Days of the Week
Special Features of the French Language
French is used in several countries either as the primary language or as an official second language
| Congo Brazzaville
| Congo Kinshasa
| Ivory Coast
| French Guiana
Modern French belongs to the group of “Romance” languages that were descended from Latin because of regions which were formerly unified under Roman rule
French is descended from Vulgar Latin, the "vernacular Latin" (as distinguished from literary Latin) of the Roman Empire. When ancient Gaul (now modern France) was conquered by the Romans in the second and first century B.C., its inhabitants spoke Gaulish, a Celtic language, which was rapidly supplanted by the Latin of the Roman overlords. In the fifth century A.D., the Franks, a group of Germanic tribes, began their invasion of Gaul; however, they were also Romanized. Although modern French has inherited several hundred words of Celtic origin and several hundred more from Germanic, it owes its structure and the greater part of its vocabulary to Latin.
The source of modern French (and of the other Romance languages) was a spoken, popular version of the Latin tongue that was spread abroad by conquering Roman legions; namely, in the case of French, to so-called “Transalpine Gaul” by the armies of Julius Caesar during the century that preceded the birth of Christ.
The invasion of Gaul in the 400’s A.D. by Germanic tribes (including the “Franks”) fleeing nomadic attackers from central Asia resulted in a loss of military control by Rome and led to the establishment of a new, Frankish ruling class whose mother tongue was not Latin. Their adaptation to the speaking of popular Latin by the indigenous population tended to impose, by authoritative force, a pronunciation that retained a marked Germanic flavor.
This “French” language was in fact one of a number of different languages descended from Latin that were spoken in various parts of post-Roman Gaul. Others included notably the so-called Provençal language, or langue d’oc, or Occitan; spoken in much of the southern half of what is today metropolitan France.
The so-called “French” language gained a special status resulting from its association with the dominant feudal military power; namely the court of Charlemagne and his successors, whose territorial reach and effective control of French life grew over time.
By the 9th century, the language spoken in what is now France was sufficiently different from Latin to be a distinct language. It is called "Old French" and was current from the 9th to the 13th century.
The modern period of French began in the 17th century. In 1635 the "French Academy" was founded by Cardinal Richelieu to maintain the purity of the language and its literature and to serve as the ultimate judge of approved usage. While the vocabulary and style of Modern French have been influenced by movements such as romanticism and realism, structurally French has changed comparatively little since the Middle French period. Standardization of the French language has been aided in modern times by more widespread education and by the mass media; such as TV, radio, cinema, printed publications, etc.
Even today, after the decline of French imperial influence, post-World War II, French remains the second language of a vast “Francophone” population extending far beyond France’s remaining overseas territories and dependencies: French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Pierre and St. Miquelon, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Tahiti, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Réunion Island.