Les Origines de la langue française - Origins of the French Language*
French, like Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese is called a Romance Language. This is not because people use French to whisper sweet, romantic things! French is called a Romance Language because it is descended from the language of the Romans - Latin.
At one time, the Romans were all over Europe. The Roman Empire included much of France after Julius Caesar (emperor of Rome) conquered the area that was called Gaul (now France) in 50 BC. . . . With all these people all over Europe speaking Latin, it began to sound different in different areas. For instance, the people who lived in France at that time, the Gauls, pronounced things differently than the people living in Spain, and often incorporated words from their original language, Gaulish, into the Latin that they spoke. There ar still about 350 words from Gaulish in modern French.
In the 5th Century, (about 400 years later) the Roman empire began to lose its hold in far-flung places like France because Germanic tribes from the north had begun to invade. Mainly, a group called the Franks, who came from the area now called Germany.
Without the influence of the Romans, the Latin that people were speaking in France became more and more different from the Latin spoken in other places, like Spain and Italy.
When the Franks began taking over parts of northern France, their language (which was Germanic) began having an influence on the language people were speaking in France too. There are many words in French today that have Frankish origins and from the Frankish invasion France gets its name.
Then, about 400 years after the Frankish invasion, some Danish Vikings moved in and there are still many influences in French from these people as well.
Finally, although there were now many different mixes of Latin and other languages being spoken in what is now France, the dialect that was being spoken in Paris won out because Paris was a great center of political power. As time passed, it evolved into what is spoken today. But did you know that it wasn't until the 19th century that French was accepted as the official language of France?
*Info comes from: http://cweb.middlebury.edu/f99/ru232a/STUDENTS/matranga/history.htm
and from: http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Language/DF_language.shtml
Birth and Evolution of the French Language - site of the French Academy (in French)
Histoire de la langue française (in French)
Learn more about Old French
Click Here to See a Map Showing the Spread of French Influence in the World
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