and Switzerland, England, Ireland, Kingdom of Sicily, Principality of Antioch, Kingdom of Cyprus|
|Era||evolved into Middle French by the 14th century|
Old French (franceis, françois, romanz; Modern French ancien français) was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century. It was then known as the langue d'oïl (oïl language) to distinguish it from the langue d'oc (Occitan language, also then called Provençal), whose territory bordered that of Old French to the south. The Norman dialect was also spread to England, Ireland, the Kingdom of Sicily and the Principality of Antioch in the Levant.
Gaulish, maybe the only survivor of the continental Celtic languages in Roman times, slowly became extinct during the long centuries of Roman dominion. Only several dozen words (perhaps 200, if we add Gaulish etymology) survive in modern French, for example chêne, ‘oak tree’ and charrue ‘plough'; Delamarre (2003, pp. 389–90) lists 167.
Despite attempts to explain some phonetic changes by the action of a Gaulish substratum, only one of them is sure, because this fact is clearly attested in the Gaulish language epigraphy, e.g. : on the potteries of la Graufesenque (1st c. AD), there is the Latin word (from Greek) written paraxsid-i instead of paropsid-es. The spellings /ps/ and /pt/ are confused with /xs/ and /xt/, e.g. : Latin capsa > *kaxsa > caisse (compare Italian cassa) or captīvus > *kaxtivus > OF chaitif (Modern French chétif, compare Irish cacht 'servant' ≠ Italian cattiv-ita, Spanish cautivo). This phonetic evolution is parallel to the shift of the Latin group /kt/ in Old French (Latin factum > fait, Italian fatto, Spanish hecho or lactem* > lait ; Italian latte, Spanish leche).
Old French began when the Roman Empire conquered Gaul during the campaigns of Julius Caesar, which were almost complete by 51 BC. The Romans introduced Latin to southern France by 120 BC when it came under Roman occupation.
Beginning with Plautus's time (254–184 BC), the phonological structure of classical Latin underwent change, which would eventually yield vulgar Latin, the common spoken language of the western Roman empire. This latter form differed strongly from its classical counterpart in phonology; it was the ancestor of the Romance languages, including Old French. Some Gaulish words influenced Vulgar Latin and, through this, other Romance languages. For example, classical Latin equus was replaced in common parlance by vulgar Latin caballus, derived from Gaulish caballos (Delamare 2003 p. 96), giving Modern French cheval, Catalan cavall, Occitan caval (chaval), Italian cavallo, Portuguese cavalo, Spanish caballo, Romanian cal, and (borrowed from Anglo-Norman) English cavalry and chivalry.
The pronunciation, the vocabulary and the syntax of Low Latin were modified step by step by the Germanic tribe of the Franks and others as their settlements in the Empire were accepted by the Romans, or forced upon them, and finally as they conquered portions of Roman Gaul that are now France and Belgium during the Migration Period. These Germanic settlements were much more consequent in Northern France and Belgium, than in the south of France and Europe. The name français is derived from the name of this tribe. Other less numerous Germanic peoples, including the Burgundians and the Visigoths, were active in the territory at that time; the Germanic languages spoken by the Franks, Burgundians, and others were not written languages, and at this remove it is sometimes difficult to identify from which specific Germanic source a given Germanic word in French is derived.
In fact, the Old Frankish language has had a determining influence on the birth of Old French, that explains partly why the first documents in Old French are older than the documents in other Romance languages (e. g.: Strasbourg Oaths). It is the result of an earlier gap created between Latin and the new language, that were no more intercomprehensible. The Old Low Frankish influence is probably responsible for the difference between the langue d′oïl and the langue d′oc (Occitan) too, because different parts of Northern France were really bilingual Latin / Germanic, and that corresponds exactly to the places where the first documents in Old French were written. This Germanic language shaped the popular Latin spoken here and gave it a very distinctive identity compared to the other future Romance languages. The very first noticeable influence is the substitution of the Latin melodic accent by a Germanic stress and its result was diphthongization, difference between long vowels and short one, the fall of the unaccentuated syllable and of the final vowels, e. g.: Latin decima > F dîme (> E dime. Italian decima, Spanish diezmo); VL dignitate > OF deintié (> E dainty. Occitan dinhitat; Italian dignità; Spanish dignidad); or VL catena > OF chaiene (> E chain. Occitan cadena; Italian catena; Spanish cadena). Otherwise two new phonemes that did not exist anymore in Vulgar Latin were added: [h] and [w] (> OF g(u)-, ONF w- cf. picard w-), e. g.: VL altu > OF halt ‘high’ (influenced by OLF *hauh ; ≠ Italian, Spanish alto / Occitan naut) ; VL vespa > F guêpe (ONF wespe, picard wespe) ‘wasp’ (influenced by OLF *waspa ; ≠ Occitan vèspa; Italian vespa; Spanish avispa) ; L viscus > F gui ‘mistle toe’ (influenced by OLF *wihsila ‘morello’ with analogous fruits, when they are not ripe ; ≠ Occitan vesc ; Italian vischio) ; LL vulpiculu ‘little fox’ (from L vulpes ‘fox’) > OF g[o]upil (influenced by OLF *wulf ‘wolf’ ; ≠ Italian volpe). On the opposite, the Italian and Spanish words of Germanic origin borrowed from French or directly from Germanic retain [gw] and [g], e. g.: It, Sp. guerra ‘war’). In these examples, we notice a clear consequence of bilinguism, that sometimes even changed the first syllable of the Latin words. We can add another opposite example, where the Latin word inluenced the Germanic one : framboise ‘raspberry’ from OLF *brambasi (cf. OHG brāmberi > Brombeere ‘mulberry’ ; E bramble berry ; *basi ‘berry’ cf. Got. -basi, Dutch bes ‘berry’) mixed up with LL fraga or OF fraie ‘strawberry’, that explains the shift [f] for [b] and in turn the final -se of framboise changed fraie into fraise (≠ Occitan fragosta ‘raspberry’, Italian fragola ‘strawberry’. Portuguese framboesa ‘raspberry’ and Spanish frambuesa are from French).
Otherwise, Philologists such as Pope (1934) estimate that perhaps still fifteen percent of the vocabulary of modern French derives from Germanic sources, but its proportion was bigger in Old French, because the French language was consequently relatinized and partly italianized by the clerics and the “grammarians” in the Middle Ages and later. Nevertheless a large number of words like haïr “to hate” (≠ Latin odiare > Italian odiare, Spanish odiar / Occitan asirar) or honte “shame” (≠ Latin vĕrēcundia > Occitan vergonha, Italian vergogna, Spanish vergüenza) are still common.
Other Germanic words in Old French appeared as a result of Norman, i.e. Viking, settlements in Normandy during the 10th century. The settlers spoke Old Norse and their settlement was legitimised and made permanent in 911 under Rollo of Normandy, but this influence was very limited and almost only concerned the technological vocabulary of the navy.
At the third Council of Tours in 813, priests were ordered to preach in the vernacular language (either Romance or Germanic), since the common people could no longer understand formal Latin.
The earliest documents said to be written in French after the Reichenau and Kassel glosses (8th and 9th centuries) are the Oaths of Strasbourg (treaties and charters into which King Charles the Bald entered in 842):
Pro Deo amur et pro Christian poblo et nostro commun salvament, d’ist di en avant, in quant Deus savir et podir me dunat, si salvarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in aiudha et in cadhuna cosa... (For the love of God and for the Christian people, and our common salvation, from this day forward, as God will give me the knowledge and the power, I will defend my brother Charles with my help in everything...)
The second-oldest document in Old French is the Eulalia sequence, which is important for linguistic reconstruction of Old French pronunciation due to its consistent spelling.
The royal House of Capet, founded by Hugh Capet in 987, inaugurated the development of northern French culture in and around Ile-de-France, which slowly but firmly asserted its ascendency over the more southerly areas of Aquitaine and Tolosa (Toulouse). The Capetians' Langue d'oïl, the forerunner of modern standard French, did not begin to become the common speech of all of France, however, until after the French Revolution.
Old French was constantly changing and evolving. However, the form in the late 12th century, as attested in a great deal of mostly poetic writings, can be considered standard. The writing system at this time was more phonetic than that used in most subsequent centuries. In particular, all written consonants (including final ones) were pronounced, except for s preceding non-stop consonants and t in et, and final e was pronounced [ə]. The phonological system can be summarised as follows:
|Plosive||p b||t d||k ɡ|
|Fricative||f v||s z||(h)|
|Affricate||ts dz||tʃ dʒ|
In Old French, the nasal vowels were not separate phonemes, but occurred as allophones of the oral vowels before a nasal stop. This nasal stop was fully pronounced; thus bon was pronounced [bõn] (Modern French [bɔ̃]). Nasal vowels were present even in open syllables before nasals, where Modern French has oral vowels, as in bone [bõnə] (Modern French bonne [bɔn]).
|/ew/ ~ /øw/||neveu||nephew|
|/we/ ~ /wø/||cuer||heart|
|/wẽ/||cuens||count (nom. sg.)|
stress always falls on middle vowel
Old French maintained a two-case system, with a nominative case and an oblique case, for longer than did some other Romance languages (e.g. Spanish and Italian). Case distinctions, at least in the masculine gender, were marked on both the definite article and on the noun itself. Thus, the masculine noun li voisins, "the neighbour" (Latin vicínus /wiˈkiːnus/ > Proto-Romance */veˈtsinu(s)/ > OF voisins /vojˈzĩns/; Modern French le voisin) was declined as follows:
|Singular||Nominative||ille vicīnus||li voisins|
|Oblique (Accusative in Latin)||illum vicīnum||le voisin|
|Plural||Nominative||illī vicīnī||li voisin|
|Oblique (Accusative in Latin)||illōs vicīnōs||les voisins|
In later Old French, these distinctions became moribund. As in most other Romance languages, it was the oblique case form that usually survived to become the modern French form: l'enfant (the child) represents the old oblique; the OF nominative was li enfes. But in some cases where there were significant differences between nominative and oblique forms, the nominative form survives, or sometimes both forms survive with different meanings:
In a few cases where the only distinction between forms was the nominative -s ending, the -s was preserved in spelling to distinguish otherwise homonymous words. An example is fils "son" (< Latin nominative filius), spelled as such to distinguish it from fil "wire". In this case, a later spelling pronunciation has resulted in the modern pronunciation /fis/ (earlier /fi/).
As in Spanish and Italian, the neuter gender was eliminated, and old neuter nouns became masculine. Some Latin neuter plurals were re-analysed as feminine singulars, though; for example, Latin gaudiu(m) was more widely used in the plural form gaudia, which was taken for a singular in Vulgar Latin, and ultimately led to modern French la joie, "joy" (feminine singular).
Nouns were declined in the following declensions:
|Class I (feminine)||Class II (masculine)|
|Class I normal||Class Ia||Class II normal||Class IIa|
|sg.||nominative||la fame||la riens||la citéz||li voisins||li sergenz||li pere|
|oblique||la rien||la cité||le voisin||le sergent||le pere|
|pl.||nominative||les fames||les riens||les citéz||li voisin||li sergent||li pere|
|oblique||les voisins||les sergenz||les peres|
|Class III (both)|
|Class IIIa||Class IIIb||Class IIIc||Class IIId|
|sg.||nominative||li chantere||li ber||la none||la suer||li enfes||li prestre||li sire||li cuens|
|oblique||le chanteor||le baron||la nonain||la seror||l'enfant||le prevoire||le seigneur||le conte|
|pl.||nominative||li chanteor||li baron||les nones||les serors||li enfant||li prevoire||li seigneur||li conte|
|oblique||les chanteors||les barons||les nonains||les serors||les enfanz||les prevoires||les seigneurs||les contes|
Class I is derived from the Latin first declension. Class Ia mostly comes from feminine third-declension nouns in Latin. Class II is derived from the Latin second declension. Class IIa generally stems from second-declension nouns ending in -er and from third-declension masculine nouns; note that in both cases, the Latin nominative singular did not end in -s, and this is preserved in Old French.
Those classes show various analogical developments, like -es from the accusative instead of -Ø (-e after a consonant cluster) in Class I nominative plural (Latin -ae), li pere instead of *li peres (Latin illi patres) in Class IIa nominative plural, modelled on Class II, etc.
Class III nouns show a separate form in the nominative singular that does not occur in any of the other forms. IIIa nouns ended in -átor, -atórem in Latin, and preserve the stress shift; IIIb nouns likewise had a stress shift from -o to ónem. IIIc nouns are an Old French creation and have no clear Latin antecedent. IIId nouns represent various other types of third-declension Latin nouns with stress shift or irregular masculine singular (sóror, sorórem; ínfans, infántem; présbyter, presbýterem; sénior, seniórem; cómes, cómitem).
Regular feminine forms of masculine nouns are formed by adding an 'e' to the masculine stem, apart from when the masculine stem already ends in e. For example bergier (shepherd) becomes bergiere (Modern French berger and bergère).
Adjectives agree in terms of number, gender and case with the noun they are qualifying. Thus a feminine plural noun in the nominative case requires any qualifying adjectives to be feminine, plural and in the nominative case. For example, in femes riches, riche has to be in the feminine plural form.
Adjectives can be divided into three declensional classes:
Class I adjectives have a feminine singular form (nominative and oblique) ending in -e. This class can be further subdivided into two subclasses based on the masculine nominative singular form. Class Ia adjectives have a masculine nominative singular ending in -s:
For Class Ib adjectives, the masculine nominative singular ends in -e, like the feminine. This subclass contains descendants of Latin 2nd and 3rd declension adjectives ending in -er in the nominative singular.
For Class II adjectives, the feminine singular is not marked by the ending -e.
An important subgroup of Class II adjectives are the present participial forms in -ant.
Class III adjectives exhibit stem alternation resulting from stress shift in the Latin imparisyllabic declension, and a distinct neuter form:
Verbs in Old French show the same extreme phonological deformations as other Old French words. Morphologically, however, Old French verbs are extremely conservative, preserving intact most of the Latin alternations and irregularities that had been inherited in Proto-Romance. Old French has much less analogical reformation than in Modern French, and significantly less than the oldest stages of other languages (e.g. Old Spanish), despite the fact that the various phonological developments in Gallo-Romance and Proto-French led to complex alternations in the majority of commonly-used verbs.
For example, the Old French verb laver "to wash" is conjugated je lef, tu leves, il leve in the present indicative and je lef, tu les, il let in the present subjunctive, in both cases regular phonological developments from Latin indicative lavō, lavās, lavat and subjunctive lavem, lavēs, lavet. This paradigm is typical in showing the phonologically regular but morphologically irregular alternations of most paradigms:
Modern French, on the other hand, has je lave, tu laves, il lave in both indicative and subjunctive, reflecting significant analogical developments: analogical borrowing of unstressed vowel /a/; analogical -e in the first singular (from verbs like j'entre, where the -e is regular); and wholesale replacement of the subjunctive with forms modeled on -ir/-oir/-re verbs. All of these serve to eliminate the various alternations in the Old French verb paradigm. Even modern "irregular" verbs are not immune from analogy: For example, Old French je vif, tu vis, il vit (vivre "to live") has yielded to modern je vis, tu vis, il vit, eliminating the "unpredictable" -f in the first-person singular.
The simple past also shows extensive analogical reformation and simplification in Modern French as compared with Old French.
The Latin pluperfect was preserved in very early Old French as a past tense with a value similar to a preterite or imperfect. For example, the Sequence of Saint Eulalia (878 AD) has past-tense forms such as avret (< Latin habuerat), voldret (< Latin voluerat), alternating with past-tense forms from the Latin perfect (continued as the modern "simple past"). Old Occitan also preserved this tense, with a conditional value; Spanish still preserves this tense (the -ra imperfect subjunctive), as does Portuguese (in its original value as a pluperfect indicative).
In Latin, stress was determined automatically by the number of syllables in a word and the weight (length) of those syllables. This resulted in certain automatic stress shifts between related forms in a paradigm, depending on the nature of the suffixes added. For example, in pensō "I think", the first syllable was stressed, while in pensāmus "we think", the second syllable was stressed. In many Romance languages, vowels diphthongized in stressed syllables under certain circumstances, but not in unstressed syllables, resulting in alternations in verb paradigms: e.g. Spanish pienso "I think" vs. pensamos "we think" (pensar "to think"), or cuento "I tell" vs. contamos "we tell" (contar "to tell").
In the development of French, no fewer than five vowels diphthongized in stressed, open syllables. Combined with other stress-dependent developments, this yielded 15 or so types of alternations in so-called strong verbs in Old French. For example, /a/ diphthongized to /ai/ before nasal stops in stressed, open syllables, but not in unstressed syllables, yielding aim "I love" (Latin amō) but amons "we love" (Latin amāmus).
The different types are as follows:
|Vowel alternation||Environment||Example (-er conjugation)||Example (other conjugation)|
|Stressed||Unstressed||Latin etymon||3rd singular
|Infinitive||meaning||Latin etymon||3rd singular
/ Other form
|/e/||/a/||free /a/||lavāre||leve||laver||"to wash"||parere >
|pert||parir||"to give birth"|
|/ãj̃/||/ã/||free /a/ + nasal||amāre||aime||amer||"to love"||manēre||maint||manoir||"to remain"|
|/je/||/e/||palatal + free /a/||*accapāre||achieve||achever||"to achieve"|
|/i/||/e/||palatal + /a/ + palatal||*concacāre||conchie||concheer||"to expell"||jacēre||gist||gesir||"to lie (down)"|
|/a/||/e/||palatal + blocked /a/||*accapitāre||achate||acheter||"to buy"||cadere >
|/a/||/e/||intertonic /a/ + palatal?||*tripaliāre||travaille||traveillier||"to work"|
|/je/||/e/||free /ɛ/||levāre||lieve||lever||"to raise"||sedēre||siet||seoir||"to sit"|
|/jẽ/||/ẽ/||free /ɛ/ + nasal||*cremere||crient||cremant||"to fear"|
|/i/||/oj/||/ɛ/ + palatal||pretiāre||prise||proisier||"to value"||exīre||ist||oissir||"to go out"|
|/ɛ/||/e/||intertonic /ɛ,e/ + double cons.||appellāre||apele||apeler||"to call"|
|/oj/||/e/||free /e/||*adhaesāre >
|/ẽj̃/||/ẽ/||free /e/ + nasal||mināre||meine||mener||"to lead"|
|/i/||/e/||palatal + free /e/|
|/oj/||/i/||intertonic /e/ + palatal||*carridiāre?||charroie||charrier||"?"|
|/we/||/u/||free /ɔ/||*tropāre||trueve||trouver||"to find"||morī >
|/uj/||/oj/||/ɔ/ + palatal||*appodiāre||apuie||apoiier||"to lean"|
|/ew/||/u/||free /o/||dēmōrāri||demeure||demourer||"to stay"||cōnsuere >
|/u/||/e/||intertonic blocked /o/||*corruptiāre||courouce||courecier||"to get angry"|
|/ũ/||/ã/||intertonic blocked /o/ + nasal||*calumniāre||chalonge||chalengier||"to challenge"|
In Modern French the verbs in the -er class have been systematically leveled. Generally the "weak" (unstressed) form predominates, but there are some exceptions (e.g. modern aimer/nous aimons). The only remaining alternations are in verbs like acheter/j'achète and jeter/je jette, where unstressed /ǝ/ alternates with stressed /ɛ/, and in (largely learned) verbs like adhérer/j'adhère, where unstressed /e/ alternates with stressed /ɛ/. Many of the non-er verbs have become obsolete and many of the remaining verbs have been leveled. A few alternations remain, however, in what are now known as irregular verbs, such as je tiens, nous tenons or je meurs, nous mourons.
Some verbs had a more irregular alternation between different-length stems, with a longer stressed stem alternating with a shorter unstressed stem. This was a regular development stemming from the loss of unstressed intertonic vowels, which remained when stressed:
The alternation of je desjun, disner is particularly complicated; it appears that disjējūnāre > Western Romance /desjejuˈnare > /desjejˈnare/ (preliminary intertonic loss) > /desiˈnare/ (triphthong reduction) > /disiˈnare/ (metaphony) > /disˈner/ (further intertonic loss and other proto-French developments). Note that both of the stems have become full verbs in modern French, déjeuner "to have lunch" and dîner "to dine". Furthermore, déjeuner does not derive directly from je desjun (< *disj(ēj)ūnō with total loss of unstressed -ēj-). Instead, it comes from Old French desjeüner, based on the alternative form je desjeün (< *disjē(j)ūnō with loss only of -j-, likely influenced by jeûner "to fast" < Old French jeüner < je jeün "I fast" < jē(j)ūnō, where jē- is an initial rather than intertonic syllable and hence the vowel -ē- cannot disappear).
Auxiliary verb: avoir
Auxiliary verb: avoir
Auxiliary verb: estre
|tu||ais (later as)||eus||avois||auras||ais||eusses||aurois||ave|
|il||ai (later a)||eut||avoit||aura||ai||eusst||auroit|
Auxiliary verb: avoir
|je||suis||fui||(i)ere ; esteie > estoie||(i)er; serai; estrai||seie > soie||fusse||soi||sereie > seroie; estreie > estroie|
|tu||es, ies||fus||(i)eres ; esteies > estoies||(i)ers; seras; estras||seies > soies||fusses||sereies > seroies; estreies > estroies||seies > soies|
|il||est||fu(t)||(i)ere(t), (i)ert ; esteit > estoit||(i)ert; sera(t); estra(t)||seit > soit||fust||sereit > seroit; estreit > estroit|
|nous||somes, esmes||fumes||eriiens, erions ; estiiens, estions||(i)ermes; serons; estrons||seiiens, seions > soiiens, soions||fuss-ons/-iens||seriiens, serions; estriiens, estrions||seiiens > soiiens, seions > soions|
|vous||estes||fustes||eriiez ; estiiez||--; sere(i)z; estre(i)z||seiiez > soiiez||fuss-eiz/-ez/-iez||seriiez; estriiez||seiiez > soiiez|
|ils||sont||furent||(i)erent ; esteient > estoient||(i)erent; seront; estront||seient > soient||fussent||sereient > seroient; estreient > estroient|
auxiliary verb: avoir
Since Old French did not consist of a single standard, competing administrative varieties were propagated by the provincial courts and chanceries.
The French of Paris was one of a number of standards, including:
This Oïl language is the ancestor of several languages spoken today, including:
|Old French test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
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