How different is Italian grammar from French

French grammar:
A brief history of the French language


To the table of contents
In this and the following chapter we would like to give you a range of (we hope of course) interesting and entertaining information about French. This should arouse your desire to learn this influential and at the same time very lively language a little more. French is one of the Romance languages, which in turn represent a branch of the Indo-European language family. The Romance languages ​​all have the spoken Latin, the so-called Vulgar Latin, as their original language. As a result of the expansion policy of the Roman Empire, not only were its areas of power and economic activity steadily expanded and consolidated, no, the occupying power also brought its own language with it, which over time (largely) displaced the languages ​​and dialects that were previously there. From this spoken vulgar Latin (which should not be confused with the written standard Latin), in the course of the centuries, in turn, the regionally different languages ​​that we find today developed. The Romance languages ​​include - in addition to French - Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. There are also other Romance languages ​​that are spoken by a smaller number of native speakers up to the present day, such as Galician, Catalan, Occitan (common in the south of France and in parts of Spain and Italy), Rhaeto-Romanic (in parts spoken in Switzerland) or the Sardinian language. During the colonial period (from the end of the 15th century), various Romance languages, above all Spanish, but of course also the French language, were brought into their areas of influence by the respective colonial powers and established there. The Romance languages ​​are thus one of the most widespread languages ​​in the world today and are spoken by around 800 million people, mainly in Europe, parts of Africa and South and Central America, as their mother tongue or second language. Within this group, Spanish (with its regional expressions) takes the lion's share with around 350 million speakers. Now you may be wondering why there was so much talk of the Romance languages ​​in the last section when the content of this language course is “only” the French language. On the one hand, of course, to show you (as you have seen) the worldwide spread of these languages. On the other hand, however, also to remind you of the common roots of these languages. If you can speak French, you will find it easier to learn another Romance language, such as Italian. We deliberately do not speak of “easy”; the various languages ​​have grown too far apart for that in the past 2000 years and have been exposed to the most varied of influences. However, when you learn another Romance language, you will always notice similarities to French. Just look at the following example:

The number "five" in Romance languages

The content of this language course is of course the French language. For this reason, the focus of this chapter should now be shifted away from other Romance languages ​​and rather towards the history of French. As you already learned in the last section, the French language developed from the spoken (vulgar) Latin. In addition, it has incorporated a large number of expressions from the standard Latin, the written Latin, as well as from the Celtic language, which was spoken in Gaul before the Roman occupation (from 58 BC). From this language - even in spite of the assimilation of the then resident population to Vulgar Latin - there are mainly words from the field of agriculture (e.g. charrue - plow), which are of Celtic origin. The construction of the typical French question phrase ("Est-ce que ...?"; Literally: "Is it that ...?") Goes back to the Celtic language. During the rule of the Franks in the north of what is now France (5th-8th centuries), many expressions (of Germanic origin) found their way into the spoken language (e.g. danser - dance). Other languages ​​that left clear traces up to the Middle Ages were (Germanic) Viking languages ​​(e.g. vague - Welle), English (the cardinal points: nord, sud, est, ouest) and Arabic (e.g. cotton - cotton). The first written evidence of (actually spoken) French date from the 9th century, but the dominant high and written language at that time was still (written) Latin. From the end of the 11th century, the French language became increasingly important for poetry. At this time, however, it was by no means possible to speak of a uniform written language, rather it was written based on the different regional dialects. In 1539, French was finally in the Ordennance de Villers-Cotterêtsset as the official and exclusive national language. In the 16th and 17th centuries the newly founded Académie françaiseIn addition, the writing standard and the grammar of French are uniformly defined. As a task of Académieit was stipulated "to give our language certain rules with the greatest possible care and diligence, to make it pure and expressive and to enable it to deal with the arts and sciences". During this time, the (uniform) written French language spread through a large number of written documents throughout France. The works of the classical poets of the 17th century such as Molière and Racine should be mentioned here, for example. During the Enlightenment period (17th / 18th century), with representatives such as Montesquieu, Rousseau or Voltaire, French-language scripts became known far beyond the borders of France and thus strengthened the influence of the French language throughout Europe. From the 17th century, the French language also became the court language of the European nobility. The rise of France to one of the most influential colonial powers in the world, which established the French language in its colonial territories, also fell during this period. For this reason, French is still spoken in a large number of countries around the world - although most of the former colonies are now independent (more on this in the following chapter). Incidentally, the written French language is used uniformly in all francophone countries, i.e. in all of the French-speaking countries. There are no fundamental differences in grammar or vocabulary, such as those between American and British English or European and Brazilian Portuguese. The Organization international de la Francophonie, to which more than 50 countries belong today, represents the interests of the francophone countries. The tasks of this organization include much more than mere cultural exchange and dialogue or cultural-political measures. Cooperation in agriculture, energy policy, trade, development aid, etc. between the various countries is intended to strengthen their sense of togetherness and solidarity, prevent conflicts, and promote the rule of law and economic growth. On the other hand, a counterbalance to the Anglophone (English-speaking) world is to be built up through this merger. Borrowings from English have had an important influence on the French language, since the 17th and increasingly since the 19th century - in the course of mechanization and internationalization. You will get to know many expressions that are of English origin, such as vote, football, ticket, biftek, hot dog, week-end or computer (Computer). For some time now, politicians, cultural workers and the (still existing) Académie françaisehowever, tries to limit the influence of English on French through initiatives, laws and regulations. It is propagated to use French alternatives instead of Anglicisms. For example, it was achieved that instead of the English term “e-mail”, the term “courrier électronique” (or its short form “courriel”) is used in France. Just like the language, English-language music on radio and television is also regulated by law in France. Radio stations must maintain a quota of at least 40% of French interpreters. Whether the multitude of legal regulations will show the desired success (in favor of “keeping French” clean) ultimately depends on the acceptance in the population. One of the things you will notice again and again as you learn French is the difference in the written and spoken language. Most final consonants, such as the plural s, are usually not spoken, even though they appear in the written form. This is explained by the fact that the French orthography (spelling) has historically remained relatively constant, while the oral language has been subject to much greater change. Take a look at an example of this. The following words are all pronounced the same, although their meanings and spelling are different:

All of these terms are pronounced as [ver]









This means that in a conversation you have to pay attention to the context in which the word is used, that is, whether the [ver] denotes something green, a glass or a worm. What do we want to tell you with this? We do not want to discourage or confuse you, no, we rather want to sensitize you to the peculiarities of the French language. If you know its special characteristics, you will find it easier to learn French and, we hope, it will be a lot more enjoyable. It is precisely these peculiarities that will be referred to again and again in this grammar. Now have a look at the following chapter, where you will find out who speaks French and where it is spoken.