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Thread: Walloon, a Germanised Romance language ?

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    Post Walloon, a Germanised Romance language ?



    Walloon is sometimes considered as a dialect of French, and more often nowadays as a Romance language of its own. It is spoken in Wallonia (the southern part of Belgium), mostly by elderly people and farmers, who can also all speak French. Many younger Walloons may understand a few words of Walloon but not really speak it.

    I noticed that the pronuciation of Walloon was closer to that of Germanic languages rather than Latin ones. Many vowels are elungated, and some sounds have even been transcribed using the Scandinavic " å ". Quite a few words have direct Germanic roots and contrast a lot with their French transaltion. Here are some examples : [Walloon => English/French (other language)]

    gate => goat/chèvre (closer to the Swedish/Norwegian "get", Danish "ged" or Dutch "geit" than the German "Ziege").

    breutchene => small loaf of bread/petit pain (direct import from the German "Brötchen")

    conén (or conin) => rabbit/lapin (Danish/Norwegian/Swedish = "kanin", Dutch = "konijn", German = "Kaninchen")
    robète => another Walloon word for rabbit (from Middle Dutch "robbe", obviously sharing a root with the English "rabbit")

    spraute => sprout/chou (Dutch = "ontspruiten"; in this case English is the nearest)

    sitouve => stove (heater)/poêle (again, English is the nearest equivalent)

    wafe => waffle/gauffre (Dutch = "wafel", German = "Waffel")

    aujî => easy/facile (only English has a similar word, although they both ultimately come from the French aisé)

    heid => heath/lande (Dutch/German = Heide), hill/collinne

    raspoie (Old Walloon) => raspberry/framboise (like robète, spraute and sitouve, only English has a word related to it)

    Oddly enough, the Walloon word for potato (krompir) is related to many central European languages (identical in Slovene, krumpir in Serbo-Croat, krumpli in Hungarian, crumpenă in Romanian). Apparently it derives from the German Grundbirne ("ground pear") and the term spread around the Austrian empire.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 06-12-11 at 16:44.

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    Interesting.It's discouraging(im not sure if this is the word I need) that walloon is only spoken by older people.

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    The heartland of Wallonia was part of the German Holy Roman Empire since its foundation by Charlemagne (a Walloon himself, born and raised near Liege) in 800 until the 15th century. From the mid-16th century only 1/3 of Wallonia remained German (the principality of Liege) until the French Revolution in 1789. Given that the Belgians are mostly of Frankish (i.e. Germanic) descent, with a bit of Gallo-Roman leftovers, it would be fairly natural to refer to the Walloon (and also Alsacians and Northern French) as French-speaking Germans.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 17-03-08 at 11:34.

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    Here are a few more examples :

    spitter : to spatter, to splatter, to splash
    sprotcher : to squeeze, to crush
    sketer : to break, to shatter, to split
    tchapiauter : to chatter, to chat
    pesteller : to pester
    jatte : jar, jug, mug
    wachoter : a liquid that is leaking or spilling (related to "wash")

    These words actually show more similarity with English than with Dutch or German, although the similarity isn't close enough to consider that these are imports from English (even a few centuries old). The Walloon words probably evolved from Old Frankish words, Frankish being quite closely related to Anglo-Saxon.

    For example, the Frisian word for "spatter" is "spatterje", which confirms a possible common origin for both Saxon and Frankish, as Frisian is their closest neighbour.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 08-07-10 at 11:04.

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    I found this very concise French-Walloon dictionary on Google Books. The core vocabulary of Walloon is definitely derived from French, but there are hundreds of words that either come from Flemish/German or are of completely unknown origin to me. These words don't even sound Indo-European to me :

    bedot => sheep
    moxhon => small bird
    kokâ => egg
    tiair => mountain
    gonhire => woody mountain
    kopalle => mound, hillock
    aiwe => river
    Last edited by Maciamo; 15-05-09 at 16:55.

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    Walloon is classified as an oïl dialect of Gallo-Romance languages, based on the way the word for "yes" is pronounced. The Walloon for "yes" is "ayi". It may sound vaguely similar to "oïl" (pronounce "oi" as in "oil" without the "l"), but it is in fact closer to the Scottish "aye". Both are probably syllable reversal of the Germanic "ja" or "yeah".

    The Walloon for "no" is "neni". It is again much closer to the German "nein" than the French "non" or southern Romance "no". Likewise the negative equivalent of the French "pas" (as in je ne sais pas) is "nin". It is probably a nassalised version of the Dutch "niet" German "nicht", derived from the local Frankish dialect. In any case it is completely different from "pas".

    So despite the big chunk of Romance vocabulary, many basic words in Walloon appear to be of Germanic, Celtic or unknown origin (possibly pre-Celtic).

    It surprises how little studied the language is. After all, it covers an area with more traditional speakers than Welsh or Scottish Gaelic.

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    Most Walloons nowadays are French speaking...

    Do you think that Walloons ethnically are an ofspring of Romanized speaking Germanics?

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    Quote Originally Posted by S-K View Post
    Most Walloons nowadays are French speaking...
    Do you think that Walloons ethnically are an ofspring of Romanized speaking Germanics?
    According to Y-DNA tests, Walloons and Flemings aren't so different. Both have an admixture of Germanic and Gallo-Roman blood, although Wallonia has a bit more Gallo-Roman ancestry (proportions vary according to the provinces, with more Germanic lineages in the north and east). I have written about this here.

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    I just noticed that in Belgian French and Walloon the word pet (pronounced like in English) means exactly the same as the English "butt" in the sense of someone's "buttocks" or "bottom". The usage (informal) is even the same. They probably share the same Germanic etymology.

    Interestingly there does not seem to be a Dutch/Flemish or German word close to it keeping the same meaning. Pet isn't used in the French of France either (the word exist but pronounced without the final "t" and doesn't mean the same).

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    Here is another example of why Walloon might be considered a Germanised Romance language. The Walloon word for castle is tchestê, which is almost the same as the English 'chester' (as in Manchester, Winchester Chichester, etc.). Chester is the Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of the Latin word castrum, which gave castello in Italian, castillo in Spanish, château in French, and of course 'castle' in English. The fact that the Walloon word is closer to the Anglo-Saxon than to the French or other Romance languages is, I think, a clear sign that Walloon was originally the language of the Franks who adopted Latin after settling in the Roman province of Gallia Belgica.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Here is another example of why Walloon might be considered a Germanised Romance language. The Walloon word for castle is tchestê, which is almost the same as the English 'chester' (as in Manchester, Winchester Chichester, etc.). Chester is the Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of the Latin word castrum, which gave castello in Italian, castillo in Spanish, château in French, and of course 'castle' in English. The fact that the Walloon word is closer to the Anglo-Saxon than to the French or other Romance languages is, I think, a clear sign that Walloon was originally the language of the Franks who adopted Latin after settling in the Roman province of Gallia Belgica.
    Talking of etymology, why is somewhere like 'Waterloo' inside Wallonia and why has it's name never been Romanised by way of either Walloon, Picard or French etc?

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    Actually, Walloon is a very uneven language. I was born near Mons and our dialect there is clearly Picard-related. I have also spent some time in Liège and found it very difficult to understand their dialect, sometimes it was chinese to me. Some of the words you listed are very familiar to me (sketter, spitter, jatte, gade, bedot), some I have never heard. During my classical studies as a teenager, we had to study the classical, La Fontaine and Walloon versions of "the wolf and the lamb", that introduced me to some sort of Borinage Picard literature (Frameries-born poet Bosquetia). A pity no serious linguistic surveys of Walloon dialects are not more widespread as these dialects have a tendency to disappear quickly.

    Here is, for French-speakers, an interesting page about the Borinage dialect:
    http://borinage.blogspot.de/p/le-parler-borain.html
    Last edited by Cimmerianbloke; 01-07-12 at 01:16. Reason: Spelling!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cimmerianbloke View Post
    Actually, Walloon is a very uneven language. I was born near Mons and our dialect there is clearly Picard-related. I have also spent some time in Liège and found it very difficult to understand their dialect, sometimes it was chinese to me. Some of the words you listed are very familiar to me (sketter, spitter, jatte, gade, bedot), some I have never heard. During my classical studies as a teenager, we had to study the classical, La Fontaine and Walloon versions of "the wolf and the lamb", that introduced me to some sort of Borinage Picard literature (Frameries-born poet Bosquetia). A pity no serious linguistic surveys of Walloon dialects are not more widespread as these dialects have a tendency to disappear quickly.

    Here is, for French-speakers, an interessing page about the Borinage dialect:
    http://borinage.blogspot.de/p/le-parler-borain.html
    I wonder if its a frankish left over of this

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotharingia

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I found this very concise French-Walloon dictionary on Google Books. The core vocabulary of Walloon is definitely derived from French, but there are hundreds of words that either come from Flemish/German or are of completely unknown origin to me. These words don't even sound Indo-European to me :

    bedot => sheep
    moxhon => small bird
    kokâ => egg
    tiair => mountain
    gonhire => woody mountain
    kopalle => mound, hillock
    aiwe => river
    I don't agree with the definition: "latin or french speaking germanic people":
    For I believe, Walloons have an heavy celtic and pre-celtic componant ethnically (and genetically), when we have more serious data on them) -surely, the Liège district inhabitants showed genetically (before modern immigration, from Italy during the XX°C.) a greater influence of Francs or other Germanic tribes - their dialects doesn't origin in french but in an old romance dialect since the Roman Empire, showing phonetically the lack or the maybe basque influenced suffixation of E- before stops groups with S- (ST-, SP-, SK- >> EST-, ESP-, ESK- what is interesting is notice that welsh languages tended to prefix an atone Y- before the same groups of stops, even if the present day tendencies are to drop them down) - considering this aspect, Walloon dialects are closer to Italic (latin) or Germanic languages, it is true -
    and in XX° C. Alsacians (spite of some celtic-pre-celtic origins too) and North Lorraine inhabitants was germanic (dialects) speakers (Swabish sort of Alemanic and Franconic "frankish") -
    I'm amezed as you in front of this words; but for aiwe I remember the french Oil dialects: ô (eau), iô, iaù, ève, èwe, and occitanic aîga, aîgo << aqua : water

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    for kopalle: mound, hillock, a suggestion: = french 'coupelle' in some dialects for the top of a tree (rounded shape, i think) - a bet!

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    sorry for my short posts: it comes to my as it comes!
    aiwe/ ADDENDA: brittonic celtic afon /avon/, aven << abona = river (I-E root akw-, ap- ?)

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    Hi Moesan,
    I am sadly not a specialist in linguistics, but I have a basic knowledge, and your last post seems to me a little bit of a shortcut, I'd even call it a motorway. Consider Celtic languages were not written, as Latin has been since the Romanization of Gaul, and you'd agree that modern Walloon probably owes more to Roman languages than to Celtic, whose occurrences and legacy in French are well documented. Modern French having been highly borrowing from Greek, Germanic and to some extent Celtic, Arabic and half a dozen more languages, it makes sense to look at linguistics with a cautious approach, especially for the Liège dialect, where Germanic and Latin languages have been colliding since Charlemagne.

    Selwyn,
    I can confirm that if the spelling stays the same, the pronunciation in French has not much to do anymore with the English one...

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    Quote Originally Posted by MOESAN View Post
    sorry for my short posts: it comes to my as it comes!
    aiwe/ ADDENDA: brittonic celtic afon /avon/, aven << abona = river (I-E root akw-, ap- ?)
    Kokâ = reminds me of Kuiken and Küken(=chick)...coq(old french)

    moxhon = mus(singul.) mussen(plural) (<-dutch =sparrow Engl)... http://www.etymologiebank.nl/trefwoord/mus probably latin (musca) =flie, but in this case it means small bird

    The centralgerman word Kuppe for hill is probably of latin origin. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuppe

    The westerngermanic word Ahe, Aa and A ( http://www.etymologiebank.nl/trefwoord/a1 ) still looks very similair, but I agree it is most likely the regional version of this indo-european word.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MOESAN View Post
    sorry for my short posts: it comes to my as it comes!
    aiwe/ ADDENDA: brittonic celtic afon /avon/, aven << abona = river (I-E root akw-, ap- ?)
    I also think it is more likely that the Walloon word comes from Celtic than from a direct corruption of the Latin aqua. Well, obviously Latin is an Italic language related to Celtic, so the two are ultimately derived from the same Proto-Italo-Celtic source. But aiwe just sounds closer to avon or aven than to aqua.

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    [QUOTE=Cimmerianbloke;396557]Hi Moesan,
    I am sadly not a specialist in linguistics, but I have a basic knowledge, and your last post seems to me a little bit of a shortcut, I'd even call it a motorway. Consider Celtic languages were not written, as Latin has been since the Romanization of Gaul, and you'd agree that modern Walloon probably owes more to Roman languages than to Celtic, whose occurrences and legacy in French are well documented. Modern French having been highly borrowing from Greek, Germanic and to some extent Celtic, Arabic and half a dozen more languages, it makes sense to look at linguistics with a cautious approach, especially for the Liège dialect, where Germanic and Latin languages have been colliding since Charlemagne.

    surely my post can seams very naive to you, but my meaning was: in spite of the fact that even germanic speaking populations of Belgium have some pre-germanic genetic heritage, as Walloons have, I think there is a great enough difference about proportions of germanic and pre-germanic heritage: It is not linguistic - I think too that the genuine Roman (or Italic as a whole) genetic heritage in Walloons is very weak versus the (pre-)Celtic one - no linguistics here too - concerniing linguistics, I think that the walloon dialects, as the pickard ones, are NOT FRENCH (modern language) but the local evolutions of a romance language that traces back until the Gallo-Roman period and before that ROman occupation (as in France, almost all the big dialects trace back to romance, not to french (heavily Ile-de-France-Orléanais dialect influenced) - that was my point: celtic and pre-celtic when I spoke about genes, more romance (latin) when I spoke about language... surely there have been more exchanges between germanic and romance dialects in North-France, Normandy and Belgium than in other parts of France (except in Franco-provencal of eastern France and Switzerland, with Alamans and Wisigoths maybe?)- but when looking at Walloons phonetics compared to Pic(k)ard phonetics, we see that the germanic influence seams slightly stronger for pickard (and northern normand) dialects than in Walloon - I confess I'm not aware of the princiapl traits of Lorraine romance dialects - surely it would be interesting knowing them to compare to walloon...
    *(as said by one, not to confuse between "french" speaking Belgium and eastern genuine walloon dialects)
    all that said, I shut my mouth because I have only a surface knowledge of walloon

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    I really had no idea about how intricated the question was before the start of the thread. Your argumentation has its points, taking into account the tumultuous history of the region and its Dutch, French and Spanish occupations that might have helped into cristallizing the dialects. I am however convinced the "hinge" period of the formation of these dialects would be the late Middle Ages and therefore bear a strong Latin influence. The difference between Picard Borain and Namurois is just too harsh to be purely dialectal or due to the "famous" Namur accent.
    Consider also that in the case of Aachen, a seemingly Roman name (Aquis Granum) took a Germanic life of its own (Aachen, Dutch "Aken" is a Latin root with Germanic ending "The Waters"). Even stranger, the Romance forms it took in Italian (Aquisgrana) and Spanish (Aquisgrán), and its phonetic molding into Slavic Polish "Akwizgran". Stunning when you know how long that city has been around. Where linguistics can be a very handy tool, it can also lead us into more confusion.
    I have to confess I know nothing about Lorraine dialects, but Alsacian have I learned through Kansass (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCKyI...feature=relmfu)...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cimmerianbloke View Post
    I really had no idea about how intricated the question was before the start of the thread. Your argumentation has its points, taking into account the tumultuous history of the region and its Dutch, French and Spanish occupations that might have helped into cristallizing the dialects. I am however convinced the "hinge" period of the formation of these dialects would be the late Middle Ages and therefore bear a strong Latin influence. The difference between Picard Borain and Namurois is just too harsh to be purely dialectal or due to the "famous" Namur accent.
    Consider also that in the case of Aachen, a seemingly Roman name (Aquis Granum) took a Germanic life of its own (Aachen, Dutch "Aken" is a Latin root with Germanic ending "The Waters"). Even stranger, the Romance forms it took in Italian (Aquisgrana) and Spanish (Aquisgrán), and its phonetic molding into Slavic Polish "Akwizgran". Stunning when you know how long that city has been around. Where linguistics can be a very handy tool, it can also lead us into more confusion.
    I have to confess I know nothing about Lorraine dialects, but Alsacian have I learned through Kansass (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCKyI...feature=relmfu)...
    There no opposition in my writings to your thoughts: basically walloon is a romance language (= latin origin)
    - there is a lot of reasons to think that here popular latin language (the latin of the armies) took early over an other language (celtic or germanic or "N-W european", there is debate even if I bet for a celtic one) - as in other latin origin languages the differenciation could have begun since the IV-V° century, and after that historic events have surely brought some noticeable differences between pcard and wallon dialects - no surprise -
    &: by the way, I was speaking about romance lorrain dialect when thinking to posible links with walloon, not the germanic south-western franconic "thiois" of North Moselle and North Elsass, akin to Luxemburgish and somewhat slightly distinct from the alemanic alsacian dialects

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Here is another example of why Walloon might be considered a Germanised Romance language. The Walloon word for castle is tchestê, which is almost the same as the English 'chester' (as in Manchester, Winchester Chichester, etc.). Chester is the Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of the Latin word castrum, which gave castello in Italian, castillo in Spanish, château in French, and of course 'castle' in English. The fact that the Walloon word is closer to the Anglo-Saxon than to the French or other Romance languages is, I think, a clear sign that Walloon was originally the language of the Franks who adopted Latin after settling in the Roman province of Gallia Belgica.
    German loanwords and germanicization are two different things : English has borrowed between 30% and 50% of its lexicon to French during the Middle Ages, but is still considered as a Germanic language.

    What makes a language Germanic, Romance, or else, is not its vocabulary but primarily its phonetic features. This is the basis of linguistic typology: you could have 99% french words, if Grimm's and Verner's Laws are respected, then it is Germanic.

    I am not a specialist of Walloon, but if I take the word "tchestê" which you mentioned in your post, it is 100% Romance:

    1- it originates from Latin (actually not from "castrum" but from "castellum" meaning "citadelle").

    2- its pronunciation "tsh" is typically French : what you have there is the affrication of the latin [k] before [a] after palatalisation. This process is French, and occurs nowhere else. During the XIth and XIIth centuries, when most English borrowings from French occurred, the grapheme "ch" (from Lat. "c") was pronounced "tsh" in Old French. Only during the XIIIth century, the pronunciation was reduced to "sh". Therefore, the English words with an initial "ch" pronounced "tsh" are are mostly French loanwords with a rigorously accurate Old French pronunciation ("chance", "choice", "chamber", "chair" etc.). On the contrary, the phonetics of "castle" is Germanic, albeit being a Latin word.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kentel View Post
    German loanwords and germanicization are two different things : English has borrowed between 30% and 50% of its lexicon to French during the Middle Ages, but is still considered as a Germanic language.

    What makes a language Germanic, Romance, or else, is not its vocabulary but primarily its phonetic features. This is the basis of linguistic typology: you could have 99% french words, if Grimm's and Verner's Laws are respected, then it is Germanic.

    I am not a specialist of Walloon, but if I take the word "tchestê" which you mentioned in your post, it is 100% Romance:

    1- it originates from Latin (actually not from "castrum" but from "castellum" meaning "citadelle").

    2- its pronunciation "tsh" is typically French : what you have there is the affrication of the latin [k] before [a] after palatalisation. This process is French, and occurs nowhere else. During the XIth and XIIth centuries, when most English borrowings from French occurred, the grapheme "ch" (from Lat. "c") was pronounced "tsh" in Old French. Only during the XIIIth century, the pronunciation was reduced to "sh". Therefore, the English words with an initial "ch" pronounced "tsh" are are mostly French loanwords with a rigorously accurate Old French pronunciation ("chance", "choice", "chamber", "chair" etc.). On the contrary, the phonetics of "castle" is Germanic, albeit being a Latin word.
    OK (even if it is very improbable that a language can loan 99%of its words from one another language...)
    to support your demonstration, I 'll add that picard and northern dialects of french normand are more germanic influenced (Saxons, Francs and Vikings influences) for phonetics than walloon, because in these dialects, C remained /k/ before A, not turning into TCH (walloon) or SH (other dialects of Oil french) -

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    You're right.

    As a matter of fact, "castle" (with [k] and not "sh") is a borrowing from Normand, it illustrates quite well your point.

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