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Old French

R. d'ANGLETERRE

S. : Seigneurie
V. : Vicomt
C. : Comt

Duch
Anvers

Bruges

Douvres

Gravelines
de
Gand
Furnes
M. : Marquisat
Guines
C.
C. de
C.
D. : Duch
BRABANT
Boulogne
JULIERS
St-Omer Ypres
D. de
Courtrai
R. : Royaume
Bruxelles Louvain
Throuanne
Cologne
LIMBOURG
Tournai
Aire
Lille
Evch
Montreuil-sur-Mer
Aix-la-Chapelle
Comt
Hesdin
Bouvines
Saint-Pol
Archevch
1214
Mons
Lige
C. C.
Namur
C. de
Monastre
C. de
Arras
de
PONTHIEU
Valenciennes
NAMUR
Bataille
Abbeville
Cambrai
La Roche
Eu
Corbie
D. de
HAINAUT
C.
Pronne
FRANCO
Cherbourg
Dieppe
Aumale Amiens
NIE
Fcamp
Comt
C.
C. de St-Quentin
Guernesey
C. d'AMIENS
Rumigny
Nesle VERMANDOIS
Bouillon
de
Rouen
Marle
Mayence
Breteuil
Bayeux
S.
Jersey
Trguier
LUXEMBOURG Trves
Coutances
Mzires
Coucy
Caen
Saint-Pol-de-Lon
S. Chteau- Gisors Beauvais Clermont Noyon
Laon
Luxembourg
C.
Rethel
Harcourt Gaillard V
Worms
C.
Roucy
C.
C. de
EX
Lisieux
Soissons
IN
RETHEL
C.
Crpy
C.
C.
Guingamp
Vernon
V. de LEON
Falaise
Evreux
IS
Saint-Malo
Beaumont
Brest
Reims
LO
Grandpr
Avranches
Mantes
Senlis
VAChteau- Chtillon
C. de PENTHIEVRE
V.
Spires
de Thierry
Saint-Denis C.
Verdun
C. Tinchebray
Epernay
C. de CORNOUAILLES
Verneuil
1106
Argentan
Saint-Brieuc Dinan
Metz
Mortain
Dol
Meaux
Dreux Montfort
Domfront
Ses
S.
C. de
Chlons
C.
DREUX
Alenon
Quimper
Montlhry
Bar
C. de
C. du
Mayenne
Melun
Toul
Rohan
Provins
Vitry-en-Perthois
RENNES
PERCHE
Porhot
Etampes
Baden
Laval
Rennes
Nogent-le-Rotrou Chartres
Strasbourg
Bray
Nogent
C.
Nemours
Joinville Vaucouleurs
Troyes Bar- S.
Vannes
sur-Aube
Sens
Sabl
Le Mans
Chteaudun
C.
Craon
Courtenay
C.
C. de
Montargis
Chteaubriant
D. de
BarJoigny
Clairvaux
Orlans
VENDME
sur-Seine
SOUABE
Chteau- C.
C. de
Renard
C. de
Vendme
Belle-le
Beaugency
NANTES
Fribourg
TONNERRE
Angers
Langres
Auxerre
Blois
Tonnerre
Nantes
Tours
C. d'AUXERRE
C. de
Vesoul
S. de RAIS
Donzy
SANCERRE
Saumur
Montbliard Ble
Vzelay
Sancerre
Montaigu
Dijon
Thouars
Loches
S.
Loudun
Comt
V.

C. de
FLANDRE

DE

I N

PR
INC
IP

AU
TE

LIE

GE

Hastings
1066

de

C.

ALSA

LORRAINE

CE

Duch de

C. du MAINE

E
P I R
E M

C. de
CHAMPAGNE

Paris

BRETAGNE

PO
RC

IE
N

Duch de
NORMANDIE

Duch de

Comt

SA

NG

Cahors

ASTARAC
C.

Jaca

yau

d'A

C. de
RODEZ

Mende

V. de
MILLAU
V.
Nmes

C.
V. de Montpellier Melgueil
BEZIERS S. Maguelonne

E
NN Bziers
SO Narbonne
V.
de AS
V. RC
CA
Perpignan

CONFLENT
C.

V.
Agde

HGrenoble
IN
E

Comt de

Aix

Ivre

SAVOIE

St-Michelde-Maurienne

Turin

IE

QU

AL

Vintimille

PROVENCE Grasse
Frjus

Marseille
Toulon

Elne
C. de
ROUSSILLON

Comt de
RA
BARCELONE

GO

Motiers

Chartreuse

Gap

Sion

Aoste

RC Embrun
St-Paul
FO
Vaison
de
Orange
C.
C. Carpentras Sisteron
Digne
Forcalquier
Avignon
Glandves
Senez
Cavaillon
Apt
Vence
Riez
Arles
Nice

S.
Uzs

Lodve

Castelnaudary
Carcassonne

UP

C. de VALENTINOIS
et DIOIS Die

Millau

V. d'ALBI

de

Lyon

C. d'ALBON

VIVARAIS
Viviers

Comt

C. de
GENEVE

C.
Vienne

Valence

TOULOUSE

Toulouse

Tarascon

me

Rodez

Albi

Lausanne

DA

C. de
VELAY

Berne

Genve

Belley

Le Puy

Carlat
V.

de

(France / autres)

PARDIAC
C.

Pau

FOREZ

C. de
GEVAUDAN
C. de ROUERGUE

QUERCY

V. de Oloron
St-Bertrand-deBEARN Tarbes Comminges
ES
C. de
C. de
e G
FOIX
BIGORRE . d MIN
C M St-Lizier
Foix
O
COUSERANS
C.
C

Ro

Domaine royal
Limite du royaume
Frontires actuelles

A
RD
BA V.
GA

Lescar

Mercur
S.

Murat
V.

Aurillac

Comt

Lectoure Montauban
LOMAGNE
V.
AC
AC
GN
NS
MA .
ZE .
AR C FE C GAURE
C.
Auch

d'AUVERGNE

IS

Bayonne

Pampelune

Comt

La Tour

Feurs
Montbrison

Lucerne

Salins
Lons-le-Saunier

Beaujeu
S. de
BEAUJEU

C. de

NA
LYON
C.

TO

IN

R. de
CASTILLE
R. de
et LEON
NAVARRE

AGENAIS
Agen

V.
MARSAN
Mont-deMarsan

TURSAN
V. Aire

Turenne
V.

Bergerac

Cluny
C.
Semuren-Brionnais Mcon

G E
R M
A N
I Q U
E

de

C. de PERIGORD

Thiers

Clermont

BOURGOGNE

Beaune
Chalon
C.

BOURGOGNE

Montpensier
S.

Aubusson

Ventadour V.

Prigueux

Bazas
BAZADAIS

S. d'ALBRET
Albret
Tartas

Guret

V. de LIMOGES

d' A Q U I T A I N E

La Teste-de-Buch

Dax

Bellac

Chlus Limoges

Besanon

Cteaux

Autun

CE

C.

Angoulme

Moulins

S. de Jaligny
BOURBON

Grandmont

d'ANGOULME

Fronsac

Bordeaux

Bourbonl'Archembault

Boussac Montluon

C. de la MARCHE

Taillebourg
Saintes C.

Blaye

NEVERS

Orval

EN

Duch

St-Jeand'Angely

Royan

Lusignan
S.

de

de

Nevers

S. de
DEOLS

Poitiers

Niort

Mauze

Comt de

Bourges

PR

AUNIS

ISSOIssoudun
UD
UN

Chteauroux Dols

OV

S. d'

Parthenay

Duch

TOURAINE

V.
Chtellerault

M.
de

La Rochelle

C. de
BLOIS

R O M A I N

d'ANJOU

C. de POITOU

S.
Talmont Fontenay
S.

The territory where Old French was spoken natively


roughly extended to the historical Kingdom of France
and its vassals (including parts of the Angevin Empire
which during the 12th century remained under AngloNorman rule), and Burgundy, Lorraine and Savoy to
the east (corresponding to modern north-central France,
Belgian Wallonia, western Switzerland and northwestern
Italy) but the inuence of Old French was much wider, as
it was carried to England, Sicily and the Crusader states
as the language of a feudal elite and of commerce (the
term lingua franca indeed derives from the name of the
French language, even though the Romance-based pidgin so identied was substantially based on Occitan and
Italian).

Cantorbry

La France en 1180

Old French (franceis, franois, romanz; Modern French


ancien franais) was the Gallo-Romance dialect continuum spoken from the 9th century to the 14th century. In
the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively
known as the langues d'ol, contrasting with the langues
d'oc or Occitan languages in the south of France. The
mid 14th century is taken as the transitional period to
Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance,
specically based on the dialect of the Ile de France region.

Fiefs mouvant de la couronne


Languedoc :
Seigneuries ecclsiastiques
Comt de Toulouse
Autres fiefs
Possessions des Trencavel
Possessions des fils de Thibault IV de Blois :
Influence du roi d'Aragon
Comts de Champagne, de Blois, de Sancerre

Possessions d'Henri II Plantagent


Duchs d'Anjou, du Maine, Touraine
Duch de Normandie (1144)
Duch d'Aquitaine (1152)
Royaume d'Angleterre (1154)
Bretagne sous influence des Plantagents

Map of France in 1180, at the height of the feudal system. The


possessions of the French king are in light blue, vassals to the
French king in green, Angevin possessions in red. Shown in white
is the Holy Roman Empire to the east, the western fringes of
which, including Upper Burgundy and Lorraine were also part
of the Old French areal.

Areal and dialectal divisions

Dialects or variants of Old French included:

Further information: Langues d'ol and Gallo-Romance


The areal of Old French in contemporary terms corresponded to the northern parts of the Kingdom of France
(including Anjou and Normandy, which in the 12th century were ruled by the Plantagenet kings of England),
Upper Burgundy and the duchy of Lorraine. The Norman
dialect was also spread to England and Ireland, and during the crusades, Old French was also spoken in the
Kingdom of Sicily, and in the Principality of Antioch and
the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Levant.

the Burgundian of Burgundy, then an independent


duchy whose capital was at Dijon;
the Picard language of Picardy, whose principal
cities were Calais and Lille. It was said that the Picard language began at the east door of Notre-Dame
de Paris, so far-reaching was its inuence;
Old Norman, spoken in Normandy, whose principal cities were Caen and Rouen. The Norman conquest of England brought many Norman-speaking
aristocrats into the British Isles. Most of the older
Norman (sometimes called French) words in the
English language reect the inuence of this variety of Ol language which became a conduit for the
introduction into the Anglo-Norman realm, as did
Anglo-Norman control of Anjou and Gascony and
other continental possessions. The Anglo-Norman
language reected a shared culture on both sides of
the English Channel.[2] Ultimately, this language declined and fell, becoming Law French, a jargon spo-

As part of the emerging Gallo-Romance dialect continuum, the langues d'ol were contrasted with the langue
d'oc (the emerging Occitano-Romance group, at the time
also called Provenal, adjacent to the Old French areal in
the south-west, and with the Gallo-Italic (Old Italian)
group to the south-east. The Franco-Provenal group developed in Upper Burgundy, sharing features with both
French and Provenal; it may have begun to diverge from
the langues d'ol as early as the 9th century, and is attested
as distinct variant of French from the 12th century.
1

HISTORY

ken by lawyers, which was used in English law un- 2.2 Non-Latin inuences
til the reign of Charles II. Norman, however, still
survives in Normandy and the Channel Islands as a
Further information: List of French words of Gaulish
regional language;
origin and List of French words of Germanic origin
the Walloon language, centered around Namur in
Some Gaulish words inuenced Vulgar Latin and,
present-day Wallonia;
through this, other Romance languages. For example,
the Gallo language of Brittany, the Romance lan- classical Latin equus was uniformly replaced in Vulgar
Latin by caballus nag, work horse derived from Gaulguage of the Duchy of Brittany;
ish caballos (cf. Welsh ceyl, Breton kefel),[8] giving
Modern French cheval, Occitan caval (chaval), Cata the Lorrain, the Romance language of the Duchy of lan cavall, Spanish caballo, Portuguese cavalo, ItalLorraine.
ian cavallo, Romanian cal, and, by extension, English
cavalry. An estimated 200 words of Gaulish etymology
survive in modern French, for example chne oak tree
and charrue plough.[9]
Despite attempts to explain some phonetic changes being
caused by a Gaulish substrate, only one of them is certain,
because this fact is clearly attested in the Gaulish language
epigraphy, e.g. on the pottery found at la Graufesenque
(A.D. 1st century) the Greek word paropsid-es (written in
Latin) appears as paraxsid-i.[10] The consonant clusters
/ps/ and /pt/ shifted to /xs/ and /xt/, e.g. Latin capsa >
*kaxsa > caisse ( Italian cassa) or captvus > *kaxtivus
> OF chaitif [11] (mod. chtif; cf. Irish cacht servant;
Italian cattiv-it, Spanish cautivo). This phonetic evolution is parallel to the shift of the Latin cluster /kt/ in
Old French (Latin factum > fait, Italian fatto, Spanish
hecho; or lactem* > lait, Italian latte, Spanish leche).

Distribution of the modern langues d'ol (shades of green) and


of Franco-Provenal dialects (shades of blue)

Modern languages derived from Old French dialects other than the Classical French based on the
Ile de France dialect include: Angevin, Berrichon,
Bourguignon-Morvandiau, Champenois, Franc-Comtois,
Gallo, Lorrain, Norman, Picard, Poitevin, Saintongeais,
Walloon.

2
2.1

History
Evolution from Vulgar Latin

Beginning with Plautuss time (254184 b.c.), Classical


Latins phonological structure changed, eventually yielding Vulgar Latin, the common spoken language of the
Western Roman Empire. This latter form diered
strongly from its classical counterpart in phonology; it
was the ancestor of the Romance languages, including
Old French.[3][4][5][6][7]

The pronunciation, vocabulary, and syntax of the Vulgar


Latin spoken in Roman Gaul in Late Antiquity was modied by the Old Frankish language spoken by the Franks
who settled in Gaul from the 5th century and conquered
the entire Old French-speaking area by the 530s. The
name franais itself is derived from the name the Franks.
The Old Frankish language had a denitive inuence on
the birth of Old French, which partly explains why the
earliest attested Old French documents are older than
the earliest attestations in other Romance languages (e.g.
Strasbourg Oaths, Sequence of Saint Eulalia).[12] It is the
result of an earlier gap created between Latin and the new
language, which severed the intercomprehensibility between the two. The Old Low Franconian inuence is
also believed to be responsible for the dierences between the langue dol and the langue doc (Occitan), being that various parts of Northern France remained bilingual between Latin and Germanic for some time,[13] and
these areas correspond precisely to where the rst documents in Old French were written. This Germanic language shaped the popular Latin spoken here and gave it
a very distinctive identity compared to the other future
Romance languages. The very rst noticeable inuence
is the substitution of the Latin melodic accent by a Germanic stress[14] and its result was diphthongization, differentiation between long and short vowels, the fall of
the unaccentuated syllable and of the nal vowels, e.g.

2.4

Transition to Middle French

Latin decimus, -a tenth > OF disme > F dme tithe (> E


dime; Italian decima, Spanish diezmo); VL dignitate > OF
deinti (> E dainty. Italian degnit, Romanian demnitate);
or VL catena > OF chaeine (> E chain. Occitan, Spanish cadena, Italian catena). Additionally, two phonemes
that had long since died out in Vulgar Latin were reintroduced: [h] and [w] (> OF g(u)-, ONF w- cf. Picard
w-), e.g. VL altu > OF halt high (inuenced by OLF
*hh ; Italian, Spanish alto, Occitan naut) ; L vespa
> F gupe, Picard wpe, Wallon wsse, all wasp (inuenced by OLF *wapsa ; Occitan vspa, Italian vespa,
Spanish avispa) ; L viscus > F gui mistletoe (inuenced
by OLF *whsila morello with analogous fruits, when
they are not ripe; Occitan vesc, Italian vischio) ; LL
vulpiculu fox kit (from L vulpes fox) > OF golpilz, Picard woupil fox (inuenced by OLF *wulf wolf; Occitan volplh, Old Italian volpiglio, Spanish vulpeja vixen).
On the opposite, the Italian and Spanish words of Germanic origin borrowed from French or directly from Germanic retain /gw/ ~ /g/, e.g. It, Sp. guerra war). In
these examples, we notice a clear consequence of bilingualism, that sometimes even changed the rst syllable
of the Latin words. One example of a Latin word inuencing an Old Low Franconian loan is framboise raspberry, from OF frambeise, from OLF *brmbesi blackberry (cf. Dutch braambes, braambezie; akin to German Brombeere, English dial. bramberry) blended with
LL fraga or OF fraie strawberry, which explains the
replacement [b] > [f] and in turn the nal -se of framboise added to OF fraie to make freise, modern fraise (
Wallon frve, Romanian frag, Romansh fraja, Italian
fragola, fravola strawberry).[15][16]

3
day forward, as God will give me the knowledge and the power, I will defend my brother
Charles with my help in everything...)
The second-oldest document in Old French is the Eulalia
sequence, which is important for linguistic reconstruction
of Old French pronunciation due to its consistent spelling.
The royal House of Capet, founded by Hugh Capet in
987, inaugurated the development of northern French
culture in and around le-de-France, which slowly but
rmly asserted its ascendency over the more southerly areas of Aquitaine and Tolosa (Toulouse). The Capetians'
Langue d'ol, the forerunner of modern standard French,
did not begin to become the common speech of all of
France, however, until after the French Revolution.

2.4 Transition to Middle French


Further information: Middle French

In the Late Middle Ages, the Old French dialects diverged into a number of distinct langues d'ol, among
which Middle French proper was the dialect of the Ile de
France region. During the Early Modern period, French
now becomes established as the ocial language of the
Kingdom of France throughout the realm, also including
the langue d'oc speaking territories in the south. It was
only in the 17th to 18th centuries, with the development
especially of popular literature read by a wide audience
known by the term Bibliothque bleue, that a standardized
Classical French spread throughout France alongside the
Pope (1934) estimated that perhaps still 15% of the regional dialects.
vocabulary of modern French derives from Germanic
sources (while the proportion was larger in Old French,
because the French language borrowed heavily from
3 Literature
Latin and Italian).
Main article: Medieval French literature

2.3

Earliest written Old French

The material and cultural conditions in France and associated territories around the year 1100 triggered what
Charles Homer Haskins termed the Renaissance of the
12th century, resulting in a profusion of creative works
in a variety of genres. Old French gives way to Middle
The earliest documents said to be written in French af- French in the mid 14th century, paving the way for early
ter the Reichenau and Kassel glosses (8th and 9th cen- French Renaissance literature of the 15th century.
turies) are the Oaths of Strasbourg (treaties and charters The earliest extant French literary texts date from the
into which King Charles the Bald entered in 842):
ninth century, but very few texts before the 11th century have survived. The rst literary works written in Old
French were saints lives. The Canticle of Saint Eulalie,
Pro Deo amur et pro Christian poblo et
written in the second half of the 9th century, is generally
nostro commun salvament, dist di en avant, in
accepted as the rst such text.
quant Deus savir et podir me dunat, si salvarai
At the third Council of Tours in 813, priests were ordered
to preach in the vernacular language (either Romance or
Germanic), since the common people could no longer understand formal Latin.

eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in aiudha et in


cadhuna cosa...
(For the love of God and for the Christian
people, and our common salvation, from this

At the beginning of the 13th century, Jean Bodel, in


his Chanson de Saisnes, divided medieval French narrative literature into three subject areas: the Matter of
France or Matter of Charlemagne; the Matter of Rome

4
romances in an ancient setting; and the Matter of Britain
Arthurian romances and Breton lais. The rst of these
is the subject area of the chansons de geste (songs of
exploits or songs of (heroic) deeds), epic poems typically composed in ten-syllable assonanced (occasionally rhymed) laisses. More than one hundred chansons de geste have survived in around three hundred
manuscripts.[17] The oldest and most celebrated of the
chansons de geste is The Song of Roland (earliest version
composed c. 1098).

4 PHONOLOGY
period was Guillaume de Machaut.
Discussions about the origins of non-religious theater
(thtre profane) both drama and farcein the Middle Ages remain controversial, but the idea of a continuous popular tradition stemming from Latin comedy and
tragedy to the 9th century seems unlikely. Most historians place the origin of medieval drama in the churchs
liturgical dialogues and tropes. Mystery plays were
eventually transferred from the monastery church to the
chapter house or refectory hall and nally to the open air,
and the vernacular was substituted for Latin. In the 12th
century one nds the earliest extant passages in French
appearing as refrains inserted into liturgical dramas in
Latin, such as a Saint Nicholas (patron saint of the student
clercs) play and a Saint Stephen play. An early French
dramatic play is Le Jeu d'Adam (c. 1150) written in octosyllabic rhymed couplets with Latin stage directions (implying that it was written by Latin-speaking clerics for a
lay public).

Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube in his Girart de Vienne set out


a grouping of the chansons de geste into three cycles,
the Geste du roi centering on Charlemagne, the Geste de
Garin de Monglane, whose central character was William
of Orange, and the Geste de Doon de Mayence or the
rebel vassal cycle, the most famous characters of which
were Renaud de Montauban and Girart de Roussillon. A
fourth grouping, not listed by Bertrand, is the Crusade
cycle, dealing with the First Crusade and its immediate
aftermath.
A large body of fables survive in Old French; these inJean Bodel's other two categoriesthe Matter of clude (mostly anonymous) literature dealing with the reRome and the Matter of Britainconcern the French curring trickster character of Reynard the Fox. Marie de
romance or roman. Around a hundred verse romances France was also active in this genre, producing the Ysopet
survive from the period 11501220.[18] From around (Little Aesop) series of fables in verse. Related to the fa1200 on, the tendency was increasingly to write the ro- ble was the more bawdy "fabliau", which covered topics
mances in prose (many of the earlier verse romances such as cuckolding and corrupt clergy. These fabliaux
were adapted into prose versions), although new verse would be an important source for Chaucer and for the
romances continued to be written to the end of the 14th Renaissance short story (conte or nouvelle).
century.[19] The most important romance of the 13th century is the Romance of the Rose which breaks considerably from the conventions of the chivalric adventure 4 Phonology
story.
Medieval French lyric poetry was indebted to the
poetic and cultural traditions in Southern France
and Provenceincluding Toulouse, Poitiers, and the
Aquitaine regionwhere langue d'oc was spoken
(Occitan language); in their turn, the Provenal poets
were greatly inuenced by poetic traditions from the
Hispano-Arab world. The Occitan or Provenal poets
were called troubadours, from the word trobar to nd, to
invent. Lyric poets in Old French are called trouvres.

Old French was constantly changing and evolving. However, the form in the late 12th century, as attested in a
great deal of mostly poetic writings, can be considered
standard. The writing system at this time was more phonetic than that used in most subsequent centuries. In particular, all written consonants (including nal ones) were
pronounced, except for s preceding non-stop consonants
and t in et, and nal e was pronounced []. The phonological system can be summarised as follows:[20]

By the late 13th century, the poetic tradition in France


had begun to develop in ways that diered signicantly
4.1 Consonants
from the troubadour poets, both in content and in the use
of certain xed forms. The new poetic (as well as musiNotes:
cal: some of the earliest medieval music has lyrics composed in Old French by the earliest composers known by
The aricates /ts/, /dz/, /t/, /d/ became fricatives
name) tendencies are apparent in the Roman de Fauvel in
([s], [z], [], []) in Middle French. /ts/ was written
1310 and 1314, a satire on abuses in the medieval church
as c, , -z, as in cent, chanon, priz (a hundred, song,
lled with medieval motets, lais, rondeaux and other new
price). /dz/ was written as -z-, as in doze twelve.
secular forms of poetry and music (mostly anonymous,
but with several pieces by Philippe de Vitry who would
// (l mouill), as in conseil, travaillier (advice, to
coin the expression Ars nova to distinguish the new musiwork), became /j/ in Modern French.
cal practice from the music of the immediately preceding
// appeared not only in the middle of a word, but
age). The best-known poet and composer of ars nova secalso at the end, as in poing hand. At the end of a
ular music and chansons of the incipient Middle French
word, // was later lost, leaving a nasalized vowel.

5
/h/ was found only in Germanic loanwords and was
later lost. In native Latin words, /h/ was lost early
on, as in om, uem, from Latin hom.
Intervocalic /d/ from both Latin /t/ and /d/ was
lenited to [] in the early period (cf. contemporary
Spanish: amado [amao]). At the end of words it
was also devoiced to []. In some texts it was sometimes written as dh or th (aiudha, cadhuna, Ludher,
vithe). By 1100 it disappeared altogether.[21]

4.2

Vowels

In Old French, the nasal vowels were not separate


phonemes, but occurred as allophones of the oral vowels
before a nasal stop. This nasal stop was fully pronounced;
thus bon was pronounced [bn] (Modern French [b ]).
Nasal vowels were present even in open syllables before
nasals, where Modern French has oral vowels, as in bone
[bn] (Modern French bonne [bn]).

4.2.1

Monophthongs

Notes:
/o/ had formerly existed, but closed to /u/; it would
later appear again when /aw/ monophthongized, and
also when // closed in certain positions (e.g. when
followed by original /s/ or /z/, but not by /ts/, which
later became /s/).

4.2.2

Diphthongs and triphthongs

Notes:

5 Grammar
5.1 Nouns
Old French maintained a two-case system, with a
nominative case and an oblique case, for longer than did
some other Romance languages (e.g. Spanish and Italian). Case distinctions, at least in the masculine gender,
were marked on both the denite article and on the
noun itself. Thus, the masculine noun li voisins, the
neighbour (Latin vicnus /wikinus/ > Proto-Romance
*/vetsinu(s)/ > OF voisins /vojzns/; Modern French le
voisin) was declined as follows:
In later Old French, these distinctions became moribund. As in most other Romance languages, it was the
oblique case form that usually survived to become the
modern French form: l'enfant (the child) represents the
old oblique; the OF nominative was li enfes. But in some
cases where there were signicant dierences between
nominative and oblique forms, the nominative form survives, or sometimes both forms survive with dierent
meanings:
Both li sire (nominative, Latin snior) and le seigneur
(oblique, Latin (accusative) senirem) survive in the
vocabulary of later French as dierent ways to refer
to a feudal lord.
Modern French sur sister is the nominative form
(OF suer < Latin nominative sror); the OF oblique
form seror (< Latin accusative sorrem) no longer
survives.
Modern French prtre priest is the nominative
form (OF prestre < prsbyter); the OF oblique form
prevoire, later provoire (< presbterem) survives
only in the Paris street name Rue des Prouvaires.
Modern French indenite pronoun on one continues OF nominative om man (< hmo); homme
man continues the oblique form (OF ome <
hminem).

In Early Old French (up to about the mid-12th century), the spelling ai represented a diphthong /aj/,
instead of the later monophthong //,[22] and ei represented the diphthong /ej/, which became /oj/ in In a few cases where the only distinction between forms
Late Old French.
was the nominative -s ending, the -s was preserved in
spelling to distinguish otherwise homonymous words. An
In Early Old French the diphthongs described above example is ls son (< Latin nominative lius), spelled
as rising may have been falling diphthongs (/ie/, as such to distinguish it from l wire. In this case, a
/yj/, /ue/). In earlier works with vowel assonance, later spelling pronunciation has resulted in the modern
the diphthong written ie did not assonate with any pronunciation /s/ (earlier //).
pure vowels, suggesting that it cannot have simply
As in Spanish and Italian, the neuter gender was elimbeen /je/.
inated, and old neuter nouns became masculine. Some
The pronunciation of the vowels written ue and Latin neuter plurals were re-analysed as feminine sineu is debated. In very early Old French, they rep- gulars, though; for example, Latin gaudiu(m) was more
resented (and were written as) /uo/, /ou/, and by widely used in the plural form gaudia, which was taken
Middle French, they had both merged as / ~ /, for a singular in Vulgar Latin, and ultimately led to modbut it is unclear what the transitional pronunciations ern French la joie, joy (feminine singular).
were.

Nouns were declined in the following declensions:

5 GRAMMAR

Class I is derived from the Latin rst declension. Class


Ia mostly comes from feminine third-declension nouns in
Latin. Class II is derived from the Latin second declension. Class IIa generally stems from second-declension
nouns ending in -er and from third-declension masculine
nouns; note that in both cases, the Latin nominative singular did not end in -s, and this is preserved in Old French.

For Class Ib adjectives, the masculine nominative singular ends in -e, like the feminine. This subclass contains
descendants of Latin 2nd and 3rd declension adjectives
ending in -er in the nominative singular.
E.g. aspre harsh (< Latin asper, > modern
French pre)

Those classes show various analogical developments, like


-es from the accusative instead of - (-e after a consonant For Class II adjectives, the feminine singular is not
cluster) in Class I nominative plural (Latin -ae), li pere in- marked by the ending -e.
stead of *li peres (Latin illi patres) in Class IIa nominative
E.g. granz big, great (< Latin grandis, >
plural, modelled on Class II, etc.
modern French grand)
Class III nouns show a separate form in the nominative
singular that does not occur in any of the other forms. IIIa
nouns ended in -tor, -atrem in Latin, and preserve the An important subgroup of Class II adjectives are the
stress shift; IIIb nouns likewise had a stress shift from -o present participial forms in -ant.
to nem. IIIc nouns are an Old French creation and have Class III adjectives exhibit stem alternation resulting from
no clear Latin antecedent. IIId nouns represent various stress shift in the Latin imparisyllabic declension, and a
other types of third-declension Latin nouns with stress distinct neuter form:
shift or irregular masculine singular (sror, sorrem; nfans, infntem; prsbyter, presbterem; snior, senirem;
E.g. mieudre better (< Latin melior, > modcmes, cmitem).
ern French meilleur)
Regular feminine forms of masculine nouns are formed
by adding an 'e' to the masculine stem, apart from when
5.3 Verbs
the masculine stem already ends in e. For example bergier
(shepherd) becomes bergiere (Modern French berger and
Verbs in Old French show the same extreme phonological
bergre).
deformations as other Old French words. Morphologically, however, Old French verbs are extremely conservative, preserving intact most of the Latin alternations and
5.2 Adjectives
irregularities that had been inherited in Proto-Romance.
Adjectives agree in terms of number, gender and case Old French has much less analogical reformation than
with the noun they are qualifying. Thus a feminine plu- in Modern French, and signicantly less than the oldest
ral noun in the nominative case requires any qualifying stages of other languages (e.g. Old Spanish), despite the
adjectives to be feminine, plural and in the nominative fact that the various phonological developments in Gallocase. For example, in femes riches, riche has to be in the Romance and Proto-French led to complex alternations
in the majority of commonly-used verbs.
feminine plural form.
Adjectives can be divided into three declensional For example, the Old French verb laver to wash is conjugated je lef, tu leves, il leve in the present indicative
classes:[23]
and je lef, tu les, il let in the present subjunctive, in both
cases regular phonological developments from Latin in Class I corresponding roughly to Latin 1st and 2nd
dicative lav, lavs, lavat and subjunctive lavem, lavs,
declension adjectives
lavet. This paradigm is typical in showing the phonologi Class II corresponding roughly to Latin 3rd declen- cally regular but morphologically irregular alternations of
most paradigms:
sion adjectives
Class III containing primarily the descendants of
Latin synthetic comparative forms in -ior, -irem.
Class I adjectives have a feminine singular form (nominative and oblique) ending in -e. This class can be further subdivided into two subclasses based on the masculine nominative singular form. Class Ia adjectives have a
masculine nominative singular ending in -s:
E.g. bon good (< Latin bonus, > modern
French bon)

The alternation je lef ~ tu leves is a regular result of


nal devoicing, triggered by loss of nal /o/ but not
/a/.
The alternation laver ~ tu leves is a regular result of
the diphthongization of stressed (but not unstressed)
open syllable /a/ into /ae/ > // > /e/.
The alternation je lef ~ tu les ~ il let in the subjunctive is a regular result of the simplication of the nal clusters /fs/,/ft/ resulting from loss of /e/ in nal
syllables.

5.3

Verbs

Modern French, on the other hand, has je lave, tu laves,


il lave in both indicative and subjunctive, reecting signicant analogical developments: analogical borrowing
of unstressed vowel /a/; analogical -e in the rst singular (from verbs like j'entre, where the -e is regular);
and wholesale replacement of the subjunctive with forms
modeled on -ir/-oir/-re verbs. All of these serve to eliminate the various alternations in the Old French verb
paradigm. Even modern irregular verbs are not immune from analogy: For example, Old French je vif, tu
vis, il vit (vivre to live) has yielded to modern je vis, tu
vis, il vit, eliminating the unpredictable -f in the rstperson singular.
The simple past also shows extensive analogical reformation and simplication in Modern French as compared
with Old French.
The Latin pluperfect was preserved in very early Old
French as a past tense with a value similar to a preterite
or imperfect. For example, the Sequence of Saint Eulalia (878 AD) has past-tense forms such as avret (< Latin
habuerat), voldret (< Latin voluerat), alternating with
past-tense forms from the Latin perfect (continued as the
modern simple past). Old Occitan also preserved this
tense, with a conditional value; Spanish still preserves this
tense (the -ra imperfect subjunctive), as does Portuguese
(in its original value as a pluperfect indicative).

5.3.1

Verb alternations

In Latin, stress was determined automatically by the number of syllables in a word and the weight (length) of those
syllables. This resulted in certain automatic stress shifts
between related forms in a paradigm, depending on the
nature of the suxes added. For example, in pens I
think, the rst syllable was stressed, while in pensmus
we think, the second syllable was stressed. In many Romance languages, vowels diphthongized in stressed syllables under certain circumstances, but not in unstressed
syllables, resulting in alternations in verb paradigms: e.g.
Spanish pienso I think vs. pensamos we think (pensar to think), or cuento I tell vs. contamos we tell
(contar to tell).

7
nations are in verbs like acheter/j'achte and jeter/je jette,
where unstressed // alternates with stressed //, and in
(largely learned) verbs like adhrer/j'adhre, where unstressed /e/ alternates with stressed //. Many of the noner verbs have become obsolete and many of the remaining
verbs have been leveled. A few alternations remain, however, in what are now known as irregular verbs, such as je
tiens, nous tenons or je meurs, nous mourons.
Some verbs had a more irregular alternation between
dierent-length stems, with a longer stressed stem alternating with a shorter unstressed stem. This was a regular development stemming from the loss of unstressed
intertonic vowels, which remained when stressed:
j'aiu/aidier help < adit, aditre
j'araison/araisnier
adratinre

speak

je deraison/deraisnier
dratinre

to

<

adratin,

argue

<

dratin,

je desjun/disner dine < disjjn, disjjnre


je manju/mangier eat < mandc, mandcre
je parol/parler speak < parabol, parabolre
The alternation of je desjun, disner is particularly complicated; it appears that disjjnre > Western Romance /desjejunare > /desjejnare/ (preliminary intertonic loss) > /desinare/ (triphthong reduction) > /disinare/ (metaphony) > /disner/ (further intertonic loss
and other proto-French developments). Note that both
of the stems have become full verbs in modern French,
djeuner to have lunch and dner to dine. Furthermore, djeuner does not derive directly from je desjun (<
*disj(j)n with total loss of unstressed -j-). Instead, it
comes from Old French desjener, based on the alternative form je desjen (< *disj(j)n with loss only of -j-,
likely inuenced by jener to fast < Old French jener
< je jen I fast < j(j)n, where j- is an initial rather
than intertonic syllable and hence the vowel -- cannot
disappear).

In the development of French, no fewer than ve vowels diphthongized in stressed, open syllables. Combined
with other stress-dependent developments, this yielded 5.3.2 Example of a regular -er verb
15 or so types of alternations in so-called strong verbs
in Old French. For example, /a/ diphthongized to /ai/ be- Non-nite forms:
fore nasal stops in stressed, open syllables, but not in unstressed syllables, yielding aim I love (Latin am) but
Innitive: durer
amons we love (Latin ammus).
The dierent types are as follows:

Present participle: durant

In Modern French the verbs in the -er class have been


Past Participle: dur
systematically leveled. Generally the weak (unstressed)
form predominates, but there are some exceptions (e.g.
modern aimer/nous aimons). The only remaining alter- Auxiliary verb: avoir

7 NOTES

5.3.3

Example of a regular -ir verb

Non-nite forms:
Innitive: fenir
Present participle: fenissant
Past Participle: feni(t)

6 See also
Bartschs law
Anglo-Norman literature
History of French
History of the English language
Languages of France

Auxiliary verb: avoir

7 Notes
5.3.4

Example of a regular -re verb

Non-nite forms:
Innitive: corre
Present participle: corant
Past Participle: coru(t)
Auxiliary verb: estre

5.3.5

Examples of the auxiliary verbs

avoir (to have) Non-nite forms:


Innitive: avoir (earlier aveir)
Present participle: aiant
Past Participle: eut
Auxiliary verb: avoir

estre (to be)

Non-nite forms:

Innitive: estre
Present participle: estant
Past Participle: est(t)

[1] Nordho, Sebastian; Hammarstrm, Harald; Forkel,


Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). Old French.
Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
[2] Lusignan, Serge. La langue des rois au Moyen ge: Le
franais en France et en Angleterre. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2004.
[3] Brill Online Dictionaries. Iedo.brillonline.nl. Retrieved
2013-06-16.
[4] Romance languages - Encyclopedia Britannica. Britannica.com. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
[5] Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture - Google
Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
[6] Denition of Italic in Oxford Dictionaries (British &
World English)". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved
2013-06-16.
[7] Denition of Romance in Oxford Dictionaries (British
& World English)". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved
2013-06-16.
[8] Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise.
Paris: Errance, 2003, 96.
[9] Delamarre (2003, pp. 38990) lists 167
[10] Pierre-Yves Lambert, La Langue gauloise (Paris: Errance, 1994), 46-7. ISBN 978-2-87772-224-7
[11] Lambert 46-47
[12] Bernard Cerquiglini, La naissance du franais, Presses
Universitaires de France, 2nd edn., chap. 3, 1993, p. 53.
[13] Cerquiglini 53
[14] Cerquiglini 26.

auxiliary verb: avoir

[15] Etymology of ''frambuesa'' (Spanish)". Buscon.rae.es.


Retrieved 2013-06-16.

5.4

[16] Portuguese framboesa raspberry and Spanish frambuesa


are French loans.

Other parts of speech

Adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections are [17] La Chanson de Roland. Edited and Translated into Modgenerally invariable. One notable exception being the adern French by Ian Short. Paris: Livre de Poche, 1990. p.
verb tot (same as modern French tout; all, every).
12. ISBN 978-2-253-05341-5

[18] (French) Antoine Adam, Georges Lerminier, and


douard Morot-Sir, eds. Littrature franaise. Tome 1:
Des origines la n du XVIIIe sicle, Paris: Larousse,
1967, p. 16.
[19] (French) Antoine Adam, Georges Lerminier, and
douard Morot-Sir, eds. Littrature franaise. Tome 1:
Des origines la n du XVIIIe sicle, Paris: Larousse,
1967, p. 36-37.
[20] The chart is based on phonologies given in Laborderie,
Nolle, Prcis de Phontique Historique, Nathan 1994; and
in Rickard, Peter, A History of the French Language, 2nd
edition, Routledge 1989, pp. 47-8.
[21] Berthon, H. E.; Starkey, V. G. (1908). Tables synoptiques de phonologie de l'ancien franais. Oxford Clarendon Press.
[22] Zink (1999), p. 132
[23] Moignet (1988, p. 2631), Zink (1992, p. 3948), de La
Chausse (1977, p. 3944)

References
de la Chausse, Franois (1977). Initiation la
morphologie historique de l'ancien franais. Paris:
Klincksieck. ISBN 2-252-01922-0.
Cole, William (2005). First and Otherwise Notable
Editions of Old French Texts Printed from 1742 to
1874: A Bibliographical Catalogue of My Collection.
Sitges: Cole & Contreras.
Delamarre, X.; P.-Y. Lambert (2003). Dictionnaire
de la langue gauloise : Une approche linguistique du
vieux-celtique continental (2nd ed.). Paris: Errance.
ISBN 2-87772-237-6.
Einhorn, E. (1974). Old French: A Concise Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 0-521-20343-0.
Kibler, William (1984). An Introduction to Old
French. New York: Modern Language Association
of America.
Lanly, Andr (2002). Morphologie historique des
verbes franais. Paris: Champion. ISBN 2-74530822-X.
Moignet, Grard (1988). Grammaire de l'ancien
franais (2nd ed.). Paris: Klincksieck. ISBN
9782252015094.
Pope, Mildred K. (1934). From Latin to Modern French with Especial Consideration of AngloNorman Phonology and Morphology. Manchester:
Manchester University Press.
Zink, Gaston (1999). Phontique historique du
franais (6th ed.). Paris: PUF. ISBN 2-13-0464718.

Zink, Gaston (1992). Morphologie du franais


mdival (2nd ed.). Paris: PUF. ISBN 2-13044766-X.

9 External links
Old French on the Web
Old French Online from the University of Texas at
Austin
Lexilogos: Online dictionaries of Old French
DCT- (Electronic Dictionary of Chretien de
Troyes) : complete lexicon and transcriptions of the
ve romances of this Old French author. University
of Ottawa - CNRS.
Du Bellay, Joachim (1549). La Dfense, et illustration de la langue franaise. Paris: Arnoul
L'Angelier.

10

10

10
10.1

TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


Text

Old French Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old%20French?oldid=645318868 Contributors: Olivier, Edward, Ihcoyc, ,


Julesd, Tkinias, Mxn, INyar, Wik, Zoicon5, DJ Clayworth, Haukurth, Joy, Benwing, Romanm, Naddy, Conrad Leviston, Widsith, Mikiher,
DocWatson42, Wiglaf, Lupin, Gilgamesh, Mboverload, Pne, Gdr, Neutrality, Lacrimosus, Shotwell, Poccil, 4pq1injbok, Rich Farmbrough,
Florian Blaschke, Dbachmann, SpookyMulder, Bender235, Kwamikagami, Cmdrjameson, Man vyi, Oreb, Jumbuck, Ross Burgess, Wtmitchell, Japanese Searobin, NantonosAedui, Angr, Mark K. Jensen, BoLingua, Magister Mathematicae, DePiep, RussBot, Zaroblue05,
Pigman, Theelf29, Nicke L, Knyght27, Ashwinr, Ninly, NYArtsnWords, Curpsbot-unicodify, Jade Knight, SmackBot, EncycloPetey, Xaosux, Peter Isotalo, TimBentley, CKA3KA, Enkyklios, Hibernian, Can't sleep, clown will eat me, WTMitchell3, Rrburke, AndySimpson,
Krich, Aaker, Attys, JorisvS, CJ Withers, Remigiu, Hvn0413, Espreon, Gandalf1491, Norm mit, Joseph Solis in Australia, Tawkerbot2,
Dlohcierekim, INkubusse, Toto76, Blue-Haired Lawyer, Umedard, Michaelsanders, R9tgokunks, John M Baker, Iokseng, Pail, Slazenger,
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RazrRob, Vmitjans, SoCalSuperEagle, Deor, VolkovBot, TXiKiBoT, Shockboy56, Martin451, Pheelineerie, FinnWiki, Monkeyman222,
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Victoriaearle, CinchBug, AnomieBOT, Nortmannus, IRP, Ronwa, ArthurBot, Xqbot, Cavila, Thekang, Justin619, Agnizium, Eisfbnore,
FrescoBot, NSH002, LucienBOT, El estremeu, Moonraker, RedBot, le ottante, Leasnam, Clickpop, Lotje, Stephen MUFC, Josepheprice, Mean as custard, Alph Bot, John of Reading, Lunaibis, Dewritech, GoingBatty, Sxoa, Llibreter, Djembayz, ZroBot, Carsonkahn,
PotatoBot, Candellarius Magnus, Stupidus Maximus, Redav, Medeis, Pan Brerus, IJKL, Iketsi, , ClueBot NG, Rozet,
Helpful Pixie Bot, Brikane, Wbm1058, Kyoakoa, , Torvalu4, Bernorix, Aethelrth, Fauban, Radarm, Frhfgs, Abrahamic
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