From Latin > French: Pertinent Information?

Koprophagos

New Member
Hope this is the right forum.

Basically, obviously there are lots and lots of really good tomes out there from a philological perspective. But what about in the case of a learner? Someone with Latin who needs to pick up (better) French as fast as possible? Useful rules, charts, tips tricks?
 

Aurifex

Aedilis
Staff member
Your question is a very broad one, Dung-eater. If I wanted to learn French "as fast as possible" I'd arm myself with a good dictionary and good reading material, study the language as intensively as possible, and simultaneously take myself off to live in France to converse daily with native speakers for as long as my enthusiasm for learning French lasted.
 

Imperfacundus

Reprobatissimus
It's an extremely broad subject, but I can share a few things.

I've found learning about the evolution of French from Latin helps quite a lot.
A classic example is the circumflex (ê, ô, etc.) In French, it often indicates an older form with es or os.

Also an initial é often reflects an older form with es, and an even older Latin form with just s. [edited for clarity]
E.g. bête < beste < bestia
hôpital < ospital < hospitale
maîtresse < maistresse < *magistrissa

initial é:
épine < espine < spina
étendre < estendre < extendere
épée < espee < spatha (t/d sounds between vowels were often dropped)

Another interesting feature is liaison.
When a French word ends with a silent consonant, it can sometimes be revived when followed by a vowel- e.g. in the sentence les hommes parlent en silence ('the men speak in silence'), one can pronounce both the s in hommes and the t in parlent- something like /le zom parl tã silãs/, where the liaison-ed consonants are pronounced as if part of the following word. I think, pronouncing the s is fairly common, but the t is more formal. I suppose Pacis puella would know...

In general, casting French words back into (a very late form of) Latin can help with understanding them. Knowing that oiseau (bird) was once oisel, and earlier avicellus, one can sort of 'hear' the Latin in the French.

Sometimes this even works with strings of words...

Joe Dassin dixit:
le coeur ouvert à l'inconnu...
something like:
illum cor apertum a(d) incognitum
with the m's being very faint already in latin
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
When a French word ends with a silent consonant, it can sometimes be revived when followed by a vowel- e.g. in the sentence les hommes parlent en silence ('the men speak in silence'), one can pronounce both the s in hommes and the t in parlent- something like /le zom parl tã silãs/, where the liaison-ed consonants are pronounced as if part of the following word. I think, pronouncing the s is fairly common, but the t is more formal. I suppose Pacis puella would know...
You mean the "s" in "les", not the one in "hommes".

Here the liaison between "les" and "hommes" (le zom) is compulsory (you can't possibly say "le om"), the one between "parlent" and "en" can be made, but isn't compulsory, and indeed it sounds a bit more formal with it. As to whether it's generally true that liaisons with "t" are more formal, I've never considered the question, but quickly thinking about it now, I think it must be true...
 

Imperfacundus

Reprobatissimus
Thanks pacis.
Yes, the 's' in les.

I meant the 't' in parlent specifically. Well, more generally the one in 3rd p. pl. endings.

I think liaison with t is common with est, etait- no?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I think liaison with t is common with est, etait- no?
I don't know if it's more common with those two forms than with others — I haven't studied the question; the only two things I'm sure of is that both with those forms and with others, liaison is possible but often omitted in colloquial speech.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Thinking some more about it, there seem to be certain more or less fixed expressions with "est" or "était" in which the liaison seems to be absolutely needed.

For example, "il était une fois..." (the equivalent of "once upon a time") would sound wrong without the liaison. Similarly, "il est impossible de..." sounds better with a liaison; but funnily, the synonymous but more colloquial "c'est impossible de..." sounds fine without it. I wonder if this might not be due simply to the fact that "il était une fois" and "il est impossible de" are rather literary expressions, and since liaison is often made when you read literature aloud or just want to speak in a high register, those literary expressions came to be almost always pronounced with it and even, for some of them, sound downright wrong without it...
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Though, after all, "il est impossible de " doesn't sound that wrong either without liaison. I suppose this kind of thing may depend on people as well. But "il était une fois" does sound very funny to me without liaison.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
I take it that that's a fixed expression, in the sense that if someone says it, you know they're going to go on to relate a fairy tale, not tell you about their childhood, say? So not surprising that it differs from the rules of normal speech. Perhaps analogously, nothing ever happens 'upon a time' in English, unless it's the standard introduction 'once upon a time'.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Yes.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
As a francophone you may not be aware that I, like many non-francophones, approach the French language with the conviction that it's out to get me, one way or another. In my admittedly limited experience this is fairly easy to justify. It's very hard to understand how it could have developed organically from Latin; the hypothesis that it was a deliberate creation to while away those dull mediaeval nights seems much more plausible, however mad. This being the case, I count it a major victory, not to say miracle, whenever people respond to my spoken French in the way I intend.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
French is a weird, and I'd be tempted to say, very corrupt language. But — and perhaps even by this very fact — it doesn't look like a deliberate creation. It's obviously the natural product of linguistic (d)evolution.

I'd like to hear you speaking French.
 

Imperfacundus

Reprobatissimus
it does seem rather conspiratorial, at first :D
one can eventually 'see the Latin' in it, provided they study its evolution. then it start to sound like sing-songy Latin, elided heavily and with an interesting accent.

I've recently begun to find it fun to speak, actually.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I had precisely been wondering whether French mightn't sound "flat" to English speakers or speakers of any language with a stress accent (which means many languages), due to there being no stress (well, no stress... you can always stress a word you want to emphasize, but you see what I mean, we don't stress this or that syllable for no other reason than that it's just the way it is, like in English). And now you tell me it sounds "sing-songy" to you... That's surprising.
 

Imperfacundus

Reprobatissimus
ya
probably more to do with my experiences with it.

english - everyday, perfunctory
french - songs, friends, occasionally practical reasons
----

also- it doesn't seem as flat to me as english is
given that my experience colors my perception, though, can't say for sure
 

Quintilianus

Active Member
I had precisely been wondering whether French mightn't sound "flat" to English speakers or speakers of any language with a stress accent (which means many languages), due to there being no stress (well, no stress... you can always stress a word you want to emphasize, but you see what I mean, we don't stress this or that syllable for no other reason than that it's just the way it is, like in English). And now you tell me it sounds "sing-songy" to you... That's surprising.
Same here.
I often wonder what French sounds like to foreigners.
I've found this googling.
https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100305064248AABw5W2
He also speaks about the "singing" which surprises me as well. But that probably does that with any language to any foreigner.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Contrasted opinions there:

"For me it sounds elegant, aesthetic and joyful. I associate it with the first days of spring when the sun is shining and the nature is waking up."

"It sounds like an electric shaver."

LOL :D

Edit: Though perhaps the electric shaver thing was only about the "r", I'm not sure.
 

Quintilianus

Active Member
Contrasted opinions there:

"For me it sounds elegant, aesthetic and joyful. I associate it with the first days of spring when the sun is shining and the nature is waking up."

"It sounds like an electric shaver."

LOL :D

Edit: Though perhaps the electric shaver thing was only about the "r", I'm not sure.
I ought to watch English movies for several days and then get back to French, maybe I'll be able to understand how it sounds to English speakers. :D
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I ought to watch English movies for several days and then get back to French, maybe I'll be able to understand how it sounds to English speakers. :D
I don't think so... French is too "natural" to us, rooted in us since childhood... Maybe it would work a bit if we went abroad and didn't listen to any French for years, just maybe...
 
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