French Language | Evolution, history and growth

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

French, a lovely, melodious, and very affluent, even to the non-French speakers, once ruled the world. It is the world's 6th most spoken language and still got a place within diplomacy, besides English, especially in the European Union and the United Nations. French is the official language of 29 countries. In 2015, approximately 40% of the francophone population (including L2 and partial speakers) lived in Europe, 35% in sub-Saharan Africa, 15% in North Africa and the Middle East, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania.

French is commonly known as the romance language and emerged as Lingua Franca of local people of Gaul when they were conquered by the Roman Empire. The Romans used the Latin language for all of the official works. It was also the language of elite Romans. The Gallo-Romanic dialects evolved in northern France. The evolution of Latin in Gaul was shaped by its coexistence for over half a millennium beside the native Celtic Gaulish language, which did not go extinct until the late 6th century, long after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

At the time of the collapse of Roman Empire, the local Elite class was fluent in Latin and were slowly started abandoning their local Ghoulish language but for the local population it was the other way round; new dialect emerged i.e. referred to as Vulgar Latin, which later transformed into French with the arrival of Frankish ruler/military, who adopted the Gallo-Roman Vulgar Latin speech of the urban intellectual elite.

French, like English, went through different stages, viz. old French, middle French, and modern French. AS the history suggested, old French was spoken from the 8th to 14th Century, heavily influenced by Germanic invasions into the country. The old French comprised of langue d'oïl spoken by the population of North. The south spoke langue d'oc.  

The langues d'oïl was a dialect continuum that includes standard French and its closest autochthonous relatives historically spoken in the northern half of France, southern Belgium, and the Channel Islands. These belong to the larger Gallo-Romance languages, which also include the historical languages of east-central France and western Switzerland (Arpitania), southern France (Occitania), portions of northern Italy, and the Val d'Aran in Spain.

Within old French, many dialects emerged but the Francine dialect was the one not only continued but also thrived during the Middle French period (14th to 17th century).


The modern French was evolved and propagated in the 17th century by King Louis the XIII and XIV. Louis reformed the language during the time of French influence around the world and especially in Europe with the establishment of French academies, and later Parisian French was taught all over the schools In France at the beginning of the 19th century. To have one common French language and to abolish all patios and accents which were regional, the practices which sometimes regarded controversial and referred to as Vergohana was undertaken.


During the 19th century, French was replaced by Latin as the most important language of diplomacy until the 20th century, when English slowly started replacing French, especially when the Treaty of Versailles was written in both English and French. It was the first diplomatic blow to the language.


French phonology is characterized by great changes in the sounds of words as compared to their Latin parent forms as well as cognates in the other Romance languages. For example, Latin secūrum ‘sure, secure’ became Spanish Seguro but French sûr; Latin vōcem ‘voice’ became Spanish Voz but French void, pronounced vwa.


There are some dialects of French used till now:

  • Central: Francien, Orléanais, Bourbonnais, Champenois

  • Northern: Picard, Northern Norman

  • Eastern: Lorrain, Bourguignon (Burgundian), Franc-Comtois

  • Western: Norman, Gallo (around the Celtic Breton area), Angevin, Manceau

  • Southwestern: Poitevin, Saintongeais, Angoumois

The Canadian French is less articulated with fewer lip movements, but the syntax is heavily Anglicize. The standard Parisian French is taught in the rest of English Canada, which sometimes disparaged by the Canadian French people.

After the rise and influence of the United States, many English words started to enter in French and were taken very seriously by the French government, as they thought the purity of language will be lost. There are several steps taken by the Academy of France to aware of the French-speaking public about the words which are not French at all and instruct them to use French words instead. These kinds of measurements are called Anti-franglais. Sometimes these measures work and other times they don’t!

French and English though both are Indo-European languages, have their similarities and differences. There are many words In English that are borrowed from French because English is a Germanic Language with Latin and French influences. French on the other hand derived from Latin with German and English Influences. So there is a love and hate relationship between the two languages, as they do have almost the same alphabets and number of true as well false cognates.


French is heavily accented language as compared to English where only foreign words are accented. The articles in French are more prevalent and capitalization is less as Paralleled to English. French required gender in all cases while in English just personnel pronouns. In French, certain words require prepositional verbs, while in English many phrasal verbs need prepositional verbs. Roman Numerals are more common In French and often ordinal, as compare to English.


French is not so different from other European languages, like Spanish, Corsican, Italian, Occitan, Portuguese, Catalan, and several lesser Romance languages as they are descended by their parent language Latin.


French Literature is the pride of its nation and has been the most influential component of the literature of Europe since the birth of medieval French in the 11th century and had influenced the continent as the oldest vernacular (non-Latin) literature of Western Europe till the 14th century. It gains back the status in the literacy world in the 17th century.


People who speak French but do not live in France, or once colonized by French, have their writings referred to as Francophone literature like French colonies, Quebec French, French authors from Belgium, Switzerland, etc.


Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, and is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. The latest movie made on Les Miserable (2012) is a musical and has earned several prestigious awards like Oscars.

French is spoken across the entire globe. Second only to English, French is among the top languages for the number of countries where it has official status. It is also the only language, alongside English, that is taught in every country in the world. It boasts over 100 million students and 2 million teachers. The number of French speakers has tripled since 1945. French is still a working language of the UN and the EU as well as numerous other international organizations including the International Labor Organization, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and the Red Cross.


The reach, breadth, and popularity of the French language are undeniable. It is a language for poets and writers, for wine lovers and foodies. It is a language that is embraced by scholars, teachers, and students the world over, and it is spoken between world leaders in business, politics, and social justice. And on top of all that, it is one of the most beautiful, musical languages the world has ever known.

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  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_language

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  • https://www.lingualinx.com/blog/interesting-facts-about-the-french-language

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ6oSMVRj40


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