The New Student's Reference Work/French Language, The

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French Language, The, is a development from the Latin spoken by the Romans who had conquered Gaul in the first century B. C. under Julius Cæsar. This Latin was not classical Latin, nor even the speech of the cities, but the more corrupt patois of the camps and rural districts. An undefined proportion of Celtic words was adopted into the rustic Latin, and thence found a path to modern French. In the fifth century, too, a Teutonic race known as the Franks overran and conquered Gaul, which had been completely Romanized. The conquerors, indeed, adopted the spoken Latin, but introduced about 400 Teutonic words. A few Greek words came into the French language from the Greek colonies at Marseilles and Nice. Thus in the seventh century the language of France had come to differ widely from Latin. It was now called Romanic.

The development of the French language now bifurcated into two parts. The French of the north was called the langue d'oil, that of the south the langue d'oc. These two words, oil and oc, meant yes in the north and south respectively. The langue d'oc developed into modern Provençal; the langue d'oil into modern literary French. The former tongue achieved a wide celebrity during the 12th century as the language of the troubadours. New words were drawn into the French language during and preceding the Renaissance by almost direct adoption from the Latin. Italian and Spanish have each contributed several hundreds of words to French. The French language is now standardized and modified by the famous Académie Française, founded in 1635 and suppressed (for but a short time) in 1793. The chief recent modifications of the French language have been caused by an influx of scientific terms, largely Greek, and another influx of borrowed English words.