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Thread: Who were the ancestors of the Flemings and Wallons?

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    Who were the ancestors of the Flemings and Wallons?



    How could we explain the linguistic divide in Belgium?
    Was Flemish the language of the Salian Franks? If so, I wonder why the Franks of Wallonia kept a romance language. Or maybe the Flemish language was carried by the settlers who repopulated the area in the Carolingian era when the sea level went down. I personally believe that the linguistic divide goes back to the Pre Roman era with the divide between German speaking and Celtic speaking belgic tribes. What do you think?

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    I have already attempted to answer this question in several places. I have explained in my History of the Franks how the Franks of Wallonia adopted Latin, which they corrupted into becoming French. In Merovingian times, the Frankish court was based on Tournai, at the northwestern extremity of Wallonia. The Carolingian dynasty emerged from the region of Liège, at the northeastern extremity of Wallonia. These two poles of royal power formed the northernmost boundary where Latin/French was/is spoken by a predominantly Germanic population.

    In my Belgian toponymy I have analysed most place names in the country and sorted Germanic from Latin and Celtic names, and created maps to visualise the location of Germanic settlements in Wallonia. It it also quite obvious that the regions of Liège and Tournai-Mons are far more Germanic than central and southern Wallonia, in accordance with the Frankish centres of power.

    Finally, I have made the breakdown of Y-DNA frequencies for Belgian provinces. However the sample sizes are far too small in Wallonia to mean anything at present. Overall Walloons appear a bit less Germanic than the Flemings, but nevertheless a bit more Germanic than Gallo-Roman. This seems to confirm my hypothesis that there was at first a Germanisation of Wallonia, followed by a Latinisation of the Franks in Wallonia. The alternative is that the Franks of Wallonia adopted Latin/French because they were overwhelmed by a native Romance majority. Genetics clearly doesn't support that Walloons are overwhelmingly of Gallo-Roman descent. That much is obvious by mere anthropological observation. Physically Walloons are much closer the the Flemish than to the "average" French (which of course does not include people from French Flanders, who are genetically Flemish).


    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    I personally believe that the linguistic divide goes back to the Pre Roman era with the divide between German speaking and Celtic speaking belgic tribes. What do you think?
    It is possible that such a divide existed in Pre-Roman times (though I doubt it*). However after 400 years of Romanisation, Belgium and the southern Netherlands as far as the Rhine, had become thoroughly Latin speaking. Germanic languages really only came back when the Franks started settling into Roman Belgium from the 3rd century onwards. Flemish place names are actually quite Saxon in appearance, with clear links in East England. So it is possible (and indeed probable) that the Flemings are descended in greater parts from the Saxons than the Franks, while the Walloons are an admixture or Franks and Gallo-Romans.


    * Language and culture typically go hand in hand. It can happen that an ethnic/genetic group shift language and culture, but there aren't many cases of people adopting a language without the culture that goes with it or vice versa. And Belgic people were undeniably a single cultural entity of Celtic rather than Germanic affinity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    . In Merovingian times, the Frankish court was based on Tournai, at the northwestern extremity of Wallonia. The Carolingian dynasty emerged from the region of Liège, at the northeastern extremity of Wallonia. These two poles of royal power formed the northernmost boundary where Latin/French was/is spoken by a predominantly Germanic population.

    What I find strange is that contrary to what happened in England with the Normans the language spoken in Wallonia is almost exclusively Romance. English language is still made up by 2/3 of words of West Germanic origin, the proportion being higher if we only consider the most used words. This happened because England was populated by a predominantly Germanic population. Fact is that Wallonia is derived from "wahla", the Germanic word meaning "foreigner", "stranger", "Roman", "Romance-speaker", or "Celtic-speaker".
    I don't know when this exonym was given but, as I said, my guess is that some Belgae tribes such as the Menapii were already German speaking while other in the south were not. One also has to wonder the origin of U152 in the area which tends to be high in romanicized regions (such as the west side of the Rhine).

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    Physically Walloons are much closer the the Flemish than to the "average" French (which of course does not include people from French Flanders, who are genetically Flemish).
    "Average French" is not really relevant for physical comparisons. As you know France is quite a big country compared to BelgiumWithin France, people don't even look the same. To make a real comparison, one must take into account the neighbouring areas. I don't believe that people from Lorraine and Ardennes travelling in Wallonia would be immediatly recognized as foreigners. I'm not sure if that would be so for a Dutch person.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    It is possible that such a divide existed in Pre-Roman times (though I doubt it*). However after 400 years of Romanisation, Belgium and the southern Netherlands as far as the Rhine, had become thoroughly Latin speaking. Germanic languages really only came back when the Franks started settling into Roman Belgium from the 3rd century onwards. Flemish place names are actually quite Saxon in appearance, with clear links in East England. So it is possible (and indeed probable) that the Flemings are descended in greater parts from the Saxons than the Franks, while the Walloons are an admixture or Franks and Gallo-Romans.

    * Language and culture typically go hand in hand. It can happen that an ethnic/genetic group shift language and culture, but there aren't many cases of people adopting a language without the culture that goes with it or vice versa. And Belgic people were undeniably a single cultural entity of Celtic rather than Germanic affinity.
    This is a bit complicated. Based on a statement by Julius Caesar in his Commentaries on the Gallic War that Gaul is divided into three parts (Aquitanian, Belgica and Celtica) and each of them has their own language and customs, some people in the past inferred that there was a linguistic boundary running through Gaul: with the Aquitani speaking obviously an old form of Basque (which was actually the case, even though only a fairly small part of the province of Aquitania, south of Garonne river, was actually Aquitanian), and with the Belgae puportedly speaking Germanic. However, if we look into ancient place and tribal names in Gallia Belgica (which, after all, not only corresponds to modern Belgium but also adjacent northeast France, the southern Netherlands and western Germany) they were overwhelmingly Celtic. Even Belgic tribes which Caesar or Tacitus mention as explicitly Germanic such as the Eburones, and Tungri have overtly Celtic names:

    - for the Eburones: *eburo- means 'yew', compare with Welsh "evor" (alder buckthorn), Breton "evor" (hogweed).
    - for the Tungri: Old Irish "tongaid" (to swear), also compare with the Gallaecian town name "Tungobriga"

    The situation looks a bit different at the immediate Rhine delta: we have towns like "Lugdunum Batavorum" and "Noviomagus" (Nijmegen), but as the latter name applies ("new field" or "new plain") these were newly-established settlements during the Roman period, with no clear continuity with earlier tribes.

    In a nutshell, the Romans didn't draw their province boundaries based on linguistic ones. The question obviously remains in what way these "Germanic" Belgae were actually Germanic in the Roman eyes. Were they Celticized Germanic tribes? Were they Celtic tribes that had migrated from the right-bank of the Rhine?

    So, my opinion is that the Flemish/Walloon linguistic boundary is most probably a product of the migration period, not of earlier events.
    Last edited by Taranis; 13-04-12 at 13:31. Reason: typos

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    What I find strange is that contrary to what happened in England with the Normans the language spoken in Wallonia is almost exclusively Romance.
    There are two good explanations for this difference:

    1) The Franks settled peacefully in Roman Belgium for over 200 years before the fall of the Roman Empire, and were integrated into Roman society, providing troops to protect the Roman borders against other Germanic tribes. Many Roman generals in the 4th and 5th centuries were of Frankish origin, and some Franks even became senators. So the Franks were already partly Latinised before the fall of Rome, while the Anglo-Saxons were responsible for the collapse of Roman Britain. Very different scenarios.

    2) After the fall of Rome, the Franks saw themselves as the heirs of the Romans, and the heir of their state religion (Christianity). Merovingian and Carolingian nobles spoke Latin between them, and only Frankish with the ordinary people (just like the Normans spoke French at court but English with the ordinary people). In contrast, the Anglo-Saxons spoke only their Germanic language until the Norman conquest, and even then only the new Norman elite spoke French or Latin. In Flanders or Germany, most of the population was Germanic and the Frankish language survived. In Wallonia, where the Merovingian and Carolingian courts were located, the Frankish elite spoke mostly Latin, and the ordinary people were mixed Germanic (1/3 to half) and Gallo-Roman (half to 2/3). With Latin/French spoken by both the elite and the masses, the Frankish tongue eventually disappeared (although it was still spoken around Liège at the time of Charlemagne, nearly 500 years after the first Franks settled there).


    English language is still made up by 2/3 of words of West Germanic origin, the proportion being higher if we only consider the most used words.
    This is not correct. Only one third of English vocabulary is of Germanic origin. Words from French, Latin and Greek make up nearly two thirds.

    Fact is that Wallonia is derived from "wahla", the Germanic word meaning "foreigner", "stranger", "Roman", "Romance-speaker", or "Celtic-speaker".
    I personally doubt that Wallonia comes from the Germanic word "wahla" because the term Wallonia is an invention from the Renaissance. It was never mentioned before the 16th century, and not commonly used until much later. Most Walloons I know immediately link the name Wallonia to the hilliness of the region, and think of Wallonia (or "Vallonia" as the French pronounce it) as the Land of the Valleys. Actually even the Walloon Government agrees with this, and there are plenty of tourist signs along the motorway showing "Pays des Vallées". Besides, most place names in Wallonia are Germanic, as I explained in the Belgian toponymy. Finally, why would the Franks call it land of the foreigners if their capitals (Tournai and Liège/Herstal) were based in Wallonia ? That just doesn't make sense. The name would have been better fitted to describe France than Wallonia. In any case, the name Wallonia didn't exist in Frankish time. It was just Frankland.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    "Average French" is not really relevant for physical comparisons. As you know France is quite a big country compared to BelgiumWithin France, people don't even look the same. To make a real comparison, one must take into account the neighbouring areas. I don't believe that people from Lorraine and Ardennes travelling in Wallonia would be immediatly recognized as foreigners. I'm not sure if that would be so for a Dutch person.
    I know that France is very genetically diverse. But wherever you look in France (except Flanders-Artois), Walloons look more similar to Flemings.

    I have been to Lorraine and Champagne, and people do look quite different from Wallonia. It's actually hard to say because there are many phenotypes in Wallonia, some more Flemish or German, others more like in Lorraine and Champagne. There is a north-south gradient in Wallonia for such phenotypes. For example people in Liège are much blonder than near Luxembourg.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    This is a bit complicated. Based on a statement by Julus Caesar in his Commentaries on the Gallic War that Gaul is divided into three parts (Aquitanian, Belgica and Celtica) and each of them has their own language and customs, some people in the past inferred that there was a linguistic boundary running through Gaul: with the Aquitani speaking obviously an old form of Basque (which was actually the case, even though only a fairly small part of the province of Aquitania, south of Garonne river, was actually Aquitanian), and with the Belgae puportedly speaking Germanic. However, if we look into ancient place and tribal names in Gallia Belgica (which, after all, not only corresponds to modern Belgium but also adjacent northeast France, the southern Netherlands and western Germany) they were overwhelmingly Celtic. Even Belgic tribes which Caesar or Tacitus mention as explicitly Germanic such as the Eburones, and Tungri have overtly Celtic names:

    - for the Eburones: *eburo- means 'yew', compare with Welsh "evor" (alder buckthorn), Breton "evor" (hogweed).
    - for the Tungri: Old Irish "tongaid" (to swear), also compare with the Gallaecian town name "Tungobriga"

    The situation looks a bit different at the immediate Rhine delta: we have towns like "Lugdunum Batavorum" and "Noviomagus" (Nijmegen), but as the latter name applies ("new field" or "new plain") these were newly-established settlements during the Roman period, with no clear continuity with earlier tribes.

    In a nutshell, the Romans didn't draw their province boundaries based on linguistic ones. The question obviously remains in what way these "Germanic" Belgae were actually Germanic in the Roman eyes. Were they Celticized Germanic tribes? Were they Celtic tribes that had migrated from the left-bank of the Rhine?

    So, my opinion is that the Flemish/Walloon linguistic boundary is most probably a product of the migration period, not of earlier events.
    Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    This is not correct. Only one third of English vocabulary is of Germanic origin. Words from French, Latin and Greek make up nearly two thirds.
    It depends on the source. 1/3 of words of Romance origin is generally accepted. You would find 1/3 of words of Germanic origin only in scientifical or juridical texts.

    Take a look at this list of the first 100 most commonly used words in English. The first word of Latin origin is number (76th place).
    The First Hundred

    1. the
    2. of
    3. and
    4. a
    5. to
    6. in
    7. is
    8. you
    9. that
    10. it
    11. he
    12. was
    13. for
    14. on
    15. are
    16. as
    17. with
    18. his
    19. they
    20. I
    1. at
    2. be
    3. this
    4. have
    5. from
    6. or
    7. one
    8. had
    9. by
    10. word
    11. but
    12. not
    13. what
    14. all
    15. were
    16. we
    17. when
    18. your
    19. can
    20. said
    1. there
    2. use
    3. an
    4. each
    5. which
    6. she
    7. do
    8. how
    9. their
    10. if
    11. will
    12. up
    13. other
    14. about
    15. out
    16. many
    17. then
    18. them
    19. these
    20. so
    1. some
    2. her
    3. would
    4. make
    5. like
    6. him
    7. into
    8. time
    9. has
    10. look
    11. two
    12. more
    13. write
    14. go
    15. see
    16. number
    17. no
    18. way
    19. could
    20. people
    1. my
    2. than
    3. first
    4. water
    5. been
    6. call
    7. who
    8. oil
    9. its
    10. now
    11. find
    12. long
    13. down
    14. day
    15. did
    16. get
    17. come
    18. made
    19. may
    20. par


    I personally doubt that Wallonia comes from the Germanic word "wahla" because the term Wallonia is an invention from the Renaissance. It was never mentioned before the 16th century, and not commonly used until much later. Most Walloons I know immediately link the name Wallonia to the hilliness of the region, and think of Wallonia (or "Vallonia" as the French pronounce it) as the Land of the Valleys. Actually even the Walloon Government agrees with this, and there are plenty of tourist signs along the motorway showing "Pays des Vallées". Besides, most place names in Wallonia are Germanic, as I explained in the Belgian toponymy. Finally, why would the Franks call it land of the foreigners if their capitals (Tournai and Liège/Herstal) were based in Wallonia ? That just doesn't make sense. The name would have been better fitted to describe France than Wallonia. In any case, the name Wallonia didn't exist in Frankish time. It was just Frankland.
    Thanks. I didn't know that explanation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    It depends on the source. 1/3 of words of Romance origin is generally accepted. You would find 1/3 of words of Germanic origin only in scientifical or juridical texts.

    Take a look at this list of the first 100 most commonly used words in English. The first word of Latin origin is number (76th place).
    Related, I've made this experiment a while back. In a nutshell, I agree that the core vocabulary of English, despite the substantial amount of Latin/Romance loanwords, is still Germanic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    It depends on the source. 1/3 of words of Romance origin is generally accepted. You would find 1/3 of words of Germanic origin only in scientifical or juridical texts.

    Take a look at this list of the first 100 most commonly used words in English. The first word of Latin origin is number (76th place)
    No, it doesn't depend on the source. The most basic vocabulary, everyday words and informal words are generally of Germanic origin, but the bulk of the vast English vocabulary (from half a million to one million words, depending on how you count, against only 70,000 for French) are formal, academic, scientific or technical words, and most are Romance or Greek, or more generally new constructions based on Latin and Greek roots (including most computer, medical and genetic terms).

    According to the Wikipedia article, out of the 100 most used words in English 97% are or Germanic origin. Among the top 1000 words, it already drops to 57%. In the next 1000, only 39% of words are Germanic. The proportion keeps decreasing as the number of words increases. I was too generous when I sid a third. It's actually only a fourth of the English vocabulary that is Germanic.

    Here is a pie chart from Wikipedia to visualise the distribution.

    600px-Origins_of_English_PieChart_2D.svg.png

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    Related, I've made this experiment a while back. In a nutshell, I agree that the core vocabulary of English, despite the substantial amount of Latin/Romance loanwords, is still Germanic.
    Indeed, usual english language remain largely Germanic, that is why for instance a French speaker would never understand a song in English unless he has learnt it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    No, it doesn't depend on the source. The most basic vocabulary, everyday words and informal words are generally of Germanic origin, but the bulk of the vast English vocabulary (half a million words against only 70,000 for French) are formal, academic, scientific or technical words, and most are Romance or Greek, or more generally new constructions based on Latin and Greek roots (including most computer, medical and genetic terms).
    The amount of Greek and Romance words in an English dictionnary doesn't change the fact that English speakers use mostly (more than 2/3) words of Germanic origin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    The amount of Greek and Romance words in an English dictionnary doesn't change the fact that English speakers use mostly (more than 2/3) words of Germanic origin.
    If the people you frequent have a vocabulary of less than 1000 words...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    If the people you frequent have a vocabulary of less than 1000 words...

    Just compare any English songs or Tv series with more formal speech or texts. Part of non Germanic words decreases as the speech becomes less formal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    No, it doesn't depend on the source. The most basic vocabulary, everyday words and informal words are generally of Germanic origin, but the bulk of the vast English vocabulary (from half a million to one million words, depending on how you count, against only 70,000 for French) are formal, academic, scientific or technical words, and most are Romance or Greek, or more generally new constructions based on Latin and Greek roots (including most computer, medical and genetic terms).

    According to the Wikipedia article, out of the 100 most used words in English 97% are or Germanic origin. Among the top 1000 words, it already drops to 57%. In the next 1000, only 39% of words are Germanic. The proportion keeps decreasing as the number of words increases. I was too generous when I sid a third. It's actually only a fourth of the English vocabulary that is Germanic.

    Here is a pie chart from Wikipedia to visualise the distribution.

    600px-Origins_of_English_PieChart_2D.svg.png
    i presume the french portion would be mostly

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-N...had_on_English

    in origin

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    I agree with Spongetaro: the basic folk vocabulary of english is more germanic than the high standard language -
    but all modern languages are loaning words here and there and loosing their original peculiarities in some way: but the basic everyday language keeps more easily the old words - slavic vocabulary is full of latin or greek words concerning abstract lexic but their everyday slavic speach remains more typically slavic -
    but yes, the french (more than latin) impact on english language is very strong, nevertheless, even when taking differences of level in account
    for Wallonia, I think that the part of pre-Celts and Celts demic stock is very heavier than the Germanic part (and even more, than the Roman one)- I agree with Spongetaro again about France Gallo-Roman people: France WAS not even at all: big enough differences between regions - the East of France was different from the West and the South and center and ... - Germanic invasions had an impact but before that, yet, there was differences (different weights of ethnies and of mixtures: Basques or Aquitanians, Iberians (even if light enough), Ligurians, Celts and celtized people with the pre-I-E people incorporated (even there: unequal levels of admixture: Mesolithics >< Neolithics) - Liège is "nordic" enough, it is true, but it is not the rule for the most of Wallonia: and some 'nordic' influence existed yet from the celtic period, even if slight (celts was already an admixture)
    so, germanic influence in Wallonia as a whole, but not dominant at all for I think -
    the explanation of the romance language of Southern Belgium lays in the heavy weight of non-germanic populations helped by the lost of the germanic language by the Francs elite, that were drown in Ile-de-France among romance speakers and identified themselves to Roman descendants. What would be very interesting should be having good surveys about the diverse "strata" of placenames in Belgium, to verify or dismiss the theory of perduration or replacement of languages in Belgium (a survey about Scotland showed very well the different parts ot this countries and Brittons, Picts, Gaels, Saxons and Vikings's settlements) -

    concerning the impressions we can have today when visiting a country, I recall that french "republican" system favorized blending between populations and that the present days big towns of France tend to present a "mean french sample" of population that does not reflect the ancient rural populations (they ware more distinct), what does not help to guess the ancient stages of history -

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    just to tickle up the feet of Spongetaro about the name 'walloon':
    even if this name was given very late, I suppose it took its form from a previous existing word where I am almost sure was the root '*walh-' (<< *valk' >> *'volk-' /W-/ not /V-/
    the common nouns 'val', 'vaux', 'vallon' are all derived from latin or romance with the /V/ value, nothing to do with 'W-', for I think -
    I believe that 'wallon' is said 'Waal' in dutch language
    read you again

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