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French
français
Pronunciation [fʁɑ̃sɛ]
Native to (see below)
Native speakers 75 million  (2007)Template:Infobox language/ref
220 [2] to 300 million Template:Dead link[3] total L1 and L2 speakers (2010).
Language family
Early forms:
Writing system Latin (French alphabet)
French Braille
Official status
Official language in


Numerous international organisations
Regulated by Académie française (French Academy)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 fr
ISO 639-2 fre (B)
fra (T)
ISO 639-3 fra
Linguasphere 51-AAA-i
300px
  Regions where French is the main language
  Regions where it is an official language
  Regions where it is a second language
  Regions where it is a minority language
Template:Infobox language/IPA
Template:French language

French (le français [lə fʁ̥ɒ̃sɛ] (Speaker Icon.svg ) or la langue française [la lɑ̃ɡ fʁɑ̃sɛz]) is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick (Acadia region) in Canada, the Acadiana region of the U.S. state of Louisiana, the northern parts of the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in the New England region, and by various communities elsewhere. Other speakers of French, who often speak it as a second language,[4] are distributed throughout many parts of the world, the largest numbers of whom reside in Francophone Africa.[5] In Africa, French is most commonly spoken in Gabon (where 80% report fluency),[5] Mauritius (78%), Algeria (75%), Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire (70%). French is estimated as having 110 million[4] native speakers and 190 million more second language speakers.[3]

French is an Italic language descended from the spoken Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Lombard, Catalan, Sicilian and Sardinian. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in Belgium, which French has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian.

French is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form la francophonie (in French), the community of French-speaking countries. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to France's Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, 77 million in Europe speak French natively. Outside of France, the highest numbers of French speakers are found in Canada (25% of the population, of whom most live in Quebec), Belgium (45% of the population), Switzerland (20% of the population) and Luxembourg. In 2013, the Ministry identified French as the second most spoken language in Europe, after German and before English.[6] Twenty percent of non-Francophone Europeans know how to speak French,[needs to be explained] totaling roughly 145.6 million people in Europe alone.[7] As a result of extensive colonial ambitions of France and Belgium (at that time governed by a French-speaking elite), between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to colonies in the Americas, Africa, Polynesia, the Levant, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.

According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l'Agence universitaire de la francophonie, French speakers will number approximately 500 million people in 2025 and 650 million people, or approximately 7% of the world's population by 2050.[8][9] Estimates in 2013 suggest that French speakers will reach 1 billion by 2060.[10]

Geographic distributionEdit

Europe Edit

French is the fourth most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union.[11]

Legal status in FranceEdit

See also: Toubon Law and Languages of France

According to the Constitution of France, French has been the official language since 1992[12] (although previous legal texts have made it official since 1539, see ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts). France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education except in specific cases (though these dispositions are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words. In addition to French, there are a variety of regional languages and dialects. France has signed the European Charter for Regional Languages, but has not ratified it since that would go against its 1958 Constitution.[13]

BelgiumEdit

File:Brussels signs.jpg

In Belgium, French is the official language of Wallonia (excluding a part of the East Cantons, which are German-speaking) and one of the two official languages—along with Dutch—of the Brussels-Capital Region, where it is spoken by the majority of the population, though often not as their primary language.[14] French and German are not official languages nor recognized minority languages in the Flemish Region, although along borders with the Walloon and Brussels-Capital regions, there are a dozen municipalities with language facilities for French speakers. A mirror situation exists for the Walloon Region with respect to the Dutch and German languages. In total, native French speakers make up about 40% of the country's population, while the remaining 60% speak Dutch as a first language. Of the latter, 59% claim French as a second or third language, meaning that about three quarters of the Belgian population can speak French.[15][16]

SwitzerlandEdit

French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland (along with German, Italian and Romansh) and is spoken in the western part of Switzerland called Romandie, of which Geneva is the largest city. The language divisions in Switzerland do not coincide with political subdivisions and some cantons have bilingual status for example, cities such Biel/Bienne or cantons such as Valais-Fribourg-Berne. French is the native language of about 20% of the Swiss population and is spoken by 50.4%[17] of the population.

Most of Swiss French is mutually compatible with the standard French spoken in France, but it is often used with small differences, such as those involving numbers after 69 and slight differences in other vocabulary terms.

Monaco and AndorraEdit

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.

Catalan is the only official language of Andorra; however, French is commonly used because of the proximity to France and the fact that the French President is, with the bishop of Urgell, Spain, a co-prince of the territory. French nationals make up 7% of the population.

File:Knowledge French EU map.svg

LuxembourgEdit

French is one of three official languages of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, alongside German and Luxembourgish, the natively spoken language of Luxembourg. French is primarily used for administrative purposes by the government, and is also the primary language used to converse with foreigners. Luxembourg's education system is trilingual: the first cycle of basic school is in Luxembourgish, before changing officially to German for most branches; while in secondary school, the language of instruction changes to French for most subjects, such as mathematics and science.[19] At the Luxembourg University courses are offered in French, German and English.[20]

ItalyEdit

French is also an official language in the small region of Aosta Valley, Italy.[21] Though most non-Italophone people in the region speak Franco-Provençal as their mother tongue,[22] they use standard French to write, because the international recognition of Franco-Provençal as a separate language (as opposed to a dialect or patois of French) was quite recent. In 2001, 75,41 % of the Valdotainian population is French-speaking, 96,01 % declared to know Italian, 55,77 % the Valdotainian Franco-Provençal patois, and 50,53 % all of them.[23]

The United Kingdom and the Channel IslandsEdit

French is a large minority language and immigrant language in the United Kingdom. Over 300,000 French-born people live in the UK, and the language is also spoken by a large number of the African immigrants in the UK. French is also the most popular foreign language studied in UK schools. According to a 2006 European Commission report, 23% of UK residents are able to carry on a conversation in French.[24]

Modern and Middle English reflect a mixture of Oïl and Old English lexicons after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, when a Norman-speaking aristocracy took control of a population whose mother tongue was Germanic in origin. Due to the intertwined histories of England and continental possessions of the English Crown, many formal and legal words from Modern English have French roots. Therefore words such as buy and sell are of Germanic origin, purchase and vend are from Old French.

French is an official language in both Jersey and Guernsey. Both use French to some degree, mostly in an administrative or ceremonial capacity. Jersey Legal French is the standardized variety used in Jersey. However, Norman (in its local forms, Guernésiais and Jèrriais) is the historical vernacular of the islands.

North and South AmericaEdit

Canada Edit

See also: Canadian French, French language in Canada, Spoken languages of Canada, and Official bilingualism in Canada
File:Arret.jpg

French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. French is the sole official language in the province of Quebec, being the mother tongue for some 7 million people, or almost 80.1% (2006 Census) of the province. About 95.0% of the people of Quebec speak French as either their first or second language, and for some as their third language. Quebec is also home to the city of Montreal, which is the world's second largest French speaking city, by number of first language speakers. New Brunswick and Manitoba are the only officially bilingual provinces, though full bilingualism is enacted only in New Brunswick, where about one third of the population is Francophone. French is also an official language of all of the territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon). Out of the three, Yukon has the most French speakers, comprising just under 4% of the population.[25] Furthermore, while French is not an official language in Ontario, the French Language Services Act ensures that provincial services are to be available in the language. The Act applies to areas of the province where there are significant Francophone communities, namely Eastern Ontario and Northern Ontario. Elsewhere, sizable French-speaking minorities are found in southern Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Port au Port Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the unique Newfoundland French dialect was historically spoken. Smaller pockets of French speakers exist in all other provinces.

About 9,487,500 of Canadians speak French as their first language, or around 30% of the country,[26] with 2,065,300 constituting secondary speakers.[26] Due to the increased bilingual school programs and French immersion classes in English Canada, the portion of Canadians proficient in French has risen significantly in the past two decades, and is still rising.[citation needed]

The difference between French spoken in Quebec and French spoken in France is similar in degree to that between American and British English. In Quebec, where the majority of French-speaking Canadians live, the Office québécois de la langue française (English: Quebec Board of the French language) regulates Quebec French and ensures the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101 & 104) is respected.

Haiti Edit

French is one of Haiti's two official languages. It is the principal language of writing, school instruction, and administrative use. It is spoken by all educated Haitians and is used in the business sector. It is also used in ceremonial events such as weddings, graduations and church masses. About 10–15% of the country's population have French as their first language; the rest speak it as a secondary language in varying degrees of proficiency from basic level to fluent. The second official language is the recently standardized Haitian Creole, which virtually the entire population of Haiti speaks. Haitian Creole is one of the French-based creole languages, drawing the large majority of its vocabulary from French, with influences from West African languages, as well as several European languages. Haitian Creole is closely related to Louisiana Creole and other French creoles.

French overseas departments and territories in the AmericasEdit

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

United StatesEdit

Main article: French in the United States
See also: Cajun French, Louisiana Creole French, Acadian French, Missouri French, New England French, and Haitian Creole
File:French in the United States.png
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011), French is the fourth[27] most-spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese, when all forms of French are considered together and all dialects of Chinese are similarly combined. French remains the second most-spoken language in the states of Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, collectively known as Louisiana French. Cajun French has the largest number of speakers, mostly living in Acadiana. According to the 2000 United States Census, there are over 194,000 people in Louisiana who speak French at home, the most of any state if Creole French is excluded.[28] New England French, essentially a variant of Canadian French, is spoken in parts of New England. Missouri French was historically spoken in Missouri and Illinois (formerly known as Upper Louisiana), but is nearly extinct today.[29]

BrazilEdit

The French language was briefly spoken in Brazil during the colonial attempts of France Antarctique and France équinoxiale at the 16th and 17th centuries respectively (the expulsing of early French colonists by the Portuguese culminated on the founding of the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Luís respectively). The language was used by several communities of immigrants and expatriates in the 18th to 20th centuries, chiefly Swiss, but also some French and Belgians. The learning of French was also historically important among higher societies, and for a great span of time was also the foreign language of choice among the Brazilian middle class general populaces of both Portugal and Brazil, though globalised postmodernity has since shifted this role to English and more recently, Spanish.[30][31]

The Karipuna indigenous community (nearly 30,000 people) of Amapá in Northern Brazil speaks a French creole, the Lanc-Patuá creole, possibly related to the French Guiana Creole.

AfricaEdit

File:Francophone Africa.svg
File:Pharmacieroutebassam.JPG
Main article: African French

A majority of the world's French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to the 2007 report by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 115 million African people spread across 31 Francophone countries can speak French as either a first or a second language.[5] This number does not include the people living in non-Francophone African countries who have learned French as a foreign language.[5] Due to the rise of French in Africa, the total French-speaking population worldwide is expected to reach 700 million people in 2050.[36]

French is mostly a second language in Africa, but it has become a first language in some urban areas, such as the region of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire[37] and in Libreville, Gabon.[4] The classification of French as a second language in Francophone Africa is debatable because it is often the only language spoken and written in schools, administrations, radio, television and the Internet; for many Africans, it is the only language in which they know how to read and write fluently. The prevalence of the language is noticeable in popular music, in which French is often mixed with various indigenous languages. There is not a single African French, but multiple forms that diverged through contact with various indigenous African languages.[38] In fact, the term African French is a misnomer, as forms are different from country to country, and the root of the French spoken in a particular country depends on its former colonial empire. French spoken in Benin, for example, is closer to that spoken in France than to French spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is chiefly derived from Belgian French.

In the territories of the Indian Ocean, the French language is often spoken alongside French-derived creole languages, the major exception being Madagascar. There, a Malayo-Polynesian language (Malagasy) is spoken alongside French.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand, because of the expansion of education and rapid demographic growth.[39] It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years.[40][41] Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries,[42] but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.

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

In addition, French is an administrative language and widely used, though not on an official basis, in Mauritius, where approximately 78% of the population speak French. French is also spoken in the Maghreb states:

AlgeriaEdit

File:Ticket Metro Alger.jpg

Most urban Algerians have some working knowledge of French, and a high (though unknown) percentage speak it fluently (as much as around 70-80%). However, because of the country's colonial past, the predominance of French has long been politically problematic.

Numerous reforms have been implemented in recent decades to improve the status of both Arabic and, in recent years to a much minor degree, Tamazight in relation to French, especially in education. For this reason, although Algeria is certainly one of the most Francophone of countries in the world outside of France, and has perhaps the second largest number of French speakers,[43] it does not participate in the Francophonie association.

EgyptEdit

File:Rue Champollion in Alexandria.JPG

The official language in Egypt is literary Arabic, and it is mandatory in all schools. While English is the most commonly used second language in Egypt, French is known by some Egyptians. Many Egyptians learn English and French in addition to Arabic. Private schools have either English or French as the main language of instruction. Egypt participates in the Francophonie. There are two French-speaking universities in the country, the Université Française d'Égypte and the Université Senghor.

French overseas departments and territories in AfricaEdit

French is also the official language of Mayotte and Réunion, two overseas departments of France located in the southwest Indian Ocean.

AsiaEdit

See also: Romance-speaking Asia#French

Southeast AsiaEdit

See also: Vietnamese French (dialect), Lao French, and Cambodian French (linguistics)

French was the official language of the colony of French Indochina, comprising modern-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It continues to be an administrative language in Laos and Cambodia, although its influence has waned in recent years.[44] In colonial Vietnam, the elites primarily spoke French, while many servants who worked in French households spoke a French pidgin known as "Tây Bồi" (now extinct). After French rule ended, South Vietnam continued to use French in administration, education, and trade.[45] Since the Fall of Saigon and the opening of a unified Vietnam's economy, French has gradually been effectively displaced as the main foreign language of choice by English. French nevertheless maintains its colonial legacy by being spoken as a second language by the elderly and elite populations and is presently being revived in higher education and continues to be a diplomatic language in Vietnam.

Middle East and IndiaEdit

File:Bienvenue a Rechmaya.jpg

A former French colony, Lebanon designates Arabic as the sole official language, while a special law regulates cases when French can be publicly used. French is widely used as a second language by the Lebanese, and is taught in many schools as a secondary language along with Arabic and English. The language is also used on bank notes, on road signs, and on official buildings (alongside Arabic). Similarly, Syria was also a French colony until 1943, but the French language is largely extinct in the country and is only limited to some members of the elite and middle classes. A significant French-speaking community is also present in Israel, primarily among the community of Maghrebi Jews, and many secondary schools offer French as a foreign language.

French has de jure official status in the Indian union territory of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry) along with the regional languages of Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. However at the district level, French is only official in the districts of Pondicherry and Mahé, while the other two districts of the territory designate local languages as official. Furthermore, according to the French Institute of Pondicherry, French is "very little spoken" in Puducherry, with only about 1% of the territory's population being able to speak the language.[46] (See also: French India)

Oceania and AustralasiaEdit

File:Billet 500 xpf.jpg

French is an official language of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu where 45% of the population can speak French.[47] In the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, 97% of the population can speak, read and write French, whereas only 1% have no knowledge of French.[48] In French Polynesia, 95% of the population can speak, read and write French, whereas only 2% have no knowledge of French.[49] In the French collectivity of Wallis and Futuna, 78% of the population can speak, read and write French, whereas 17% have no knowledge of French.[50]

DialectsEdit

Main article: Dialects of the French language

HistoryEdit

Main article: History of French

French is a Romance language (meaning that it is descended primarily from Vulgar Latin) that evolved out of the Gallo-Romance dialects spoken in northern France.

French was the most important language of diplomacy and international relations from the 17th century to approximately the middle of the 20th century. English has now taken over that role, since following the Second World War, the US became the dominant global power.[3][51] Stanley Meisler of the Los Angeles Times said that the fact that the Treaty of Versailles was also written in English as well as French was the "first diplomatic blow" against the language.[52]

French remains one of the most important diplomatic languages,[4] with the language being one of the working languages of NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the UN Secretariat, the Council of Europe, the International Court of Justice, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Organization of American States, European Commission, the Eurovision Song Contest the European Space Agency, World Trade Organisation and the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is also a working language in nonprofit organisations such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Médecins sans Frontières, or Médecins du Monde.[53]

PhonologyEdit

Main article: French phonology

Template:IPA notice

Although there are many French regional accents, foreign learners normally study only one version of the language, which has no commonly used special name.

  • There are a maximum of 16 vowels in French, not all of which are used in every dialect: /a/, /ɑ/, /e/, /ɛ/, /ə/, /i/, /o/, /ɔ/, /y/, /u/, /œ/, /ø/, plus the nasalized vowels /ɑ̃/, /ɛ̃/, /ɔ̃/ and /œ̃/. In France, the vowels /ɑ/ and /œ̃/ are tending to be replaced by /a/ and /ɛ̃/ in many people's speech.
  • Voiced stops (i.e. /b d ɡ/) are typically produced fully voiced throughout.
  • Voiceless stops (i.e. /p t k/) are unaspirated.
  • Nasals: The velar nasal /ŋ/ can occur 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 [ʁu] roue, "wheel" . 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 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 /pɛj/ paye, "pay", vs. /pɛi/ pays, "country".

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, g and m, are normally silent. (A consonant is considered "final" when no vowel follows it even if one or more consonants follow it.) The final letters c, f, k, q and l, however, are normally pronounced. The final r is usually silent when it follows an e in a word of two or more syllables, but is pronounced in other cases. The t is pronounced when it follows a c.
    • When the following word begins with a vowel, however, 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. gentilgentille) adds a [j] sound if the l is preceded by the letter i.
  • 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 spelled → 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"). However, for Belgian French the sentences are pronounced differently; in the first sentence the syllable break is as "qu'il-a", while the second breaks as "qui-l'a". It can also be noted that, in Quebec French, the second example (l'homme qui l'a vu) is more emphasized on l'a vu.

Writing systemEdit

Alphabet Edit

Main article: French alphabet

French is written with the 26 letters of the basic Latin script, with four diacritics appearing on vowels (circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, diaeresis) and the cedilla appearing in "ç".

There are two ligatures, "œ" and "æ".

OrthographyEdit

Main article: French orthography

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 (see Vocabulary below). Moreover, some conscious changes were made to restore Latin orthography:

  • Old French doit > French doigt "finger" (Latin digitus)
  • Old French pie > French pied "foot" (Latin pes (stem: ped-))

As a result, it can be difficult to predict the spelling of a word based on the sound. 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 usually leads to a predictable sound. In particular, a given vowel combination or diacritic predictably leads to one phoneme.

French writing, as with any language, is affected by the spoken language. In Old French, the plural for animal was animals. The /als/ sequence was unstable and was turned into a diphthong /aus/. This change was then reflected in the orthography: animaus. The us ending, very common in Latin, was then abbreviated by copists monks by the letter x, resulting in a written form animax. As the French language further evolved, the pronunciation of au turned into /o/ so that the u was reestablished in orthography for consistency, resulting in modern French animaux (pronounced first /animos/ before the final /s/ was dropped in contemporary French). The same is true for cheval pluralized as chevaux and many others. In addition, castel pl. castels became château pl. châteaux

  • 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 vowel. The prefixes en- and em- are always nasalized. The rules are more complex than this but may vary between dialects.
  • Digraphs: French uses not only diacritics to specify its large range of vowel sounds and diphthongs, but also 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 geminates can be heard in the cinema or TV news from as recently as the 1970s, and in very refined elocution they may still occur). For example, illusion is pronounced [ilyzjɔ̃] and not [ilːyzjɔ̃]. But gemination does occur between words. For example, une info ("a news item" or "a piece of information") is pronounced [ynɛ̃fo], whereas une nympho ("a nymphomaniac") is pronounced [ynːɛ̃fo].
  • 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 aigu), 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 circumflex (l'accent circonflexe) ê (e.g. forêt—forest) shows that an e is pronounced /ɛ/ and that an ô is pronounced /o/. In standard French, it also signifies a pronunciation of /ɑ/ for the letter â, but this differentiation is disappearing. In the late 19th century, the circumflex was used in place of s after a vowel, where that letter s was not pronounced. Thus, forest became forêt and hospital became hôpital.
      • The diaeresis (le tréma) (e.g. naïf—naive, 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 ç is pronounced /s/ in front of the back vowels a, o and u (c is otherwise /k/ before a back vowel). C is always pronounced /s/ in front of the front vowels e, i, and y, thus ç is never found in front of front vowels.
    • 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. It usually indicates that an s came after it long ago, as in île (isle, compare with English island). The explanation is that some words share the same orthography, and the circumflex is put here to spot the difference between the two words. For example, dites (you say) / dîtes (you said), or even du (of the) / (past for the verb devoir = must, have to, owe; in this case, the circumflex splits at the plural and the feminine).
      • 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 ("the" fem. sing.) and the conjunction ou ("or") respectively.

Some proposals exist to simplify the existing writing system, but they still fail to gather interest.[54][55][56][57]

GrammarEdit

Main article: French grammar

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

French declarative word order is subject–verb–object, although if the object is a pronoun, it precedes the verb. Some types of sentences allow for or require different word orders, in particular inversion of the subject and verb like "Parlez-vous français ?" when asking a question rather than just "Vous parlez français ?" Both questions mean the same thing, however, a rising inflection is always used on both of them whenever asking a question, especially on the second one. Specifically, the first translates into, "Do you speak French?" while the second one is literally just: "You speak French?"

VocabularyEdit

The majority of French words derive from Vulgar Latin or were constructed from Latin or Greek roots. In many cases a single etymological root appears in French in a "popular" or native form, inherited from Vulgar Latin, and a learned form, borrowed later from Classical Latin. The following pairs consist of a native noun and a learned adjective:

However a historical tendency to gallicise Latin roots can be identified, whereas English conversely leans towards a more direct incorporation of the Latin:

There are also noun-noun and adjective-adjective pairs:

It can be difficult to identify the Latin source of native French words, because in the evolution from Vulgar Latin, unstressed syllables were severely reduced and the remaining vowels and consonants underwent significant modifications.

More recently the linguistic policy of the French language academies of France and Quebec has been to provide French equivalents[58] to (mainly English) imported words, either by using existing vocabulary, extending its meaning or deriving a new word according to French morphological rules. The result is often two (or more) co-existing terms for describing the same phenomenon, with varying rates of success for the French equivalent.

  • mercatique / marketing
  • finance fantôme / shadow banking
  • bloc-notes / blog
  • ailière / wingsuit
  • tiers-lieu / coworking

It is estimated that 12% (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 (where Greek and Latin learned words are not seen as foreign). About 25% (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 other 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 other Afro-Asiatic languages, 55 from Slavic languages and Baltic languages, 10 from Basque and 144 (about 3%) from other languages.[59]

NumeralsEdit

The French counting system is partially vigesimal: twenty (vingt) is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 60 to 99. The French word for 80 is quatre-vingts, literally "four twenties", and the word for 75 is soixante-quinze, literally "sixty-fifteen". This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the different counting systems (mostly vigesimal near the coast, because of Celtic (via Breton) and Viking influences). This system is comparable to the archaic English use of score, as in "fourscore and seven" (87), or "threescore and ten" (70). In Old French (during the Middle Ages), all numbers from 30 to 99 could be said in either base 10 or base 20, e.g. vint et doze (twenty and twelve) for 32, dous vinz et diz (two twenties and ten) for 50, uitante for 80, or nonante for 90.[60]

Belgian French, Swiss French and the French used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi 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.[61] In Belgium and in its former African colonies, however, quatre-vingts is universally used.

It should also be noted that French, like most European languages, uses a period (also called a full stop) or a space to separate thousands where English uses a comma or (more recently) a space. The comma is used in French numbers as a decimal point: 2,5 = deux virgule cinq.

Cardinal numbers in French from 1 to 20 are as follows:

WordsEdit

Template:Inline audio The "Quebec" audio samples here are not necessarily from speakers of Quebec French, which has distinct regional pronunciations of certain words.

English French Quebec accent French accent
French Français Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
English Anglais Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Yes Oui (si when countering an assertion or a question expressed in the negative) Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
No Non Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Hello! Bonjour ! (formal) or Salut ! (informal) or "Allô" (Quebec French or when answering on the telephone) [bõʒuːʁ] Template:Audio-IPA
Good evening! Bonsoir ! [bõswɑːʁ] Template:Audio-IPA
Good night! Bonne nuit ! [bɔn nɥi] Template:Audio-IPA
Goodbye! Au revoir ! Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Have a nice day! Bonne journée ! Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Please/if you please S’il vous plaît (formal) or S’il te plaît (informal) Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Thank you Merci [mɛʁsi] Template:Audio-IPA
You are welcome De rien (informal) or Ce n’est rien (informal) ("it is nothing") or Je vous en prie (formal) or Je t’en prie (informal) or Bienvenue (Quebec) [də ʁjẽ] Template:Audio-IPA
I am sorry Pardon or Désolé or Je suis désolé (if male) / Je suis désolée (if female) or Excuse-moi (informal) / Excusez-moi (formal) / "Je regrette" Template:Audio-IPA / Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA / Template:Audio-IPA
Who? Qui ? Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
What? Quoi ? (←informal; used as "What?" in English)) or Pardon ? (←formal; used the same as "Pardon ?" in English) Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
When? Quand ? Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Where? Où ? [u] Template:Audio-IPA
Why? Pourquoi ? Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
What is your name? Comment vous appelez-vous ? (formal) or Comment t’appelles-tu ? (informal) [kɔmã vuz‿aple vu], [kɔmã t‿apɛl t͡sy] Template:Audio-IPA, Template:Audio-IPA
My name is... Je m'appelle... Template:Audio-IPA
Which Quel/Quels(pl.)/Quelle(fem.) [kɛl]
Because Parce que / Car Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Because of à cause de [a kou̯z də] Template:Audio-IPA
Therefore Donc [dõːk] Template:Audio-IPA
Maybe Peut-être Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
How? Comment ? [kɔmã] Template:Audio-IPA
How much? Combien ? [kõbjẽ] Template:Audio-IPA
I do not understand. Je ne comprends pas. Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
Yes, I understand. Oui, je comprends. Except when responding to a negatively posed question, in which case Si is used preferentially over Oui Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
I agree Je suis d’accord. D’accord can be used without je suis. [ʒə sɥi d‿akɑɔ̯ʁ] [ʒə sɥi d‿akɔːʁ]
Help! Au secours ! (à l’aide !) Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
At what time...? À quelle heure [a kɛl ɛʁ]
Today Aujourd'hui [ɔʒord‿wi]
Can you help me please? Pouvez-vous m’aider s’il vous plaît ? / Pourriez-vous m’aider s’il vous plaît ? (formal) or Peux-tu m’aider s’il te plaît ? / Pourrais-tu m’aider s’il te plaît (informal) [puve vu m‿ɛːde s‿ɪl vu plɛ] [puve vu m‿ede s‿il vu plɛ]
Where are the toilets? Où sont les toilettes ? [u sõ le twalɛt] Template:Audio-IPA
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous (l') anglais ? / Est-ce que vous parlez (l') anglais ? Template:Audio-IPA Template:Audio-IPA
I do not speak French. Je ne parle pas français. [ʒə nə paʁl pɔ fʁãsɛ] [ʒə nə paʁl pa fʁɑ̃sɛ]
I do not know. Je (ne) sais pas. Template:Audio-IPA [ʒə (nə) sɛ pa]
I know. Je sais. [ʒə sɛ]/[ʒə se] [ʒə sɛ]
I am thirsty. J’ai soif. (literally, "I have thirst") [ʒ‿e swaf] [ʒ‿e swaf]
I am hungry. J’ai faim. (literally, "I have hunger") [ʒ‿e fẽ] [ʒ‿e fɛ̃]
How are you? / How are things going? / How is everything? Comment allez-vous ? (formal) or Ça va ? / Comment ça va ? (informal) [kɔmã t‿ale vu] [kɔmɑ̃ t‿ale vu]
I am (very) well / Things are going (very) well // Everything is (very) well Je vais (très) bien (formal) or Ça va (très) bien. / Tout va (très) bien (informal) [ʒə vɛ (tʁɛ) bjẽ] [ʒə vɛ (tʁɛ) bjɛ̃]
I am (very) bad / Things are (very) bad / Everything is (very) bad Je vais (très) mal (formal) or Ça va (très) mal / Tout va (très) mal (informal) [ʒə vɛ (tʁɛ) mal] [ʒə vɛ (tʁɛ) mal]
I am all right/so-so / Everything is all right/so-so Assez bien or Ça va comme ci, comme ça or simply Ça va.. (Sometimes said: « Couci, couça. », informal: "bof") i.e. « Comme ci, comme ça. ») [ase bjẽ] [ase bjɛ̃]
I am fine. Ça va bien. [sa vɔ bjẽ] [sa va bjɛ̃]
(How) can I help you? / (Do) you need help? / We need help! (Comment) pourrais-je vous aider ? Avez-vous besoin d'aide ? Nous avons besoin d'aide! [(kɔmã) puʁaɪ̯ʒ vuz‿ɛːde] [(kɔmɑ̃) puʁɛʒ vuz‿ede]

See alsoEdit

Script error

Notes and references Edit

Further readingEdit

  • Nadeau, Jen-Benoît, and Julie Barlow (2006). The Story of French. First U.S. ed. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-34183-0

External linksEdit

Template:Wiktionary cat Template:InterWiki Template:WikisourceWiki

OrganizationsEdit

Courses and tutorialsEdit

Online dictionariesEdit

For other unilingual dictionaries, see fr:Dictionnaire.

VocabularyEdit

NumbersEdit

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