April 20, 2024


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“English owes its global influence to French”

“English owes its global influence to French”

Interview – Linguist, scientific advisor to Petit LaRousse, publishes a humorous book in English, this “non-existent language”.

“There is no English language; It's badly pronounced French.” Apart from Clemenceau's prompting, can we assume that he is telling the truth? After all, there are more than 80,000 words of French origin in current English. It literally means a petit la rouse! Let's admit we're not bad at writing this. “bad faith”. But we are only quoting Bernard Cerclini “No English Language” (Folio). In this short book, brilliant and easy to read, the professor emeritus of the University of Paris traces the exchanges between French and English since the invasion of the Kingdom of England. An incredible story that reminds us of many common words, “Challenge” has “vintage” passes through “spleen”, “farm”, “Ticket”, “sexy” Actually … from the French.

LE FIGARO. – As you point out at the beginning of your book, one-third of English vocabulary is of French origin. Can it be said in this sense, as Clemenceau boldly thought? “No English Language” ?

Bernard Cerclini. – We usually emphasize the quantitative aspect: a large part of the English lexicon is of French origin. In this book I deal with the qualitative side: its color and originality to French English, its price: a concise glossary, a dictionary of business and administration, its terms of law and politics, etc. An international language is loved, used and respected as such. So I propose a bold thesis: English owes its global influence to French.

When did English spelling begin?

With the conquest of William the Conqueror in 1066, Norman colonization began. William confiscated lands, nobles' possessions, and ecclesiastical offices; He distributes them to His devotees. A Norman aristocracy was taken and established; The Anglo-Saxon people and their language are under the yoke. The resulting Frenchization is easily understood. It adds a layer of vocabulary “excellent” For Old Saxon stock: people raise PigsIt will change pork On the lord's plate. English is largely French in terms of vocabulary for administration (especially tax), government, war, faith, etc.

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When did it infiltrate English?

From the 1260s French was no longer the native language of the ruling class, and little attention was paid in the following periods (up to 1400) to the extent that French, now learned at home, was a second language. But this overlooks the fact that half of the English borrowings from French took place in the 14th century.e century I emphasize the vitality of French, which has become a second language on the island: between 1260 and 1400 English was truly nurtured by our language. When it responded to the intellectual, administrative and economic needs of English society as an essential work and communication tool. In England, in French “Colonial” After the Norman Conquest, after 1260, a second and chosen idiom, a tool for culture and work that was a factor in the development of Anglo-Saxon, was succeeded by the French. Vertical bilingualism was replaced by horizontal dialogues, promoting mother tongue with French. Such a story is known; It is called Francophonie.

English as an international language is essentially French.

When did exchanges reverse?

Master of the house since the 16th centurye Throughout the century, English continued to benefit from the contribution of French, Europe's most prestigious language until the 19th century.e century A large lexicon crossed the channel: in 18e Century, borrowing calomania Ballet, connoisseur, coquette, coterie, intrigue, maid, etc., rousing the ire of purists and defenders of the national idiom. The flow actually reversed from 1945 onwards. Later, America's influence largely took over from the Anglomania that began in the Age of Enlightenment; Borrowing from English has increased manifold.

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As you read your book, in addition to vocabulary, French has influenced English grammar and spelling.

French influence is not limited to vocabulary. I show that this is related to morphology: for example the English suffixes –ability,agePioneeressry coming from the continent. Syntax, likewise: thus, the “Present Continuity” English (he comes) owes much to a general medieval circulation: He is coming. The Frenchization of the English language is profound.

So what do you think of English people who are so fluent in French?

I devote a chapter to what I call the British “Passengers”. Hundreds of French words have passed into English, where their meaning is often evolved and modified according to the needs of the moment; These new English words came back into French as loanwords. The event is old: Consolation, Partner, Pioneer, Tennis, Ticket Examples of this. These days they are innumerable, and sometimes surprising: charter, design, gay, charm, skate, voucher From Old French. I emphasize these anglicisms because they bear witness to the truth “Training Course” Our language was followed across the Channel; In this sense, they are often accepted, as long as they are pronounced the French way! Also, these English loans “Passengers”Which state? “modernism” Using Old French words, prove that the part “modern” The English language is mainly of French origin.

It makes us wonder if its etymology is not at least French, the great winner of globalisation.

We can say this quietly with a bit of courage and humor. Of his long stay in England, between 1066 and 1400, the French may be proud. He enriched the Anglo-Saxon language, providing a lexicon of its progress and influence. English as an international language is essentially French.

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What do you think about the work of the French Academy, which is responsible for monitoring and protecting, among other things, English languages?

is of French origin (Commitments of Strasbourg842) A political speech, dated 11e Century Literary Language, from the 17the Strictly standardized idiom. Especially we understand that the institution of preserving English by Frenchizing it is too official and sacred: the French language requires it. But the language is now universal, full of its diversity: I would like to see an academy on the banks of the Seine. French speaker. Green clothes and bright…

Can you say that both your books are tributes to the English language?

The book seeks to appreciate the mutual contributions between the French and English languages ​​(it is an anti-Brexit); He pleads for a better historical knowledge of our languages ​​(teaching a little history of French is welcome, for example to master spelling); He finally wants to give French speakers a swing global english, A medicine of courage, pride and responsibility. Their language is universal, alas, its effect on extension! Seven centuries ago, it accompanied the rise of the English language; Today the French-speaking world is made up of many partnerships. It is up to us to serve the French world and its diversity in the long term.