English to French Translation – History of the French Language

in French

The History of the French Language

If you’re considering hiring an English to French translation service, you may be interested in learning about the history of the French language.  French is a descendant of a type of Latin known as Vulgar Latin, which first and second-century B.C. Romans spoke.  After Gaul was conquered by the Julius Caesar-led Romans, this language bled into the Gaulish vocabulary.  Pre-invasion, the people of Gaul had spoken Gaulish, which was a Celtic language.  Several Germanic tribes, known as Franks, attempted a Gaul invasion in the fifth century A.D., but the Romans and their Latin overran them and their language.  The new dialect called “French,” which was the result of careless Latin spoken by Gaulish natives, eventually emerged in approximately the ninth century.  The language was partially a combination of Germanic, Gaulish and Celtic words.  Modern-day French is still based in Latin, as most of its basic structure and vocabulary are derived directly from Latin.  This French foundational dialect, called “Old French,” ended in about the 13th century.  “Oaths of Strasbourg,” a text dating to 842, is the earliest written record of Old French.

Old French Gave Rise to Several Dialects

Several original dialects soon sprouted from Old French, most notably Francien, which was spoken by residents of Paris and the regions which surrounded it.  The other French residents of the time spoke different variations of Old French and languages not based upon Latin, like Occitan, spoken mainly by the inhabitants of parts of southern France.  Another sub-standard dialect spoken in France was Breton.  Eventually, the French standard from became Francien, due to Paris’s growing importance as a center of culture and politics.  During the French Revolution, this dialect became the official language of France.  Afterward, preserving this language was so important to the government of France that, until sometime in the 20th century, those caught speaking different dialects, such as Breton and Occitan, were often actually accused of treason!

The Continuing Evolution of French

Middle French eventually evolved from Old French around the 14th century and lasted until the 16th century.  The difference between Middle French and old French is that it borrowed a large amount of its expressions, phrases and words from different languages; Greek and Italian in particular, along with Latin.  This caused an encouragement in further language expansion and development as well as focusing upon literature development.  The language we now recognize, Modern French, started in the 17th century, in particular after the establishment in 1635 of the French Academy.  Cardinal Richelieu intended the Academy to prevent the erosion of the language’s purity by keeping other languages (especially English) from influencing it and to retain the language’s cultural importance while also focusing upon literature development.

The French Language Structure Has Not Changed Much

Several periods (romanticism, for instance) and movements have influenced French over the years, yet its structure has changed very little since Middle French was spoken.  Today’s standard French language has also benefited much from education and literature.

The Popularity of the French Language

French is not only spoken all across France.  It is one of Canada’s official languages and is also spoken in many parts of Western Europe and in parts of Latin America and Africa.  As you can see, there are many places in which an English to French translation service can benefit you!

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Ricardo Lumbardo has 272 articles online

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English to French Translation – History of the French Language

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This article was published on 2011/10/20