The New International Encyclopædia/Norman French

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The New International Encyclopædia
Norman French
Edition of 1905. See also Norman language on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

NORMAN FRENCH. A French dialect which originated in Normandy after the Scandinavian invaders, under Rollo, had settled there about 911. (See Normandy and Normans.) At a very early date these Scandinavians adopted the French language, together with French religion and culture. The Normans in adopting French as a medium of communication and for purposes of literary expression retained many Scandinavian words, which are still, though in a greatly changed form, characteristic of this French dialect. It is not always possible, however, to distinguish these elements, because the Norman French has been influenced, though undoubtedly to a much less extent, by another Germanic tongue, the Saxon. The largest class of Scandinavian derivatives in Norman French is that of proper names of persons and places. Among the first of these, occurring in early works, may be mentioned Boudre, from Baldr; Hérault, from Haraldr; Turquetil, from Thorketill; Sigurd, from Sigwarth. In place names suggestions of a Danish origin are numerous, as in Danneval, La Dennerie, Danemarche, Dancourt. Many Northern suffixes occur in Norman place names, as dalle in Brecquedalle, bec in Caudebec, Houlbec, etc., torp, familiar in English words of Northern origin, in Torgistorp, and stein, in Crestein and Gouestain. Among other words of possible Scandinavian origin the following may be noted: bruman, a newly married man; vin huet, white wine; raguer, to shave or rake; tang, seaweed, Old Icelandic thang. Several nautical terms in use in Norman French seem to be of Norse origin, as brant, the bow of a ship, Old Norse brandr, eseuif, a ship; hune, top of a mast, Old Icelandic hunn. A few of these words have passed into standard French, but most of them are used only dialectically. Norman French is also distinguished by its sounds, prominent among which is the pronunciation of initial h, which in the other French dialects is silent. During the early period Norman French played an important part in French literature, some of the most important monuments being written in this dialect.

Of greater interest to English readers than the peculiarities of Norman French at home is its development in England after the Conquest. In order to distinguish between the French used on the Continent and that used in England, the latter is often called Anglo-Norman or Anglo-French, of which terms the second is now the more generally used. One of the most obvious of these influences in the case of Anglo-French was the introduction of English words, especially those that expressed specifically English ideas, for which no French word existed. The pronunciation, too, was influenced by the English, especially in connection with the accent. The influence of French had begun before the Conquest, as a result of the strong French sympathies of Edward the Confessor, and for several centuries after the Conquest French continued to be the Court language. A considerable French literature was produced in England, both in poetry and prose, and many works of a non-literary character, such as law codes, wills, etc., have been preserved. Many French words were borrowed, forming the first period of the French element.

The best popular account of the Anglo-French is found in Skeat, Principles of English Etymology, second series (Oxford, 1891). The best technical treatment is by D. Behrens, in Paul's Grundriss der germanischen Philologie (2d ed. 1897). There is no complete dictionary of Anglo-French, though a number of texts have been edited. Useful lists of English words found in Anglo-French have been published by Skeat (1882-89). The question of the influence of Scandinavian culture on the Normans has been discussed from opposite sides by Le Héricher. Les Scandinaves en Normandie (Paris, 1877), and A. Fabricius, Danske Minder i Normandiet (Copenhagen, 1897).