French language

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Pronunciation: IPA: [fʁɑ̃sɛ]
Spoken in: France, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Senegal, Haiti, Lebanon, Martinique, Vietnam, Central African Republic, Chad, Madagascar, Cameroon, Gabon, and other countries. (see article for full list) 
Region: Africa, Europe, Americas, Pacific, isolated regions of Asia
Total speakers: Native: 75 million
Total: estimations from 175 million to 300 million 
Ranking: 11
Language family: Indo-European
Map of the Francophone world
Dark blue: French-speaking; blue: official language; Light blue: language of culture; green: minority

Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2:
ISO 639-3:

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French language

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Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries
Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries

French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃sɛ]) is a Romance language spoken originally in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as a mother tongue or fluent second language,[1] with significant populations in 54 countries.

Descended from the Latin of the Roman Empire, along with languages such as Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Romanian and Portuguese, its development was influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul (particularly in pronunciation[citation needed]), and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. This is one of the reasons why certain French sounds and spellings are distinctly different from those of Spanish and Italian, for example, and why Spanish and Italian sound more similar to one another than French does to either one of them.

It is an official language in 41 countries, most of which form what is called in French La Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations. French as a foreign language is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English.[2]

It is an official or administrative language of the African Union, the European Broadcasting Union, ESA, the European Union, the Council of Europe, FIA, FIFA, ICUP, FINA, IHO, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, the International Court of Justice, the International Olympic Committee, the International Political Science Association, the International Secretariat for Water, Interpol, NATO, the UCI, the United Nations and all its agencies (including the Universal Postal Union), the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the World Trade Organization. Along with English, it is perhaps the most used language in the European Commission.


[edit] Geographic distribution

[edit] Europe

[edit] Legal status in France

See also: Toubon Law and Languages of France

Per the Constitution of France, French has been the official language since 1992 [1] (although previous legal text have made it official since 1539, see ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts). France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education outside of specific cases (though these dispositions are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words. In France, all matters concerning the orthography, grammar, vocabulary and use of the French language have been governed by the Académie française since the mid 17th century.[citation needed]

Contrary to a common[citation needed] misunderstanding both in the American and British media, France does not prohibit the use of foreign words in websites nor in any other private publication, as that would violate the constitutional right of freedom of speech. The misunderstanding may[citation needed] have arisen from a similar prohibition in the Canadian province of Quebec which made strict application of the Charter of the French Language between 1977 and 1998, although these regulations addressed language used in advertising and the provision of commercial services offered within the province, not the language of private communication.

In addition to French, there are also a variety of languages spoken by minorities, though France has not signed the European Charter for Regional Languages yet.

[edit] Switzerland

See Demographics of Switzerland

French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland (along with German, Italian, and Romansh), and is spoken in the part of Switzerland called Romandie. French is the native language of about 20% of all Swiss.

[edit] Belgium

See Languages of Belgium

In Belgium, it is the official language of the Walloon Region (excluding part of the East Cantons, which are German-speaking) and one of the two official languages of the capital, Brussels, along with Dutch, where it is spoken by the majority of the population. Conversely the Dutch language dominates among the city's largely non-resident (in Brussels) workforce. It should be noted that French is not an official language or even a recognised minority language in Flanders, although there are some districts in Belgium along linguistic borders that have special compromise linguistic regimes.

[edit] Luxembourg

Mailbox with French and German languages
Mailbox with French and German languages

See Languages of Luxembourg

French is one of the three official languages in Luxembourg, along with German and Luxembourgish.

[edit] Monaco

See Languages of Monaco

Although Monégasque is the national language of the Principality of Monaco, French is the only official language, and French nationals make up some 47% of the population.

[edit] Italy

See Languages of Italy

French is also an official language, along with Italian, in the province of Aosta Valley, Italy. In addition, a number of Franco-Provençal dialects are spoken in the province, although they do not have official recognition.

[edit] The Channel Islands

See Languages of Jersey and Languages of Guernsey

Although Jersey and Guernsey, the two baliwicks collectively referred to as the Channel Islands, are separate entities, both use French to some degree, mostly in an administrative capacity. Jersey Legal French is the standardized variety used in Jersey.

[edit] French as a non-official language in Europe

See Languages of Andorra

Although Catalan is the only official language of Andorra, French nationals make up 7% of the population, giving the French language some presence there.

[edit] The Americas

[edit] Legal status in Canada

See Canadian French, Languages of Canada, Bilingualism in Canada

Bilingual (English/French) stop sign on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. An example of bilingualism at the federal government level in Canada.
Bilingual (English/French) stop sign on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. An example of bilingualism at the federal government level in Canada.

About 7 million Canadians are native French-speakers, of whom 6 million live in Quebec [2], and French is one of Canada's two official languages (the other being English). Various provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms deal with Canadians' right to access services in both languages, including the right to a publicly funded education in the minority language of each province, where numbers warrant in a given locality. By law, the federal government must operate and provide services in both English and French, proceedings of the Parliament of Canada must be translated into both these languages, and most products sold in Canada must have bilingual labels.

Overall, about 13% of Canadians have knowledge of French only, while 18% have knowledge of both English and French. In contrast, over 80% of the population of Quebec speaks French natively, and 95% can speak it. It has been the sole official language of Quebec since 1974. The legal status of French was further strengthened with the 1977 adoption of the Charter of the French Language (popularly known as Bill 101), which guarantees that every person has a right to have the civil administration, the health and social services, corporations, and enterprises in Quebec communicate with him in French. While the Charter mandates that certain provincial government services, such as those relating to health and education, be offered to the English minority in its language, where numbers warrant, its primary purpose is to cement the role of French as the primary language used in the public sphere.

The provision of the Charter that has arguably had the most significant impact mandates French-language education unless a child's parents or siblings have received the majority of their own primary education in English within Canada, with minor exceptions. This measure has reversed a historical trend whereby a large number of immigrant children would attend English schools. In so doing, the Charter has greatly contributed to the "visage français" (French face) of Montreal in spite of its growing immigrant population. Other provisions of the Charter have been ruled unconstitutional over the years, including those mandating French-only commercial signs, court proceedings, and debates in the legislature. Though none of these provisions are still in effect today, some continued to be on the books for a time even after courts had ruled them unconstitutional as a result of the government's decision to invoke the so-called notwithstanding clause of the Canadian constitution to override constitutional requirements. In 1993, the Charter was rewritten to allow signage in other languages so long as French was markedly "predominant." Another section of the Charter guarantees every person the right to work in French, meaning the right to have all communications with one's superiors and coworkers in French, as well as the right not to be required to know another language as a condition of hiring, unless this is warranted by the nature of one's duties, such as by reason of extensive interaction with people located outside the province or similar reasons. This section has not been as effective as had originally been hoped, and has faded somewhat from public consciousness. As of 2006, approximately 65% of the workforce on the island of Montreal predominantly used French in the workplace.

The only other province that recognizes French as an official language is New Brunswick, which is officially bilingual, like the nation as a whole. Outside of Quebec, the highest number of Francophones in Canada, 485,000, excluding those who claim multiple mother tongues, reside in Ontario, whereas New Brunswick, home to the vast majority of Acadians, has the highest percentage of Francophones after Quebec, 33%, or 237,000. In Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Manitoba, French does not have full official status, although the provincial governments do provide some French-language services in all communities where significant numbers of Francophones live. Canada's three northern territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) all recognize French as an official language as well.

All provinces make some effort to accommodate the needs of their Francophone citizens, although the level and quality of French-language service varies significantly from province to province. The Ontario French Language Services Act, adopted in 1986, guarantees French language services in that province in regions where the Francophone population exceeds 10% of the total population, as well as communities with Francophone populations exceeding 5,000, and certain other designated areas; this has the most effect in the north and east of the province, as well as in other larger centres such as Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga, London, Kitchener, St. Catharines, Greater Sudbury and Windsor. However, the French Language Services Act does not confer the status of "official bilingualism" on these cities, as that designation carries with it implications which go beyond the provision of services in both languages. The City of Ottawa's language policy (by-law 2001-170) has two criteria which would allow employees to work in their official language of choice and be supervised in the language of choice; this policy is being challenged by an organization called Canadians for Language Fairness.

Canada has the status of member state in the Francophonie, while the provinces of Québec and New Brunswick are recognized as participating governments. Ontario is currently seeking to become a full member on its own.

[edit] Haiti

French is an official language of Haiti, although it is mostly spoken by the upperclass and well educated, while Haitian Creole (a French-based creole language) is more widely spoken as mother tongue.

[edit] French Overseas Territories

French is also the official language in France's overseas territories of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St. Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

[edit] The United States

French language spread in the United States. Counties marked in yellow are those where 6-12% of the population speak French at home; brown, 12-18%; red, over 18%. French-based creole languages are not included.
French language spread in the United States. Counties marked in yellow are those where 6-12% of the population speak French at home; brown, 12-18%; red, over 18%. French-based creole languages are not included.

See French in the United States

Although it has no official recognition on a federal level, French is the third or fourth most-spoken language in the United States, after English, Spanish and possibly Chinese (depending on whether Mandarin, Cantonese, and other Han languages are counted together) and the second-most-spoken in the states of Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Louisiana is home to a unique dialect, Cajun French.

[edit] Africa

See:African French
The majority of the world's population of Francophones lives in Africa. Most Africans however do not speak French as mother tongue, although the number of native French speakers on the continent is said to be increasing. On the African mainland there are two major dialects of French spoken, Maghreb French and (Subsaharan) African French[citation needed]. However it is impossible to speak of a single form of African French, but rather of diverse forms of African French which are developed in part due to the contact with many African languages.[3] In the Indian ocean the French language is often spoken alongside French-derived creole languages, the major exception being Madagascar. There a Malayo-Polynesian language is spoken alongside French. Subsaharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand due to the expansion of education and it is also there the language has evolved most in recent years[4][5] Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries[6] but the written language is almost exactly the same as in the rest of the French-speaking world.

French is an official language of many African countries, most of them former French or Belgian colonies:

Francophone Africa
Francophone Africa

In addition, French is an administrative language of Mauritania and is commonly used (though not official) in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Various reforms have been implemented in recent decades in Algeria to improve the status of Arabic relative to French, especially in education.

While the predominant European language in Egypt is English, French is considered to be more sophisticated by some elements of the Egyptian upper and upper-middle classes; for this reason, a typical educated Egyptian will learn French in addition to English at some point in his or her education. The perception of sophistication may be related to the use of French as the court language of Egypt during the 19th century. Egypt participates in La Francophonie.

It is also the official language of Mayotte and Réunion, two French territories located in the Indian Ocean, as well as an administrative and educational language in Mauritius along with English.

[edit] Asia

In Asia, French is an administrative language in Laos and Lebanon, and is used unofficially in parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, India (Mahé, Karikal and Yanam) and Syria. French has official status in Union Territory of Pondicherry, along with the region's Tamil.

[edit] Oceania

French is also an official language of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, along with France's territories of French Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna and New Caledonia.

[edit] Dialects and creoles

[edit] Regional varieties

[edit] Derived languages

Main article: French-based creole languages

[edit] History

Main article: History of French

[edit] Sounds

Main article: French phonology

Although there are many French regional accents, only one version of the language is normally chosen as a model for foreign learners. This is the educated standard variety of Tours[citation needed], which has no commonly used special name, but has been termed "français neutre" (neutral French).

  • Voiced stops (i.e. /b d g/) are typically produced fully voiced throughout.
  • Voiceless stops (i.e. /p t k/) are described as unaspirated; when preceding high vowels, they are often followed by a short period of aspiration and/or frication. They are never glottalised. They can be unreleased utterance-finally.
  • Nasals: The velar nasal /ŋ/ occurs only in final position in borrowed (usually English) words: parking, camping, swing. The palatal nasal /ɲ/can occur in word initial position (e.g. gnon), but it is most frequently found in intervocalic, onset position or word-finally (e.g. montagne).
  • Fricatives: French has three pairs of homorganic fricatives distinguished by voicing, i.e. labiodental /f/–/v/, dental /s/–/z/, and palato-alveolar /ʃ/–/ʒ/. Notice that /s/–/z/ are dental, like the plosives /t/–/d/, and the nasal /n/.
  • French has one rhotic whose pronunciation varies considerably among speakers and phonetic contexts. In general it is described as a voiced uvular fricative as in "roue" wheel [ʁu]. Vowels are often lengthened before this segment. It can be reduced to an approximant, particularly in final position (e.g. "fort") or reduced to zero in some word-final positions. For other speakers, a uvular trill is also fairly common, and an apical trill [r] occurs in some dialects.
  • Lateral and central approximants: The lateral approximant /l/ is unvelarised in both onset ("lire") and coda position ("il"). In the onset, the central approximants [w], [ɥ], and [j] each correspond to a high vowel, /u/, /y/, and /i/ respectively. There are a few minimal pairs where the approximant and corresponding vowel contrast, but there are also many cases where they are in free variation. Contrasts between /j/ and /i/ occur in final position as in /abɛj/ abeille "bee" vs. /abɛi/ abbaye "monastery", "abbey".

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:

  • final consonants: Final single consonants, in particular s, x, z, t, d, n and m, are normally silent. (The final letters 'c', 'r', 'f', and 'l' however are normally pronounced.)
    • When the following word begins with a vowel, though, a silent consonant may once again be pronounced, to provide a liaison or "link" between the two words. Some liaisons are mandatory, for example the s in les amants or vous avez; some are optional, depending on dialect and register, for example the first s in deux cents euros or euros irlandais; and some are forbidden, for example the s in beaucoup d'hommes aiment. The t of et is never pronounced and the silent final consonant of a noun is only pronounced in the plural and in set phrases like pied-à-terre.
    • Doubling a final 'n' and adding a silent e at the end of a word (e.g. chienchienne) makes it clearly pronounced. Doubling a final 'l' and adding a silent 'e' (e.g. "gentil" → "gentille") adds an [j] sound.
  • elision or vowel dropping: Some monosyllabic function words ending in a or e, such as je and que, drop their final vowel when placed before a word that begins with a vowel sound (thus avoiding a hiatus). The missing vowel is replaced by an apostrophe. (e.g. je ai is instead pronounced and spelt → j'ai). This gives for example the same pronunciation for "l'homme qu'il a vu" ("the man whom he saw") and "l'homme qui l'a vu" ("the man who saw him").

[edit] Orthography

Main article: French orthography
  • Nasal: "n" and "m". When "n" or "m" follows a vowel or diphthong, the "n" or "m" becomes silent and causes the preceding vowel to become nasalized (i.e. pronounced with the soft palate extended downward so as to allow part of the air to leave through the nostrils). Exceptions are when the "n" or "m" is doubled, or immediately followed by a non-silent vowel. The prefixes en- and em- are always nasalized. The rules get more complex than this but may vary between dialects.
  • Digraphs: French does not introduce extra letters or diacritics to specify its large range of vowel sounds and diphthongs, rather it uses specific combinations of vowels, sometimes with following consonants, to show which sound is intended.
  • Gemination: Within words, double consonants are generally not pronounced as geminates in modern French (but you can hear geminates in the cinema or TV news from as recently as the 1970s, and in very refined elocution they still may occur). For example, "illusion" is pronounced [ilyzjɔ̃] and not [illyzjɔ̃]. But gemination does occur between words. For example, "une info" ("a news") is pronounced [ynɛ̃fo], whereas "une nympho" ("a nympho") is pronounced [ynnɛ̃fo].
  • Accents are used sometimes for pronunciation, sometimes to distinguish similar words, and sometimes for etymology alone.
    • Accents that affect pronunciation
      • The acute accent (l'accent aigü), "é" (e.g., école— school), means that the vowel is pronounced /e/ instead of the default /ə/.
      • The grave accent (l'accent grave), "è" (e.g., élève— pupil) means that the vowel is pronounced /ɛ/ instead of the default /ə/.
      • The diaeresis (le tréma) (e.g. naïf— foolish, Noël— Christmas) as in English, specifies that this vowel is pronounced separately from the preceding one, not combined and is not a schwa.
      • The cedilla (la cédille) "ç" (e.g., garçon— boy) means that the letter c is pronounced /s/ in front of the hard vowels A, O, and U. ("c" is otherwise /k/ before a hard vowel.) C is always pronounced /s/ in front of the soft vowels E, I, and Y, thus ç is never found in front of soft vowels.
      • The circumflex (l'accent circonflexe) "ê" (e.g., forêt— forest) shows that an e is pronounced /ɛ/ and that an o is pronounced /o/. In standard French it also signifies a pronunciation of /ɑ/ for the letter a, but this differentiation is disappearing. In the late 19th century, the circumflex was used in place of 's' where that letter was not to be pronounced. Thus, forest became forêt and hospital became hôpital.
    • Accents with no pronunciation effect
      • The circumflex does not affect the pronunciation of the letters i or u, and in most dialects, a as well (the circumflex on i and u is no longer compulsory: boite, chaine, Ile-de-France). It usually indicates that an s came after it long ago, as in hôtel.
      • All other accents are used only to distinguish similar words, as in the case of distinguishing the adverbs and ("there", "where") from the article la and the conjunction ou ("the" fem. sing., "or") respectively.

[edit] Grammar

Main article: French grammar

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

French word order is Subject Verb Object, except when the object is a pronoun, in which case the word order is Subject Object Verb. Some rare archaisms allow for different word orders.

[edit] Vocabulary

The majority of French words derive from Vulgar Latin or were constructed from Latin or Greek roots. There are often pairs of words, one form being popular (noun) and the other one savant (adjective), both originating from Latin. Example:

  • brother: frère / fraternel < from Latin FRATER
  • finger: doigt / digital < from Latin DIGITVS
  • faith: foi / fidèle < from Latin FIDES
  • cold: froid / frigide < from Latin FRIGIDVS
  • eye: œil / oculaire < from Latin OCVLVS
  • inhabitants of the city Saint-Étienne are called Stéphanois

The last example, Saint-Étienne/Stéphanois, illustrates common practice for gentilics throughout France.

In some examples there is a common word from "vulgar" Latin and a more savant word from classical Latin or even Greek.

  • Cheval — Concours équestreHippodrome

The French words which have developed from Latin are usually less recognisable than Italian words of Latin origin because as French developed into a separate language from Vulgar Latin, the unstressed final syllable of many words was dropped or elided into the following word.

It is estimated that 12 percent (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. About 25 percent (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 ancient 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 Afro-Asiatic languages, 55 from Slavic languages and Baltic languages, 10 for Basque and 144—about three percent—from other languages (Walter & Walter 1998).

[edit] Numerals

The French counting system is partially vigesimal: twenty (vingt) is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 80-99. The French word for 80, for example, is quatre-vingts, which literally means four twenties, and soixante-quinze (literally "sixty-fifteen") indicating 75. This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the different counting system (vigesimal most of the time in the bordersea, due to Celtic (via Basque) and Viking influence). This system is comparable to the archaic English use of "score", as in "fourscore and seven" (87), or "threescore and ten" (70).

Belgian French and Swiss French are different in this respect. In Belgium and Switzerland 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.[7] In Belgium, however, quatre-vingts is universally used.

[edit] Writing system

French is written using the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, plus five diacritics (the circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, diaeresis, and cedilla) and the two ligatures (œ) and (æ).

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:

  • Old French doit > French doigt "finger" (Latin digitum)
  • Old French pie > French pied "foot" (Latin pedem)

As a result, it is difficult to predict the spelling on the basis of the sound alone. Final consonants are generally silent, except when the following word begins with a vowel. For example, all of these 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.

On the other hand, a given spelling will almost always lead to a predictable sound, and the Académie française works hard to enforce and update this correspondence. In particular, a given vowel combination or diacritic predictably leads to one phoneme.

The diacritics have phonetic, semantic, and etymological significance.

  • grave accent (à, è, ù): Over a or u, used only to distinguish homophones: à ("to") vs. a ("has"), ou ("or") vs. ("where"). Over an e, indicates the sound /ɛ/.
  • acute accent (é): Over an e, indicates the sound /e/, the ai sound in such words as English hay or neigh. It often indicates the historical deletion of a following consonant (usually an s): écouter < escouter. This type of accent mark is called accent aigu in French.
  • circumflex (â, ê, î, ô, û): Over an a, e or o, indicates the sound /ɑ/, /ɛ/ or /o/, respectively (the distinction a /a/ vs. â /ɑ/ tends to disappear in many dialects). Most often indicates the historical deletion of an adjacent letter (usually an s or a vowel): château < castel, fête < feste, sûr < seur, dîner < disner. It has also come to be used to distinguish homophones: du ("of the") vs. (past participle of devoir "to have to do something (pertaining to an act)"; note that is in fact written thus because of a dropped e: deu). (See Use of the circumflex in French)
  • diaeresis or tréma (ë, ï, ü): Indicates that a vowel is to be pronounced separately from the preceding one: naïve, Noël. A diaeresis on y only occurs in some proper names (such as place- and family-names Aÿ, l'Haÿ-les-Roses, Rue des Cloÿs, Croÿ, Château du Feÿ, Ghÿs, Louÿs, Moÿ, Banque de Nicolaÿ, to name a few) and in modern editions of old French texts. The diaresis on ü appears only in biblical proper names such as Capharnaüm, Emmaüs, Ésaü, Saül. Nevertheless, since the 1990 orthographic rectifications (which are not applied at all by most French people), the diaeresis in words containing guë (such as aiguë or ciguë) may be moved onto the u: aigüe, cigüe. Words coming from German retain the old Umlaut if applicable but use French pronunciation, such as kärcher (trade mark of a pressure washer).
  • cedilla (ç): Indicates that an etymological c is pronounced /s/ when it would otherwise be pronounced /k/. Thus je lance "I throw" (with c = [s] before e), je lançais "I was throwing" (c would be pronounced [k] before a without the cedilla).

There are two ligatures, which have various origins.

  • The ligature œ is a mandatory contraction of oe in certain words. Some of these are native French words, with the pronunciation /œ/ or /ø/, e.g. sœur "sister" /sœʁ/, œuvre "work [of art]" /œvʁ/. Note that it usually appears in the combination œu; œil is an exception. Many of these words were originally written with the digraph eu; the o in the ligature represents a sometimes artificial attempt to imitate the Latin spelling: Latin bovem > Old French buef/beuf > Modern French bœuf. Œ is also used in words of Greek origin, as the Latin rendering of the Greek diphthong οι, e.g. cœlacanthe "coelacanth". These words used to be pronounced with the vowel /e/, but in recent years a spelling pronunciation with /ø/ has taken hold, e.g. œsophage /ezɔfaʒ/ or /øzɔfaʒ/. The pronunciation with /e/ is often seen to be more correct. The ligature œ is not used in some occurrences of the letter combination oe, for example, when o is part of a prefix (coexister).
  • The ligature æ is rare and appears in some words of Latin and Greek origin like ægosome, ægyrine, æschne, cæcum, nævus or uræus.[8] The vowel quality is identical to é /e/.

French writing, as with any language, is affected by the spoken language. In Old French, the plural for "animal" was "animals". Common speakers pronounced a "u" before a word ending in "l" as the plural. This resulted in "animauls". As the French language evolved this vanished and the form "animaux" ("aux" pronounced /o/) was admitted. The same is true for "cheval" pluralized as "chevaux" and many others. Also "castel" pl. "castels" became "château" pl. "châteaux".

Some attempts have been made to reform French spelling, but few major changes have been made over the last two centuries.

[edit] Samples

(audio) This article includes inline links to audio files. If you have trouble playing the files, see Wikipedia Media help.
English French IPA pronunciation (Canadian accent) IPA pronunciation (French accent)
French français /fʀɑ̃sɛ/ /fʁɑ̃sɛ/
English anglais /ɑ̃glɛ/ /ɑ̃glɛ/
Yes Oui /wi/ /wi/
No Non /nɔ̃/ /nɔ̃/
Hello! Bonjour ! /bɔ̃ʒuːʀ/ /bɔ̃ʒuːʁ/
Good evening! Bonsoir ! /bɔ̃swɑ:ʁ/ /bɔ̃swa:ʁ/
Good night! Bonne nuit ! /bɔnnɥi/ /bɔnnɥi/
Goodbye! Au revoir ! /ɔʁvwɑːʁ/ /oʁøvwaːʁ/
Have a nice day! Bonne journée ! /bɔnʒuʀne/ /bɔnʒuʁne/
Please S'il vous plaît /sɪlvuplɛ/ /silvuplɛ/
Thank you Merci /mɛʀsi/ /mɛʁsi/
Sorry Pardon / désolé (if male) / désolée (if female) /paʀdɔ̃/ / /dezɔle/ /paʁdɔ̃/ / /dezɔle/
Who? Qui ? /ki/ /ki/
What? Quoi ? /kwa/ /kwa/
When? Quand ? /kɑ̃/ /kɑ̃/
Where? Où ? /u/ /u/
Why? Pourquoi ? /puʀkwa/ /puʁkwa/
What's your name? Comment t'appelles-tu ? (informal), Comment vous appelez-vous ? (formal)
Because Parce que /paʁs(ə)kə/ /paʁs(ə)kə/
How? Comment ? /kɔmɑ̃/ /kɔmɑ̃/
How much? Combien ? /kɔ̃bjɛ̃/ /kɔ̃bjɛ̃/
I do not understand. Je ne comprends pas. /ʒə nə kɔ̃pʀɑ̃ pɑ/ /ʒə nə kɔ̃pʁɑ̃ pɑ/
Yes, I understand. Oui, je comprends. /wi ʒə kɔ̃pʀɑ̃/ /wi ʒə kɔ̃pʁɑ̃/
Help! Au secours !! (à l'aide !) /oskuːʀ/ /oskuːʁ/
Where are the bathrooms? Où sont les toilettes ? /u sɔ̃ le twalɛt/ /u sɔ̃ le twalɛt/
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais ? /paʀlevu ɑ̃glɛ/ /paʁlevu ɑ̃glɛ/
I do not speak French. Je ne parle pas français. /ʒə nə paʀlə pɑ fʀɑ̃sɛ/ /ʒə nə paʁlə pa fʁɑ̃sɛ/

[edit] References

  • Walter, Henriette and Gérard, Dictionnaire des mots d'origine étrangère, 1998.
  1. ^ "Les francophones dans le monde" (Francophones of the world") − Provides details from a report, (Rapport 1997-1998 du Haut Conseil de la Francophonie, "Etat de la francophonie dans le monde", La Documentation française, 1999, pp.612) which provides the following numbers: 112,666,000 with French as a first language or as an "adopted language"; 60,612,000 "occasional Francophones" for whom usage and mastery of French are limited only by circumstances or by expressive capability; 100-110 million "francizers", who have learned French for several years and have maintained limited mastery, or who have simply been required to learn enough to perform their job = 300 million total with significant knowledge of the language.
  2. ^ French Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Retrieved January 25, 2006
  3. ^ "En Afrique, il est impossible de parler d'une forme unique du français mais..."
  4. ^ " Le français, langue en évolution Dans beaucoup de pays Francophones, surtout sur le continent africain, une propor tion importante de la population ne parle pas couramment le français (même s'il est souvent la langue officielle du pays). Ce qui signifie qu'au fur et à mesure que les nouvelles générations vont à l'école, le nombre de Francophones augmente: on estime qu'en 2015, ceux-ci seront deux fois plus nombreux qu'aujourd'hui.".
  5. ^ c) Le sabir franco-africain "C'est la variété du français la plus fluctuante. Le sabir franco-africain est instable et hétérogène sous toutes ses formes. Il existe des énoncés où les mots sont français mais leur ordre reste celui de la langue africaine. En somme, autant les langues africaines sont envahies par les structures et les mots français, autant la langue française se métamorphose en Afrique, donnant naissance à plusieurs variétés."
  6. ^ Il existe une autre variété de français, beaucoup plus répandu et plus permissive: le français local. C'est un français très influencé par les langues centrafricaines, surtout par le sango. Cette variété est parlée par les classes non instruites, qui n'ont pu terminer leur scolarité. Ils utilisent ce qu'ils connaissent du français avec des emprunts massifs aux langues locales. Cette variété peut causer des problèmes de compréhension avec les Francophones des autres pays, car les interférences linguistiques, d'ordre lexical et sémantique, sont très importantes. One example of a variety of African French that is difficult to understand for European French speakers.
  7. ^ Septante, octante, huitante, nonante.
  8. ^ La ligature æ (in French)

[edit] See also

Dialects of English influenced by French

[edit] External links

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