French language

Last updated
French
français
PronunciationFrench pronunciation:  [fʁɑ̃sɛ]
Native to France
Region Francophonie (French-speaking world)
(geographical distribution below)
Ethnicity French people and Francophones
Native speakers
76.8 million worldwide (2012) [1]
An estimated 274 million French speakers (L1 plus L2; 2014) [1] [2]
Early forms
Latin (French alphabet)
French Braille
Signed French
(français signé)
Official status
Official language in



Regulated by Académie française (French Academy) (France)
Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language) (Quebec)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 fr
ISO 639-2 fre  (B)
fra  (T)
ISO 639-3 fra
Glottolog stan1290 [3]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-i
New-Map-Francophone World.PNG
  Regions where French is the main language
  Regions where it is an official language but not a majority native language
  Regions where it is a second language
  Regions where it is a minority language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

French (le français [lə fʁɑ̃sɛ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ) or la langue française [la lɑ̃ɡ fʁɑ̃sɛːz] ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Romance languages all the related languages derived from Vulgar Latin

The Romance languages are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin between the third and eighth centuries and that form a subgroup of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family.

Indo-European languages family of several hundred related languages and dialects

The Indo-European languages are a language family of several hundred related languages and dialects.

Vulgar Latin Non-standard Latin variety spoken by the people of Ancient Rome

Vulgar Latin or Sermo Vulgaris, also Colloquial Latin, or Common Romance, was a range of non-standard sociolects of Latin spoken in the Mediterranean region during and after the classical period of the Roman Empire. Compared to Classical Latin, written documentation of Vulgar Latin appears less standardized.

Contents

French is an official language in 29 countries across multiple different continents, [4] most of which are members of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the community of 84 countries which share the official use or teaching of French. It is spoken as a first language (in descending order of the number of speakers) in France, Canadian provinces of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick as well as other Francophone regions, Belgium (Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region), western Switzerland (cantons of Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel, Vaud, Valais), Monaco, parts of the United States (Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont), partly in Luxembourg and in northern Italy (region of Aosta Valley), and by various communities elsewhere. [5] In 2015, approximately 40% of the francophone population (including L2 and partial speakers) lived in Europe, 35% in sub-Saharan Africa, 15% in North Africa and the Middle East, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania. [6] French is the fourth most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union, [7] Of Europeans who speak other languages natively, approximately one-fifth are able to speak French as a second language. [8] French is the second most taught foreign language in the EU. [9] French is also the 18th most natively spoken language in the world, 6th most spoken language by total number of speakers and the second most studied language worldwide (with about 120 million current learners). [10]

An official language is a language given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a country's official language refers to the language used in government. The term "official language" does not typically refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government, as "the means of expression of a people cannot be changed by any law",

Organisation internationale de la Francophonie intergovernmental organization

The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), generally known as the Francophonie, but also called International Organisation of the Francophonie in English language context, is an international organization representing countries and regions where French is a lingua franca or customary language, where a significant proportion of the population are francophones, or where there is a notable affiliation with French culture.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

As a result of French and Belgian colonialism from the 16th century onward, French was introduced to new territories in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Most second-language speakers reside in Francophone Africa, in particular Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritius, Senegal and Ivory Coast. [11]

Colonialism Creation, and maintenance of colonies by people from another territory

Colonialism is the policy of a foreign polity seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of opening trade opportunities. The colonizing country seeks to benefit from the colonized country or land mass. In the process, colonizers imposed their religion, economics, and medicinal practices on the natives. Some argue this was a positive move toward modernization, while other scholars refute this theory as being biased and Eurocentric, noting that modernization is a concept introduced by Europeans. Colonialism is largely regarded as a relationship of domination of an indigenous majority by a minority of foreign invaders where the latter rule in pursuit of its interests.

Gabon country in Africa

Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, is a country on the west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. It has an area of nearly 270,000 square kilometres (100,000 sq mi) and its population is estimated at 2 million people. Its capital and largest city is Libreville.

Algeria country in North Africa

Algeria, officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The capital and most populous city is Algiers, located in the far north of the country on the Mediterranean coast. With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi), Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, and the largest in Africa. Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the west by Morocco, to the southwest by the Western Saharan territory, Mauritania, and Mali, to the southeast by Niger, and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is a semi-presidential republic consisting of 48 provinces and 1,541 communes (counties).

French is estimated to have about 76 million native speakers and about 235 million daily, fluent speakers [12] [1] [13] and another 77 to 110 million secondary speakers who speak it as a second language to varying degrees of proficiency, mainly in Africa. [14] According to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), approximately 300 million people worldwide are "able to speak the language", [15] without specifying the criteria for this estimation or whom it encompasses. [2] According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l'Agence universitaire de la francophonie, the total number of French speakers will reach approximately 500 million in 2025 and 650 million by 2050. [16] OIF estimates 700 million by 2050, 80% of whom will be in Africa. [6]

A person’s second language or L2, is a language that is not the native language of the speaker, but is learned later. For example, there are two official languages of Canada and some people use both.

Université Laval university in Quebec, Canada

Université Laval is a French-language, public research university in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. The University was founded by royal charter issued by Queen Victoria in 1852, with roots in the founding of the Séminaire de Québec in 1663 by François de Montmorency-Laval, making it the oldest centre of higher education in Canada and the first North American institution to offer higher education in French. The university, whose campus was erected from the 1950s onward in the suburban borough of Sainte-Foy–Sillery–Cap-Rouge, is ranked among the top ten Canadian universities in terms of research funding and holds four Canada Excellence Research Chairs.

The Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) is a global network of French-speaking higher-education and research institutions. Founded in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1961 as the Association des Universités Partiellement ou Entièrement de Langue Française (AUPELF), the AUF is a multilateral institution supporting co-operation and solidarity among French-speaking universities and institutions. It operates in the French-speaking countries of Africa, the Arab world, Southeast Asia, North and South America and the Caribbean, Central, Eastern and Western Europe. The AUF has 812 members distributed throughout francophone countries. It is active in 104 countries, and represented by regional offices and information centers on campuses and in institutes. The Association receives funding from La Francophonie, and its headquarters are located at the Université de Montréal.

French has a long history as an international language of literature and scientific standards and is a primary or second language of many international organisations including the United Nations, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Trade Organization, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked French the third most useful language for business, after English and Standard Mandarin Chinese. [17]

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.

European Union Economic and poitical union of states located in Europe

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

World Trade Organization organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 124 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world.

Geographic distribution

Europe

Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries Knowledge French EU map.svg
Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries

Spoken by 12% of the European Union's population, French is the fourth most widely spoken mother tongue in the EU after German, English and Italian; it is also the third-most widely known language of the Union after English and German (33% of the EU population report knowing how to speak English, 22% of Europeans understand German, 20% French). [7] [19]

Under the Constitution of France, French has been the official language of the Republic since 1992 [20] (although the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts made it mandatory for legal documents in 1539). France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education except in specific cases (though these dispositions[ clarification needed ] are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words.

In Belgium, French is the official language of Wallonia (excluding a part of the East Cantons, which are German-speaking) and one of the two official languages—along with Dutch—of the Brussels-Capital Region, where it is spoken by the majority of the population often as their primary language. [21]

French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland (along with German, Italian, and Romansh) and is spoken in the western part of Switzerland, called Romandy, of which Geneva is the largest city. The language divisions in Switzerland do not coincide with political subdivisions, and some cantons have bilingual status: for example, cities such as Biel/Bienne and cantons such as Valais, Fribourg and Berne. French is the native language of about 23% of the Swiss population, and is spoken by 50% [22] of the population.

French is also an official language of Monaco and Luxembourg, as well as in the Aosta Valley region of Italy, while French dialects remain spoken by minorities on the Channel Islands. It is also spoken in Andorra and is main communication language after Catalan in El Pas de la Casa. The language is taught as the primary second language in the German land of Saarland, with French being taught from pre-school and over 43% of citizens being able to speak French. [23] [24]

Africa

Countries usually considered part of Francophone Africa.
Their population was 422 million in 2018, and it is forecast to reach between 848 million and 883 million in 2050.
Countries sometimes considered as Francophone Africa
Countries that are not Francophone but are Members or Observers of the OIF Francophone Africa.svg
  Countries usually considered part of Francophone Africa.
Their population was 422 million in 2018, and it is forecast to reach between 848 million and 883 million in 2050.
  Countries sometimes considered as Francophone Africa
  Countries that are not Francophone but are Members or Observers of the OIF

The majority of the world's French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to the 2007 report by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 115 million African people spread across 31 Francophone countries can speak French as either a first or a second language. [11] This number does not include the people living in non-Francophone African countries who have learned French as a foreign language. [11] Due to the rise of French in Africa, the total French-speaking population worldwide is expected to reach 700 million people in 2050. [27] French is the fastest growing language on the continent (in terms of either official or foreign languages). [28] [29]

French is mostly a second language in Africa, but it has become a first language in some urban areas, such as the region of Abidjan, Ivory Coast [30] and in Libreville, Gabon. [31] There is not a single African French, but multiple forms that diverged through contact with various indigenous African languages. [32]

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand, because of the expansion of education and rapid population growth. [33] It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years. [34] [35] Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries, [36] but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.

Americas

The "arret" signs (French for "stop") are used in Canada while the English stop, which is also a valid French word, is used in France as well as other French-speaking countries and regions. Arret.jpg
The "arrêt" signs (French for "stop") are used in Canada while the English stop, which is also a valid French word, is used in France as well as other French-speaking countries and regions.

French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. It is the first language of 9.5 million people or 29% and the second language for 2.07 million or 6% of the entire population of Canada. [13] French is the sole official language in the province of Quebec, being the mother tongue for some 7 million people, or almost 80% (2006 Census) of the province. About 95% of the people of Quebec speak French as either their first or second language, and for some as their third language. Quebec is also home to the city of Montreal, which is the world's 4th-largest French-speaking city, by number of first language speakers. [37] New Brunswick and Manitoba are the only officially bilingual provinces, though full bilingualism is enacted only in New Brunswick, where about one third of the population is Francophone. French is also an official language of all of the territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon). Out of the three, Yukon has the most French speakers, comprising just under 4% of the population. [38] Furthermore, while French is not an official language in Ontario, the French Language Services Act ensures that provincial services are to be available in the language. The Act applies to areas of the province where there are significant Francophone communities, namely Eastern Ontario and Northern Ontario. Elsewhere, sizable French-speaking minorities are found in southern Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Port au Port Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the unique Newfoundland French dialect was historically spoken. Smaller pockets of French speakers exist in all other provinces. The city of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, is also effectively bilingual, as it is on the other side of a river from Quebec, opposite the major city of Gatineau, and is required to offer governmental services in French as well as English.[ citation needed ]

French language spread in the United States. Counties marked in lighter pink are those where 6-12% of the population speaks French at home; medium pink, 12-18%; darker pink, over 18%. French-based creole languages are not included. French in the United States.png
French language spread in the United States. Counties marked in lighter pink are those where 6–12% of the population speaks French at home; medium pink, 12–18%; darker pink, over 18%. French-based creole languages are not included.

According to the United States Census Bureau (2011), French is the fourth [39] most-spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese, when all forms of French are considered together and all dialects of Chinese are similarly combined. French remains the second most-spoken language in the states of Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, collectively known as Louisiana French. According to the 2000 United States Census, there are over 194,000 people in Louisiana who speak French at home, the most of any state if Creole French is excluded. [40] New England French, essentially a variant of Canadian French, is spoken in parts of New England. Missouri French was historically spoken in Missouri and Illinois (formerly known as Upper Louisiana), but is nearly extinct today. [41] French also survived in isolated pockets along the Gulf Coast of what was previously French Lower Louisiana, such as Mon Louis Island, Alabama and DeLisle, Mississippi (the latter only being discovered by linguists in the 1990s) but these varieties are severely endangered or presumed extinct.

French is one of Haiti's two official languages. It is the principal language of writing, school instruction, and administrative use. It is spoken by all educated Haitians and is used in the business sector. It is also used for ceremonial events such as weddings, graduations and church masses. About 70–80% of the country's population have Haitian Creole as their first language; the rest speak French as a first language. The second official language is the recently standardized Haitian Creole, which virtually the entire population of Haiti speaks. Haitian Creole is one of the French-based creole languages, drawing the large majority of its vocabulary from French, with influences from West African languages, as well as several European languages. Haitian Creole is closely related to Louisiana Creole and the creole from the Lesser Antilles. [42]

French is the official language of both French Guiana on the South American continent, [43] and of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, [44] an archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland in North America.

Areas of French Colonization France colonial Empire10.png
Areas of French Colonization

Asia

Southeast Asia

French was the official language of the colony of French Indochina, comprising modern-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It continues to be an administrative language in Laos and Cambodia, although its influence has waned in recent years. [45] In colonial Vietnam, the elites primarily spoke French, while many servants who worked in French households spoke a French pidgin known as "Tây Bồi" (now extinct). After French rule ended, South Vietnam continued to use French in administration, education, and trade. [46] Since the Fall of Saigon and the opening of a unified Vietnam's economy, French has gradually been effectively displaced as the main foreign language of choice by English. French nevertheless maintains its colonial legacy by being spoken as a second language by the elderly and elite populations and is presently being revived in higher education and continues to be a diplomatic language in Vietnam. All three countries are official members of the OIF. [47]

Middle East

Lebanon

Town sign in Standard Arabic and French at the entrance of Rechmaya in Lebanon. Bienvenue a Rechmaya.jpg
Town sign in Standard Arabic and French at the entrance of Rechmaya in Lebanon.

A former French mandate, Lebanon designates Arabic as the sole official language, while a special law regulates cases when French can be publicly used. Article 11 of Lebanon's Constitution states that "Arabic is the official national language. A law determines the cases in which the French language is to be used". [48] The French language in Lebanon is a widespread second language among the Lebanese people, and is taught in many schools along with Arabic and English. French is used on Lebanese pound bank notes, on road signs, on Lebanese license plates, and on official buildings (alongside Arabic).

Today, French and English are secondary languages of Lebanon, with about 40% of the population being Francophone and 40% Anglophone. [49] The use of English is growing in the business and media environment. Out of about 900,000 students, about 500,000 are enrolled in Francophone schools, public or private, in which the teaching of mathematics and scientific subjects is provided in French. [50] Actual usage of French varies depending on the region and social status. One third of high school students educated in French go on to pursue higher education in English-speaking institutions. English is the language of business and communication, with French being an element of social distinction, chosen for its emotional value. [51] On social media, French was used on Facebook by just 10% of Lebanese in 2014, far behind English (78%).

Israel

A significant French-speaking community is also present in Israel, primarily among the communities of French Jews in Israel, Moroccan Jews in Israel and Lebanese Jews. Many secondary schools offer French as a foreign language.

United Arab Emirates and Qatar

The UAE has the status in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie as an observer state, and Qatar has the status in the organization as an associate state. However, in both countries French is not spoken by almost any of the general population or migrant workers, but spoken by a small minority of those who invest in Francophone countries or have other financial or family ties. Their entrance as observer and associate states respectively into the organisation was aided a good deal by their investments into the Organisation and France itself. [52] A country's status as an observer state in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie gives the country the right to send representatives to organization meetings and make formal requests to the organization but they do not have voting rights within the OIF. [53] A country's status as an associate state also does not give a country voting abilities but associate states can discuss and review organization matters. [54]

Oceania and Australasia

A 500-CFP franc (EUR4.20; US$4.90) banknote, used in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna. CFP 500 recto.jpg
A 500-CFP franc (€4.20; US$4.90) banknote, used in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna.

French is an official language of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, where 45% of the population can speak it. [55] In the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, 97% of the population can speak, read and write French [56] while in French Polynesia, this figure is 95% [57] , and in the French collectivity of Wallis and Futuna, it is 78%. [58]

Dialects

Dialects of the French language in the world Dialects of the french language.png
Dialects of the French language in the world

History

French is a Romance language (meaning that it is descended primarily from Vulgar Latin) that evolved out of the Gallo-Romance dialects spoken in northern France. The language's early forms include Old French and Middle French.

Vulgar Latin in Gallia

Due to Roman rule, Latin was gradually adopted by the inhabitants of Gaul, and as the language was learned by the common people it developed a distinct local character, with grammatical differences from Latin as spoken elsewhere, some of which being attested on graffiti. [59] This local variety evolved into the Gallo-Romance tongues, which include French and its closest relatives, such as Arpitan.

The Celtic Gaulish language is thought to have survived into the 6th century in France, despite considerable Romanization. [60] Coexisting with Latin, Gaulish helped shape the Vulgar Latin dialects that developed into French, with effects including loanwords and calques (including oui, [61] the word for "yes"), [62] [61] sound changes shaped by Gaulish influence, [63] [64] and influences in conjugation and word order. [62] [61] [59] Recent computational studies suggest that early gender shifts may have been motivated by the gender of the corresponding word in Gaulish. [65]

Old French

The beginning of French in Gaul was greatly influenced by Germanic invasions into the country. These invasions had the greatest impact on the northern part of the country and on the language there. [66] A language divide began to grow across the country. The population in the north spoke langue d'oïl while the population in the south spoke langue d'oc. [67] Langue d'oïl grew into what is known as Old French. The period of Old French spanned between the 8th and 14th centuries. Old French shared many characteristics with Latin. For example, Old French made use of all possible word orders just as Latin did. [68]

Middle French

Within Old French many dialects emerged but the Francien dialect is one that not only continued but also thrived during the Middle French period (14th century–17th century). [66] Modern French grew out of this Francien dialect. [66] Grammatically, during the period of Middle French, noun declensions were lost and there began to be standardized rules. Robert Estienne published the first Latin-French dictionary, which included information about phonetics, etymology, and grammar. [69] Politically, the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts (1539) named French the language of law.

Modern French

During the 17th century, French replaced Latin as the most important language of diplomacy and international relations (lingua franca). It retained this role until approximately the middle of the 20th century, when it was replaced by English as the United States became the dominant global power following the Second World War. [70] [71] Stanley Meisler of the Los Angeles Times said that the fact that the Treaty of Versailles was written in English as well as French was the "first diplomatic blow" against the language. [72]

During the Grand Siècle (17th century), France, under the rule of powerful leaders such as Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIV, enjoyed a period of prosperity and prominence among European nations. Richelieu established the Académie française to protect the French language. By the early 1800s, Parisian French had become the primary language of the aristocracy in France.

Near the beginning of the 19th century, the French government began to pursue policies with the end goal of eradicating the many minority and regional languages (patois) spoken in France. This began in 1794 with Henri Grégoire's "Report on the necessity and means to annihilate the patois and to universalise the use of the French language". When public education was made compulsory, only French was taught and the use of any other (patois) language was punished. The goals of the Public School System were made especially clear to the French speaking teachers sent to teach students in regions such as Occitania and Brittany: "And remember, Gents: you were given your position in order to kill the Breton language" were instructions given from a French official to teachers in the French department of Finistère (western Brittany). [73] The prefect of Basses-Pyrénées in the French Basque Country wrote in 1846: "Our schools in the Basque Country are particularly meant to substitute the Basque language with French...". [73] Students were taught that their ancestral languages were inferior and they should be ashamed of them; this process was known in the Occitan-speaking region as Vergonha.

Among the historic reformers of the French language, such as Louis Maigret, Marle M., Marcelin Berthelot, Philibert Monet, Jacques Peletier du Mans, and Somaize, nowadays the most striking reform is proposed by Mickael Korvin, a Franco-American linguist of Hungarian origin who wants to eliminate accents, silent letters, double letters and more. [74]

Current status and importance

Spoken on all continents, [75] French is taught in universities around the world, and is one of the world's most influential languages because of its wide use in the worlds of journalism, jurisprudence, the academy, and diplomacy. [76] In diplomacy, French is one of the six official languages of the United Nations (and one of the UN Secretariat's only two working languages [75] ), one of twenty official and three working languages of the European Union, an official language of NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Organization of American States (alongside Spanish, Portuguese and English), the Eurovision Song Contest, one of eighteen official languages of the European Space Agency, World Trade Organization and the least used of the three official languages in the North American Free Trade Agreement countries. It is also a working language in nonprofit organisations such as the Red Cross (alongside English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian), Amnesty International (alongside 32 other languages of which English is the most used, followed by Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Italian, Médecins sans Frontières (used alongside English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic), and Médecins du Monde (used alongside English). [77] Given the demographic prospects of the French-speaking nations of Africa, Forbes released an article in 2014 which claimed that French "could be the language of the future". [78]

Significant as a judicial language, French is one of the official languages of such major international and regional courts, tribunals, and dispute-settlement bodies as the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Court of Justice for the Economic Community of West African States, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea the International Criminal Court and the World Trade Organization Appellate Body. It is the sole internal working language of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and makes with English the European Court of Human Rights's two working languages. [79]

In 1997, George Werber published, in Language Today, a comprehensive academic study entitled "The World's 10 most influential languages". [80] In the article, Werber ranked French as, after English, the second most influential language of the world, ahead of Spanish. [80] His criteria were the numbers of native speakers, the number of secondary speakers (especially high for French among fellow world languages), the number of countries using the language and their respective populations, the economic power of the countries using the language, the number of major areas in which the language is used, and the linguistic prestige associated with the mastery of the language (Werber highlighted that French in particular enjoys considerable linguistic prestige). [80] In a 2008 reassessment of his article, Werber concluded that his findings were still correct since "the situation among the top ten remains unchanged." [80]

Knowledge of French is often considered to be a useful skill by business owners in the United Kingdom; a 2014 study found that 50% of British managers considered French to be a valuable asset for their business, thus ranking French as the most-sought after foreign language there, ahead of German (49%) and Spanish (44%). [81] MIT economist Albert Saiz calculated a 2.3% premium for those who have French as a foreign language in the workplace. [82]

In English-speaking Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, French is the first foreign language taught and in number of pupils is far ahead of other languages. In the United States, Spanish is the most commonly taught foreign language, though French is next.

The future of the French language is often discussed in the news. For example, in 2014, The New York Times documented an increase in the teaching of French in New York, especially in K-12 dual-language programs where Spanish and Mandarin are the only second-language options more popular than French. [83] In a study published in March 2014 by Forbes , the investment bank Natixis said that French could become the world's most spoken language by 2050. It noted that French is spreading in areas where the population is rapidly increasing, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. [84]

Phonology

Spoken French (Africa)

Although there are many French regional accents, foreign learners normally use only one variety of the language.

French pronunciation follows strict rules based on spelling, but French spelling is often based more on history than phonology. The rules for pronunciation vary between dialects, but the standard rules are:

Writing system

Alphabet

French is written with the 26 letters of the basic Latin script, with four diacritics appearing on vowels (circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, diaeresis) and the cedilla appearing in "ç".

There are two ligatures, "œ" and "æ", but they are now often not used because of the layout of the most common keyboards used in French-speaking countries. Yet, they cannot be changed to "oe" and "ae" in formal and literary texts.

Orthography

French spelling, like English spelling, tends to preserve obsolete pronunciation rules. This is mainly due to extreme phonetic changes since the Old French period, without a corresponding change in spelling. Moreover, some conscious changes were made to restore Latin orthography (as with some English words such as "debt"):

French is a morphophonemic language. While it contains 130 graphemes that denote only 36 phonemes, many of its spelling rules are likely due to a consistency in morphemic patterns such as adding suffixes and prefixes. [85] Many given spellings of common morphemes usually lead to a predictable sound. In particular, a given vowel combination or diacritic generally leads to one phoneme. However, there is not a one-to-one relation of a phoneme and a single related grapheme, which can be seen in how tomber, tombai, and tombé all end with the /e/ phoneme. [86] Additionally, there are many variations in the pronunciation of consonants at the end of words, demonstrated by how the x in paix is not pronounced though at the end of Aix it is.

As a result, it can be difficult to predict the spelling of a word based on the sound. Final consonants are generally silent, except when the following word begins with a vowel (see Liaison (French)). For example, the following words end in a vowel sound: pied, aller, les, finit, beaux. The same words followed by a vowel, however, may sound the consonants, as they do in these examples: beaux-arts, les amis, pied-à-terre.

French writing, as with any language, is affected by the spoken language. In Old French, the plural for animal was animals. The /als/ sequence was unstable and was turned into a diphthong /aus/. This change was then reflected in the orthography: animaus. The us ending, very common in Latin, was then abbreviated by copyists (monks) by the letter x, resulting in a written form animax. As the French language further evolved, the pronunciation of au turned into /o/ so that the u was reestablished in orthography for consistency, resulting in modern French animaux (pronounced first /animos/ before the final /s/ was dropped in contemporary French). The same is true for cheval pluralized as chevaux and many others. In addition, castel pl. castels became château pl. châteaux.

Some proposals exist to simplify the existing writing system, but they still fail to gather interest. [87] [88] [89] [90]

In 1990, a reform accepted some changes to French orthography. At the time the proposed changes were considered to be suggestions. In 2016, schoolbooks in France began to use the newer recommended spellings, with instruction to teachers that both old and new spellings be deemed correct. [91]

Grammar

French is a moderately inflected language. Nouns and most pronouns are inflected for number (singular or plural, though in most nouns the plural is pronounced the same as the singular even if spelled differently); adjectives, for number and gender (masculine or feminine) of their nouns; personal pronouns and a few other pronouns, for person, number, gender, and case; and verbs, for tense, aspect, mood, and the person and number of their subjects. Case is primarily marked using word order and prepositions, while certain verb features are marked using auxiliary verbs. According to the French lexicogrammatical system, French has a rank-scale hierarchy with clause as the top rank, which is followed by group rank, word rank, and morpheme rank. A French clause is made up of groups, groups are made up of words, and lastly, words are made up of morphemes. [92]

French grammar shares several notable features with most other Romance languages, including

Nouns

Every French noun is either masculine or feminine. Because French nouns are not inflected for gender, a noun's form cannot specify its gender. For nouns regarding the living, their grammatical genders often correspond to that which they refer to. For example, a male teacher is a "enseignant" while a female teacher is a "enseignante." However, plural nouns that refer to a group that includes both masculine and feminine entities are always masculine. So a group of two male teachers would be "enseignants." A group of two male teachers and two female teachers would still be "enseignants." In many situations, and in the case of "enseignant," both the singular and plural form of a noun are pronounced identically. The article used for singular nouns is different from that used for plural nouns and the article provides a distinguishing factor between the two in speech. For example, the singular "le professeur" or "la professeur(e)" (the male or female teacher, professor) can be distinguished from the plural "les professeurs" because "le," "la," and "les" are all pronounced differently. There are some situations where both the feminine and masculine form of a noun are the same and the article provides the only difference. For example, "le dentiste" refers to a male dentist while "la dentiste" refers to a female dentist.

Verbs

Moods and tense-aspect forms

The French language consists of both finite and non-finite moods. The finite moods include the indicative mood (indicatif), the subjunctive mood (subjonctif), the imperative mood (impératif), and the conditional mood (conditionnel). The non-finite moods include the infinitive mood (infinitif), the present participle (participe présent), and the past participle (participe passé).

Finite moods
Indicative (Indicatif)

The indicative mood makes use of eight different tense-aspect forms. These include the present (présent), the simple past (passé composé and passé simple), the past imperfective (imparfait), the pluperfect (plus-que-parfait), the simple future (futur simple), the future perfect (futur antérieur), and the past perfect (passé antérieur). Some forms are less commonly used today. In today's spoken French, the passé composé is used while the passé simple is reserved for formal situations or for literary purposes. Similarly, the plus-que-parfait is used for speaking rather than the older passé antérieur seen in literary works.

Within the indicative mood, the passé composé, plus-que-parfait, futur antérieur, and passé antérieur all use auxiliary verbs in their forms.

Indicatif
PrésentImparfaitPassé composéPassé simple
SingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPlural
1st Personj'aimenous aimonsj'aimaisnous aimionsj'ai aiménous avons aiméj'aimainous aimâmes
2nd Persontu aimesvous aimeztu aimaisvous aimieztu as aimévous avez aimétu aimasvous aimâtes
3rd Personil/elle aimeils/elles aimentil/elle aimaitils/elles aimaientil/elle a aiméils/elles ont aiméil/elle aimails/elles aimèrent
Futur simpleFutur antérieurPlus-que-parfaitPassé antérieur
SingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPlural
1st Personj'aimerainous aimeronsj'aurai aiménous aurons aiméj'avais aiménous avions aiméj'eus aiménous eûmes aimé
2nd Persontu aimerasvous aimereztu auras aimévous aurez aimétu avais aimévous aviez aimétu eus aimévous eûtes aimé
3rd Personil/elle aimerails/elles aimerontil/elle aura aiméils/elles auront aiméil/elle avais aiméils/elles avaient aiméil/elle eut aiméils/elles eurent aimé
Subjunctive (Subjonctif)

The subjunctive mood only includes four of the tense-aspect forms found in the indicative: present (présent), simple past (passé composé), past imperfective (imparfait), and pluperfect (plus-que-parfait).

Within the subjunctive mood, the passé composé and plus-que-parfait use auxiliary verbs in their forms.

Subjonctif
PrésentImparfaitPassé composéPlus-que-parfait
SingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPlural
1st Personj'aimenous aimionsj'aimassenous aimassionsj'aie aiménous ayons aiméj'eusse aiménous eussions aimé
2nd Persontu aimesvous aimieztu aimassesvous aimassieztu aies aimévous ayez aimétu eusses aimévous eussiez aimé
3rd Personil/elle aimeils/elles aimentil/elle aimâtils/elles aimassentil/elle ait aiméils/elles aient aiméil/elle eût aiméils/elles eussent aimé
Imperative (Imperatif)

The imperative is used in the present tense (with the exception of a few instances where it is used in the perfect tense). The imperative is used to give commands to you (tu), we/us (nous), and plural you (vous).

Imperatif
Présent
SingularPlural
1st Personaimons
2nd Personaimeaimez
Conditional (Conditionnel)

The conditional makes use of the present (présent) and the past (passé).

The passé uses auxiliary verbs in its forms.

Conditionnel
PrésentPassé
SingularPluralSingularPlural
1st Personj'aimeraisnous aimerionsj'aurais aiménous aurions aimé
2nd Persontu aimeraisvous aimerieztu aurais aimévous auriez aimé
3rd Personil/elle aimeraitils/elles aimeraientil/elle aurait aiméils/elles auraient aimé

Voice

French uses both the active voice and the passive voice. The active voice is unmarked while the passive voice is formed by using a form of verb être ("to be") and the past participle.

Example of the active voice:

  • "Elle aime le chien." She loves the dog.
  • "Mark a conduit la voiture." Mark drove the car.

Example of the passive voice:

  • "Le chien est aimé par elle." The dog is loved by her.
  • "La voiture était conduite par Mark." The car was driven by Mark.

Syntax

Word order

French declarative word order is subject–verb–object although a pronoun object precedes the verb. Some types of sentences allow for or require different word orders, in particular inversion of the subject and verb like "Parlez-vous français?" when asking a question rather than just "Vous parlez français ?" Both questions mean the same thing; however, a rising inflection is always used on both of them whenever asking a question, especially on the second one. Specifically, the first translates into "Do you speak French?" while the second one is literally just "You speak French?" To avoid inversion while asking a question, 'Est-ce que' (literally 'is it that') may be placed in the beginning of the sentence. "Parlez-vous français ?" may become "Est-ce que vous parlez français ?" French also uses verb–object–subject (VOS) and object–subject–verb (OSV) word order. OSV word order is not used often and VOS is reserved for formal writings. [68]

Vocabulary

The majority of French words derive from Vulgar Latin or were constructed from Latin or Greek roots. In many cases a single etymological root appears in French in a "popular" or native form, inherited from Vulgar Latin, and a learned form, borrowed later from Classical Latin. The following pairs consist of a native noun and a learned adjective:

However, a historical tendency to gallicise Latin roots can be identified, whereas English conversely leans towards a more direct incorporation of the Latin:

There are also noun-noun and adjective-adjective pairs:

It can be difficult to identify the Latin source of native French words, because in the evolution from Vulgar Latin, unstressed syllables were severely reduced and the remaining vowels and consonants underwent significant modifications.

More recently the linguistic policy of the French language academies of France and Quebec has been to provide French equivalents to (mainly English) imported words, either by using existing vocabulary, extending its meaning or deriving a new word according to French morphological rules. The result is often two (or more) co-existing terms for describing the same phenomenon.

Root languages of loanwords [93]

   English (25.10%)
   Italian (16.83%)
   Germanic languages (13.10%)
   Arabic (5.12%)
   German (3.91%)
   Celtic languages (3.81%)
   Spanish (3.81%)
   Dutch (3.64%)
   Persian and Sanskrit (2.67%)
  Various Asian languages (2.12%)
   Slavic and Baltic languages (1.31%)
   Basque (0.24%)
  Other languages (3.43%)
  • mercatique / marketing
  • financefantôme / shadowbanking
  • bloc-notes / notepad
  • ailière / wingsuit
  • tiers-lieu / coworking

It is estimated that 12% (4,200) of common French words found in a typical dictionary such as the Petit Larousse or Micro-Robert Plus (35,000 words) are of foreign origin (where Greek and Latin learned words are not seen as foreign). About 25% (1,054) of these foreign words come from English and are fairly recent borrowings. The others are some 707 words from Italian, 550 from ancient Germanic languages, 481 from other Gallo-Romance languages, 215 from Arabic, 164 from German, 160 from Celtic languages, 159 from Spanish, 153 from Dutch, 112 from Persian and Sanskrit, 101 from Native American languages, 89 from other Asian languages, 56 from other Afro-Asiatic languages, 55 from Slavic languages and Baltic languages, 10 from Basque and 144 (about 3%) from other languages. [93]

One study analyzing the degree of differentiation of Romance languages in comparison to Latin estimated that among the languages analyzed French has the greatest distance from Latin. [94] Lexical similarity is 89% with Italian, 80% with Sardinian, 78% with Rhaeto-Romance, and 75% with Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese. [95] [96] [95]

Numerals

The French counting system is partially vigesimal: twenty (vingt) is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 70 to 99. The French word for 80 is quatre-vingts, literally "four twenties", and the word for 75 is soixante-quinze, literally "sixty-fifteen". This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the different counting systems (mostly vigesimal near the coast, because of Celtic (via Breton) and Viking influences). This system is comparable to the archaic English use of score, as in "fourscore and seven" (87), or "threescore and ten" (70).

In Old French (during the Middle Ages), all numbers from 30 to 99 could be said in either base 10 or base 20, e.g. vint et doze (twenty and twelve) for 32, dous vinz et diz (two twenties and ten) for 50, uitante for 80, or nonante for 90. [97]

Belgian French, Swiss French, Aostan French [98] and the French used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi are different in this respect. In the French spoken in these places, 70 and 90 are septante and nonante. In Switzerland, depending on the local dialect, 80 can be quatre-vingts (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura) or huitante (Vaud, Valais, Fribourg). Octante had been used in Switzerland in the past, but is now considered archaic, [99] while in the Aosta Valley 80 is huitante. [98] In Belgium and in its former African colonies, however, quatre-vingts is universally used.

French, like most European languages, uses a space to separate thousands. [100] The comma is used in French numbers as a decimal point, i.e. "2,5" instead of "2.5".

Notes

    See also

    Notes and references

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    73. 1 2 Labouysse, Georges (2007). L'Imposture. Mensonges et manipulations de l'Histoire officielle. France: Institut d'études occitanes. ISBN   978-2-85910-426-9.
    74. "Les accents, dictateurs de la langue?". L'Express. 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
    75. 1 2 Rodney Ball, Dawn Marley, The French-Speaking World: A Practical Introduction to Sociolinguistic Issues, Taylor & Francis, 2016, page 6
    76. Kai Chan, Distinguished Fellow, INSEAD Innovation and Policy Initiative, "These are the most powerful languages in the world", World Economic Forum, December 2016
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    79. On the Linguistic Design of Multinational Courts – The French Capture, forthcoming in 14 INT’L J. CONST. L. (2016), Mathilde Cohen
    80. 1 2 3 4 The World's 10 most influential languages, George Werber, 1997, Language Today, retrieved on scribd.com
    81. Burns, Judith (2014-06-22). "Foreign languages 'shortfall' for business, CBI says". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
    82. Johnson (9 December 2017). "Johnson: What is a foreign language worth?". The Economist. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
    83. Semple, Kirk (30 January 2014). "A Big Advocate of French in New York's Schools: France". nytimes.com.
    84. "Want To Know The Language Of The Future? The Data Suggests It Could Be...French".
    85. "The contribution of morphological awareness to the spelling of morphemes and morphologically complex words in French". rdcu.be. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
    86. Brissaud, Catherine; Chevrot, Jean-Pierre (2011). "The late acquisition of a major difficulty of French inflectional orthography: The homophonic /E/ verbal endings". Writing Systems Research. 3 (2): 129–44. doi:10.1093/wsr/wsr003.
    87. (in French) Fonétik.fr writing system proposal.
    88. (in French) Ortofasil writing system proposal.
    89. (in French) Alfograf writing system proposal.
    90. (in French) Ortograf.net writing system proposal.
    91. "End of the circumflex? Changes in French spelling cause uproar". BBC News. 2016-02-05. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
    92. Caffarel, Alice; Martin, J.R.; Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. Language Typology: A Functional Perspective. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
    93. 1 2 Walter & Walter 1998.
    94. Pei, Mario (1949). Story of Language. ISBN   978-0-397-00400-3.
    95. 1 2 Ethnologue report for language code:ita (Italy) – Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version
    96. Brincat (2005)
    97. Einhorn, E. (1974). Old French: A Concise Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 110. ISBN   978-0-521-09838-0.
    98. 1 2 Jean-Pierre Martin, Description lexicale du français parlé en Vallée d'Aoste, éd. Musumeci, Quart, 1984.
    99. "Septante, octante (huitante), nonante". langue-fr.net (in French).. See also the English Wikipedia article on Welsh language, especially the section "Counting system" and its note on the influence of Celtic in the French counting system.
    100. "Questions de langue: Nombres (écriture, lecture, accord)" (in French). Académie française. Archived from the original on 1 January 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015. Dans un souci de lisibilité, on sépare les milliers par une espace insécable dans les nombres exprimant une quantité : 1 000 m, 342 234 euros, 1 234 °C, etc.
      En revanche, dans les nombres ayant fonction de numérotage (pages, dates, articles de code), les chiffres ne sont jamais séparés :
      page 1254 of the 1992 edition, article 1246 of the Civil Code.
      La virgule (et non le point comme chez les anglo‑saxons) sépare la partie entière de la partie décimale :
      π vaut environ 3,14 ; 14,5 est la moitié de 29.

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