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Thread: How French is the English language ?

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    How French is the English language ?





    Various studies have been done to estimate the proportion of words of French origin in the English vocabulary. Although the figures differ according to the study, it is always estimated that the proportion of words of French origins is bigger than the proportion of words of "Old English" origin and it is estimated that English speakers who have never studied French already know 15000 French words.
    The introduction of thousnads of French words in the English language is the consequence of a "French speaking Elite" rule over England during the Norman and Angevin era. In fact it means that paradoxically, the cultural influence of the Norman and Angevin over England was bigger than the Frankish one over France.
    The coat of arms of the UK is still French today.






    A computerised survey of about 80,000 words in the old Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd ed.) was published in Ordered Profusion by Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff (1973)[87] that estimated the origin of English words as follows:



    • Langue d'oïl, including French and Old Norman: 28.3%
    • Latin, including modern scientific and technical Latin: 28.24%
    • Germanic languages (including words directly inherited from Old English; does not include Germanic words coming from the Germanic element in French, Latin or other Romance languages): 25%
    • Greek: 5.32%
    • No etymology given: 4.03%
    • Derived from proper names: 3.28%
    • All other languages: less than 1%

    A survey by Joseph M. Williams in Origins of the English Language of 10,000 words taken from several thousand business letters gave this set of statistics:[88]

    • French (langue d'oïl): 41%
    • "Native" English: 33%
    • Latin: 15%
    • Old Norse: 2%
    • Dutch: 1%
    • Other: 10%





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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    An implication for English speakers is that French (and other Romance languages, for that matter) tends to be among the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, alongside Germanic languages. Other Centum IE languages that have not influenced English as much, like Celtic languages and Greek, tend to be much more difficult, even though they are often equally distant from English on the canonical language tree as French.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    An implication for English speakers is that French (and other Romance languages, for that matter) tends to be among the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, alongside Germanic languages. Other Centum IE languages that have not influenced English as much, like Celtic languages and Greek, tend to be much more difficult, even though they are often equally distant from English on the canonical language tree as French.
    It is at least easy to "read" for English speakers.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    I can definitely see how this is the case, and i find it interesting how the proportion of languages changes depending on the nature of what is being said, for example if writing or speech is formal and/or academic, it appears to be very Latin/French heavy, while more ordinary speech and informal speech is heavier on the Germanic words - almost like there is an Upper and Lower language. But i'd agree about French being one of the easier languages to learn, listening to a French person speak it is often easy to understand what they might be talking about*, although of course the word order and masculine and feminine words and grammar make it more difficult.

    *Edit: By that i mean you might hear a couple of words you recognise, so you have some idea of what they are talking about.

    It's really interesting how in different circumstances, the language of the ruling elite can graft itself onto the pre-existing language, or at least that's how it appears and sounds.

    Interesting stuff, thanks for the link!

    Kind Regards,
    Sam Jackson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackson View Post
    i find it interesting how the proportion of languages changes depending on the nature of what is being said, for example if writing or speech is formal and/or academic, it appears to be very Latin/French heavy, while more ordinary speech and informal speech is heavier on the Germanic words - almost like there is an Upper and Lower language.
    I agree with you. Typically, hip hop songs contain a lots of Germanic words which make them hard to understand for French speakers. In return, formal speech like politician speech are a lot easier to understand.

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    How French is English?...not in any meaningful way. Unless it must be a big whopping waste of time any English speakers learning French and Latin since we are already understood, and speak and understand French and Latin, and therefore (even if they weren't aware) anyone whose learned English has also learned French and Latin!! See what happens when you overindulge someones hogwash Jackson? Sigh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    It is at least easy to "read" for English speakers.
    For god sake, it is NOT "easy" for English speakers to read French. Sometimes clocking lookalike words in French doth maketh French eath and understandsome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selwyn Greenfrith View Post
    How French is English?...not in any meaningful way. Unless it must be a big whopping waste of time any English speakers learning French and Latin since we are already understood, and speak and understand French and Latin, and therefore (even if they weren't aware) anyone whose learned English has also learned French and Latin!! See what happens when you overindulge someones hogwash Jackson? Sigh.
    Way to misrepresent the point. We're talking about etymology, and we also started talking about how similarities can make languages relatively easy to learn. There's obviously no implication that English and French are mutually intelligible, nor does the fact that there isn't imply that English isn't French "in any meaningful way."

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    Way to misrepresent the point. We're talking about etymology, and we also started talking about how similarities can make languages relatively easy to learn. There's obviously no implication that English and French are mutually intelligible, nor does the fact that there isn't imply that English isn't French "in any meaningful way."
    Hullo sparkey, nothing wrong with talking over the likeness between languages but I did not twist anything. The thread heading (in rather odd wording) asked: How French is the English Language? and I gave an answer to it. Even Jackson himself had to unmisword himself after being led up the garth path by Spongo. Anyway, I truthfully feel there was (willfully or not) an underhint that English and French are somehow evenway understood - which is sheer moonshine. Goes to show how meaningless all those "15000" foreknown untaught French words are.

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    maybe it should say , how French ( l'oil) is the English language considering the the germanic franks occupied only northern france and brought old germanic to mix with "gallic" to create this language.

    the southern french might be more Romance inclined linguistically
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occitan_language

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    In my opinion, the question shouldn't be "how French is the English language", but how Romance?

    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    An implication for English speakers is that French (and other Romance languages, for that matter) tends to be among the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, alongside Germanic languages. Other Centum IE languages that have not influenced English as much, like Celtic languages and Greek, tend to be much more difficult, even though they are often equally distant from English on the canonical language tree as French.
    I'm not sure if French is that easy to learn for the Anglophones compared to other languages. Though, I must say as a native speaker of German I'm not sure how eligible I'm to make a statement there. I think it hasn't outright to do with the "distance" of a language in the IE tree but with the language structure. Modern Greek, while having a somewhat simplified grammar against it's precursors, is still a highly inflected language reminiscient of the "old" Indo-European languages. Yet, there's actually a fair share of Greek loanwords, there's a lot of terms which you can also find in most other modern European languages. Greek or Greek-derived words in English includes terms like aphrodisiac, chaos, cyclops, dystopia, erotic, euthanasia, hydrant, morphine, odyssey, polemic or synthesis.


    With the Celtic languages, there's actually a surprisingly large (larger than anybody at first glance would expect, anyways) share of Celtic words in English, but most of them entered into English either as borrowings from Celtic into Proto-Germanic, from Gaulish into Vulgar Latin (which then entered English via French), or comparable modern borrowings from Gaelic or Welsh directly into English.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selwyn Greenfrith View Post
    How French is English?...not in any meaningful way. Unless it must be a big whopping waste of time any English speakers learning French and Latin since we are already understood, and speak and understand French and Latin, and therefore (even if they weren't aware) anyone whose learned English has also learned French and Latin!! See what happens when you overindulge someones hogwash Jackson? Sigh.
    Yes i see what you mean, i was just writing from my own experience and that you can sometimes pick up words that give you an idea of what they might be talking about - In terms of the actual language structure it's sort of the opposite for a language like Dutch: i find it most visible in song lyrics but grammatically it is much easier to understand, and a lot of the words look like strange spellings or pronounciations of English words (or the other way around), and some of the words don't seem familiar at all - Of course that would change if i was to read say something academic in Dutch, i would have a harder time understanding the words because there would be less with common links due to them being replaced or coexistant with French or Latin derived words in English - Although i don't know about the extent of Latinisation in other languages,l so i assume this is the case.

    That's what i make of it from my own observances, i don't know enough about language to make any more meaningful observations - but to cut it short French shares some words, or very similar words - but the structure and pronounciation make it hard to understand, whereas with something like Dutch i can often understand basic phrases and the structure is more similar, but there are some words which seem strange because we use Latin or French derived words in their place, or more often in their place.

    I don't know if this is correct, but i'm guessing words are more open to change than structure and other elements, so you could start with a Germanic 'base' and plonk lots of French or Latin words in it (oversimplification of course) - so it is essentially a partly (i guess it's open for debate, as anything) Latinised Germanic language. It makes sense at least from the little knowledge i have, as there are a lot of words with Latin/French forms and Germanic forms, which are used interchangably, so i think while this pie chart is good - You would have to make a new one for each social context.

    I find languages very interesting, but like i say i haven't studied them really so this is only based on observation, but i think it is reasonable.

    But yeah i stick to what i said earlier, i would say the mutual inteilligibility between English and French is not great, as even if you might understand a few words, it doesn't give a real context to it - but because of the large amount of word-sharing it is likely easier to learn than some other languages. I mean, even if you replaced every single word with a French/Latin equivalent, it would probably still sound to the listener as though you were speaking like Yoda at the very best, i'm sure. :]


    Kind Regards,
    Sam Jackson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    In my opinion, the question shouldn't be "how French is the English language", but how Romance?



    I'm not sure if French is that easy to learn for the Anglophones compared to other languages. Though, I must say as a native speaker of German I'm not sure how eligible I'm to make a statement there. I think it hasn't outright to do with the "distance" of a language in the IE tree but with the language structure. Modern Greek, while having a somewhat simplified grammar against it's precursors, is still a highly inflected language reminiscient of the "old" Indo-European languages. Yet, there's actually a fair share of Greek loanwords, there's a lot of terms which you can also find in most other modern European languages. Greek or Greek-derived words in English includes terms like aphrodisiac, chaos, cyclops, dystopia, erotic, euthanasia, hydrant, morphine, odyssey, polemic or synthesis.


    With the Celtic languages, there's actually a surprisingly large (larger than anybody at first glance would expect, anyways) share of Celtic words in English, but most of them entered into English either as borrowings from Celtic into Proto-Germanic, from Gaulish into Vulgar Latin (which then entered English via French), or comparable modern borrowings from Gaelic or Welsh directly into English.
    Is ancient celtic leaning to the gaulish or germanic side and with that over time, being latinized or germanized?
    You are indicating that the germanic language entered england prior to the latin one.........or am i reading this wrong

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post


    With the Celtic languages, there's actually a surprisingly large (larger than anybody at first glance would expect, anyways) share of Celtic words in English, but most of them entered into English either as borrowings from Celtic into Proto-Germanic, from Gaulish into Vulgar Latin (which then entered English via French), or comparable modern borrowings from Gaelic or Welsh directly into English.
    And how similar were Celt from England and Gaulish?
    According to a theory, eastern Breton language (Vannetais) is preserved Gaulish dialect spoken before the arrivals of Britons in Armorica.
    Anyway, southern Britons and northern Gauls must have speak some sort of "Belgian" Celtic.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by zanipolo View Post
    Is ancient celtic leaning to the gaulish or germanic side and with that over time, being latinized or germanized?
    You are indicating that the germanic language entered england prior to the latin one.........or am i reading this wrong

    No, you got that wrong. I was talking about the chronological order by which words entered the English language. English is (via Anglo-Saxon, or Old English), descended from Proto-Germanic. The early Proto-Germanic language (before Grimm's Law) borrowed words from Celtic (such as "mare", "iron"), so these would be the oldest Celtic words in English. The Romans were obioulsy in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons, but obviously, early Anglo-Saxon was spoken at the other end of the North Sea (ie in Denmark and northwestern Germany) before the Migration Period.

    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    And how similar were Celt from England and Gaulish?
    According to a theory, eastern Breton language (Vannetais) is preserved Gaulish dialect spoken before the arrivals of Britons in Armorica.
    The "Old" Brythonic language (that is, the language spoken during the time of the Roman conquest of Britain) must have been very similar to Gaulish. By the migration period, Brythonic evolved into a very different direction, however.

    I do not think however that any of the Breton dialects is actually descended from Gaulish. However, I think it's quite likely that Gaulish was actually still a living language when the Britons arived in Aremorica.

    Anyway, southern Britons and northern Gauls must have speak some sort of "Belgian" Celtic.
    That's an interesting question, for which I haven't found a satisfying answer. Caesar, famously, claimed that the Belgae had their own distinct language, but what made is language so distinct is impossible to tell from the evidence. Some people made the Belgae Germanic rather than Celtic (which is probably true for some of the tribes in the immediate Rhine delta), but the names in Belgica are overwhelmingly Celtic. There's the possibility that there's a grain of truth to the Northwestblock hypothesis, but I retain some scepticism there. If it wasn't for Caesar's statement, I'd say the Belgae were (mostly) just Gauls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post

    I do not think however that any of the Breton dialects is actually descended from Gaulish. However, I think it's quite likely that Gaulish was actually still a living language when the Britons arived in Aremorica.

    According to Gregory of Tours, Gaulish was still spoken in the countryside near Tours at the End of the VIth century.

    According to some Swiss linguist Celt was replaced by German in Alemanic Switzerland in the VIIth century.

    A stelae in Gaulish from the IVth century has been found in Morbihan (South Eastern Britanny) where Vannetais would be spoken later , the "Tavola da Este" inscription
    http://www.maknews.com/html/articles.../ambrozic.html

    Then, I took this from a French forum. I don't have the time now to translate it but you can still see the main points. Breton kept some traits of Gaulish, especially the "Vannetais" dialect spoken in Morbihan where the Britons didn't come massively.

    Héritage gaulois du breton

    Celui-ci est avéré (lire Fleuriot, "les Origines de la Bretagne", Payot 1980) par des éléments comme :

    - traitement vocalique : breton rusk > traitement gaulois de la voyelle u, qui normalement aurait du évoluer vers i (comparer gaulois dunon > breton din)

    - conservation du s gaulois : an dra-se ; l'évolution insulaire normale eut été an dra-he (forme employée d'ailleurs dans une partie du domaine breton)

    - Pour gw initial, Fleuriot évoque un traitement comparable en breton et dans les dialectes romans du nord de la Gaule. Pour lui, ce phénomène ne peut être lié au seul hasard et correspond à un trait phonétique du gaulois tardif.

    - toponymie : en Loire-Atlantique, la ville d'Héric côtoie la rivière Isar. Or Héric semble être le traitement insulaire de *Isariakon (> *Ihariakon), tandis que Isar représente le traitement gaulois, avec conservation du s intervocalique, de *Isara. Les formes anciennes de Héric sont : Hihariacum (XIe) et Hiheric (XIIIe).

    De tels faits linguistiques prouvent qu'il y a eu contact en Armorique entre locuteurs du breton et locuteurs du gaulois tardif. Mais cela ne veut pas forcément dire que le breton vient du gaulois, nuance.

    Phonétique du vannetais par rapport au KLT

    On entend régulièrement que c'est la phonétique du bas-latin qui a donné ses particularités au vannetais (et au guérandais) par rapport au KLT. A cela plusieurs réflexions :

    - la phonétique du français, lui-même issu des parlers romans du nord de la Gaule, passe pour très gauloise. Par quel miracle, dès lors que l'on pénétrerait dans le domaine vannetais, ces mêmes traits de phonétique devraient-ils subitement être attribués au bas-latin et non plus au gaulois tardif ?

    - Fleuriot prétend que le KLT n'est pas plus insulaire que le vannetais : il se base sur le traitement de w intervocalique, mieux conservé dans les dialectes orientaux du breton : KLT teod (langue); vann tewed, Treg. tawat. Cette conservation serait un trait insulaire. Sa démonstration tombe un peu à l'eau avec le breton guérandais tyat, à l'extrême sud-est du domaine bretonnant, mais bon.

    - substrat / adstrat : expliquer la phonétique du vannetais (et du breton du Goëlo, et du breton guérandais) par un substrat bas-latin est la règle commune. C'est très difficile à prouver (cela repose sur le postulat fragile d'une romanisation très précoce et totale), et c'est aussi oublier que ces dialectes du breton ont connu un très fort adstrat roman médiéval, bien attesté celui-là.

    - la dialectalisation : chez les spécialistes, il est courant de prétendre que les dialectes du breton ne se sont différenciés qu'à partir du XVIe siècle. Dans ce cas, comment ces mêmes spécialistes peuvent-ils affirmer que les particularités du vannetais viennent du bas-latin ??? Cela voudrait dire que nos amis vannetais auraient attendu à peu près 1200 ans pour se décider à parler avec leur accent ? Ca, c'est de la mémoire à long terme !

    - une réflexion d'ordre général : discutez de la dialectalisation des langues avec des linguistes spécialisés. Ils vous diront tous qu'une langue peut prendre une infinité de formes sans qu'un processus objectif soit nécessaire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    No, you got that wrong. I was talking about the chronological order by which words entered the English language. English is (via Anglo-Saxon, or Old English), descended from Proto-Germanic. The early Proto-Germanic language (before Grimm's Law) borrowed words from Celtic (such as "mare", "iron"), so these would be the oldest Celtic words in English. The Romans were obioulsy in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons, but obviously, early Anglo-Saxon was spoken at the other end of the North Sea (ie in Denmark and northwestern Germany) before the Migration Period.

    We all know that latin entered england at least 500 years before the angels, jutes, frisians and saxons. The english would have already been speaking a "gaulish" and or pictish language , a language the romans knew from the continent and the latin would have been established after the centuries of roman rule, it continued to grow and prosper under the nobility, clergy and artisans ( all who knew how to read and write) and eventually only stopped by agreement at the peace of westphalia in 1648.
    Granted , the germanics/norse entered mostly likely after the romans left.
    The words would only have seemed to be germanic in majority to us only due to the populace ( peasants) becoming slowing literate over time.

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    Country: Australia



    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    According to Gregory of Tours, Gaulish was still spoken in the countryside near Tours at the End of the VIth century.

    According to some Swiss linguist Celt was replaced by German in Alemanic Switzerland in the VIIth century.

    A stelae in Gaulish from the IVth century has been found in Morbihan (South Eastern Britanny) where Vannetais would be spoken later , the "Tavola da Este" inscription
    http://www.maknews.com/html/articles.../ambrozic.html

    Then, I took this from a French forum. I don't have the time now to translate it but you can still see the main points. Breton kept some traits of Gaulish, especially the "Vannetais" dialect spoken in Morbihan where the Britons didn't come massively.
    i do not understand your link and what it has to do with venetic

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    According to some Swiss linguist Celt was replaced by German in Alemanic Switzerland in the VIIth century.
    Do you have a reference for this? That interests me tremendously.

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