Language And Literature Of France. The French is the most important of the six Romanic languages produced from Latin by the influence of other tongues. The Italian, the Roumanic or Wallachian, the Provencal, Spanish, and Portuguese are its sisters. The Belgae of Gaul probably spoke Celto-Teutonic, the Aquitani Celto-Iberic, while the Celtae or Galli proper occupied the centre of the country, and at the same time Greek colonies held points on the Mediterranean sea. The language of Rome overwhelmed all these idioms. The Gallic, however, was yet spoken in the 3d century; Celticism was perceptible in the lingua rustica, or degenerate Latin, at the close of the 5th century; and the ancient vernaculars continued to exist afterward. The rustica extended from the Rhine to the Pyrenees in the 4th century. The corruption of the Latin was similar in all countries from the Danube to the mouth of the Tagus, and the above mentioned languages differ only in consequence of the various barbarous tongues that have acted upon them. Since the Suevi, Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks, etc, made no efforts to destroy the languages of the inhabitants of Gaul, comparatively few words of theirs survived in the lingua rustica.
Many Celtic elements had combined with the Latin even before Caesar, and some were introduced afterward; but it is difficult to distinguish them from the Latin stock on account of their common origin from the storehouse of the Indo-European family of languages. The Latin jargon, tainted by Germanic ingredients, is called lingua Romano, and also Gallica or Gallicana. It coexisted for some time with the Frenkiska (Francisco, Francica), or Theotisca or Tudesque; and although it continued to exist with more vigor than the last named, it was eventually called lingua Franco-Gallica, or rather Franco-Ro-mana, langue frangoise.While the Frankish prevailed in the north and east of the country, the rustica or Romana was spoken south of the Loire, although also used in the Frankish regions. The council of Tours (813) recommended the use of both the rustic and Tudese versions of the homilies. The Latin grammatical suffixes were gradually dropped, and the accusative case was in general taken as the new word. Auxiliary verbs were successively introduced from the Teutonic idioms, the case endings were supplied by prepositions, the personal endings of verbs by pronouns, or both by the fragments of ancient endings and by pronouns before the verb.
In the 10th century the Latin ille, iste were converted into the article le and the pronouns il and cet (ce), the latter being pronounced st. According to Raynouard's hypothesis, the lingua Romana was separated into two dialects. The Visigoths and Burgundians S. of the Loire said oc (Latin ac, German auch, also) for yes, for which the Franks and Normans (who established themselves in France in 912) along the Seine used oil; hence the southern or Provencal dialect was named la langue d'oc, and the northern (Roman-Wallonic) la langue d'oil. After 879 the focus of the former was at the court of the kings of Aries, and in 927 the chief point of the latter was at the court of the duke of Normandy. Less troubled by wars and more thoroughly Romanized, the south produced distinguished troubadours during two centuries, while the north had, somewhat later, its trouveres, both named from trovare, to find: finders of songs, poets. From the beginning of the crusades to the death of St. Louis (1095-1270) the two dialects approached toward a fusion.
The vulgar language was employed in the crusades in rousing the populace, whose war cry was, Diex el volt (God wills it). A few fragments of the Bible date before 1100; but popular heroic and religious songs appear to have been composed and recited by the jongleurs (jocula-tores). The development of chivalric poetry in Provence was checked by the persecution of the Albigenses; the language of the troubadours was proscribed, and, together with the political rule of the north, the idiom of Picardy (a branch of the langue d'oil) extended toward the south. The real French language began to be developed about the time of the conquest.of Constantinople by the French crusaders, at the beginning of the 13th century. Already before the conquest of England by William (10G6) English youths were sent to be educated in France; but the conquest made the Norman-French the official and court language in England. Froissart's Chronicles (14th century) is the first work in genuine French. Francis I. substituted the language for Latin in public transactions. Rabelais greatly enriched it; Ronsard and Du Bellay, Amyot and Montaigne, and others, developed it further. The religious reform, political troubles, the influence of the Italian wars and queens, modified it greatly.
The introduction of Arabic words is chiefly duo to the crusades, and that of Greek and Latin words and of scientific terms to the study of those languages and to the cultivation of the natural sciences. The academie fran-raise, established by Richelieu for the regulation of the national language (1035), the influence of the court, the labors of the Port-Royalists, especially Pascal (1656), and a galaxy of great writers, purified, augmented, and diffused it more and more. It was first used as a diplomatic language at the conferences of Nime-guen (1678).-The French is certainly a very clear tongue, on account of the strictly logical order of its syntax, but very monotonous, and incapable of the composition of words already fixed, as well as of bold poetic turns. The French language, in short, is, like every other, the exponent of the nationality, vicissitudes, intelligence, culture, and taste of the people that speak it. It is written with the same letters as the English. K and W occur only in Breton. Norman, and Flemish names incorporated into French, and in other foreign words.
There are 12 distinct vowels as regards their quantity; they are represented by six letters called vowels, or by their combination, and by the help of m, n, viz.: a, e, e, i, o, u, ou, eu, and four nasals, an, in, on, un. Including all modifications (a, e, i, o, u, ou, and the so-called e muet), they stand for 20 sounds, of which Malvin-Cazal and Michelet of the conservatoire de musique count 17. Of consonants there are 20, represented by 18 letters, viz.: b, k (also written c and ch as in choevr, q, qu, and g as in sang et eaux), d, f (and ph), g hard (also gh, gu), the sound of English si and zi in vision, crozier (written g before e, i, and y, and j before all vowels except i and y), h (unless mute), I, I mouille as in the English million (written ill, il, or Ih, and now generally dropping the sound of I, as mou-ye), m, n, n mouille as in the English onion (written gn, nh), p, r, s (also c before e, i, y; also x in Bru-xelles, t in nation), t (also final d when pronounced with the next word, as grand homme), v (also final f, when pronounced with the next word, as neuf aunes), y as in the English yes, with the preceding power of i (for instance, payer, pronounced pe-ye), z (written also s, x, when pronounced with the next word, as les eaux, aux esprits), and the sound of the English sh, as in shall (written ch). Most consonants are not uttered when final, unless they are joined to a succeeding word which begins with a vowel or h mute.