May 18, 2022


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“Half of the English language comes from French”

Anthony Lagoodrey, editor Incredible history of French words in EnglishIt looks back at how French was incorporated into English over time.

Some French expressions are commonly heard in Shakespeare’s language: Rendezvous, Fianc ,e, J-ne-Size-Guoy … penetrating French English rather than a linguistic coquetry, author Anthony Lagoutre considers half English. Vocabulary comes from our beloved French language. On March 17, 2016, he lectured at the University of Paris Dobin as part of a Brooklyn program. He then described different historical periods and the different tinkering that made English a language Very French.

A little history

First, English was a Celtic language that survived for centuries. But with the fall of the Roman Empire, England (later called Britain) was invaded by Angles and Saxons, Germans. Later, the Old Germans imposed themselves on England for more than half a millennium: “For 600 years, until the invasion of William the Conqueror, the official language of England was German.“Says Anthony Lagoodre.

When Norman conquered England and William the Conqueror came to power, the French began to spread on the island. The only problem is that the French origin went against the will of the British: “French language first incorporated into English under duress: Guillaume Le Conquérant beheads his enemies”, Says Anthony Lagoodre. “In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England, killed the last Anglo-Saxon king, King Harold, and was crowned King of England at Westminster. He utterly assassinated the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy, conquered all the lands of the country, and then French became the official language of the kingdom for 350 years.”He continues. At that time, French imposed itself as the language of the growing elite in fields such as school, communication or business.

But when the Hundred Years’ War broke out in the 14th century, the captors saw that the two countries could not unite, and in anticipation of the inevitable defeat of England, the French represented. “The language of the enemy (…) so it should no longer be the ruling language of the country.Since 1420, the French language has been abandoned and replaced by Old English, meanwhile it has already absorbed 10,000 French words. It was around this time that the English decided to translate some words into Latin.The English live in denial and present the French part of their language as Latin“Laughing Teacher”However, no Latin word entered English before the 14th century (….) England turned to Latin to distinguish itself from French.”.

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Then, from the Renaissance, the second phase of integration of the French language into English took place. During this period, France shone in the eyes of the world for its intellectual excellence and reached the pinnacle of its prestige. Adding French words to one’s vocabulary turns out to be good taste. “The best example of this is Shakespeare, who imported the French words, which earned him a lot of humiliation at the time.Says the expert. During this period, the English language in its vocabulary included French words such as letters, jurisprudence, metallurgy, conventional, sense, dungeon, surface, esplanade, education …

According to Anthony Lacoudre, the integration of the French language lasted after World War II, and with the emergence of many new words, its vocabulary revolved around the technological inventions of war at that time: camouflage, telephone, and so on.

“No living language is enriched by another living language”

Anthony Lagoutre estimates that half of the English words are either direct or translated from French. “The influence of the French language lasted 950 years. No living language has ever been so enriched by another living language“, He recalled. The French are really returning to the goal of the country.”God and my rightt ”, the famous Maxim of Richard Coeur de Lion, and his Code of Arms goes as far as displaying French weapons with English weapons.

German would have left very few traces of modern English: English is not counted “More than a hundred German words“In addition, these are derived from Old German, which is not practiced in Germany.

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Yes, this number does not take into account the inclinations, forms, or additions of suffixes, which, if calculated, would be four times the total. The author, who decorates his demonstrations with examples, illustrates his point with English words such as “mortgage” or “pinecone”, which is actually the result of a combination of two French words. But he also explains that the declines of a word like “big”, “big” or “huge” are also calculated. If the English vocabulary is fully considered, it would be well enriched from the French to half the words.

Four groups of words have been identified

Anthony Lacoudre distinguishes groups of four words, making it possible to identify the different ways in which Moliere’s language was flooded as Shakespeare’s language.

First, he calls the words “”.In French in speech”. Bringing this little “je-ne-sais-quoi” is about these popular words that are often pronounced in the French way which seems to delight the English: meeting, vis-à-vis, carte blanche, driver, underwear, trio This group has approximately 400 words Not only represents, but is well known to the general public.

Then we “”Explicit gallicisms”, Which means about 1000 words. These are “attributes used by the English without knowing they are French”. For the majority, these are simple, everyday words like agriculture, ambulance, sculpture, orange, page, pollution, newspaper, urgency, village.Most French words entered into the English language are common usage words”, Says Anthony Lagoodre.

The third groupTortured Galicians”. These are often unpronounceable words for the English. So “blue” became “blue” and “dumb” became “dumb”. The other words did not change their spelling, but they were distorted: “vehicle” became “vehicle”, and “dentagul” became “tent.” Finally, some characters were changed without a possible linguistic explanation: “cement” became “cement”, “apricot” became “apricot”. The pronunciation of this “torture” was easy at the end.

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The fourth and last group mentioned by the author are “Old French Words”, especially Old Norman. Unlike the French, Norman differs in the spelling and pronunciation of some words, and the origin of many modern English words. For example, in Old Norman “screen” was said to be “screen”, which gave the word “screen” in English. Also, in Old Norman the sound-gue was pronounced as -we: “regard” thus became “reward” (today “reward” means reward in English). The word “warrior” is pronounced “warrior” in Old Norman, given the English word “warrior” (fighter). And the list goes on … Thus, this last group mentioned by the author is undoubtedly one of the most influential in the English language: Anthony Lagoutre estimates that 12,000 words from the old French enriched the English language.

What about fake friends?

Largely intimidated in elementary school and college, Fox-Amis is actually an old French word that originated in France but its primary meaning is preserved in English. Anthony Lacoudre takes the example of “noise” which means “bagarre” in French and “noise” in English, in its medieval form, referring to the noise caused by fighting. So, France had the militant part of this etymology, while our neighbors across the channel wanted to have the phonetic aspect of this word.

Once upon a time our two countries seemed to manage by mutual agreement without sharing anything too much Noise, It was worth pointing out. In general, the French and the English prefer to follow the tradition of heartily hating each other. This love-hate can also be found in expressions such as “filer à l’anglaise”, which equates to “take French vacation” in English. One everywhere, the ball in the center.