2,400 words to change in French language


(Brian Milne) #1

Gimme a break! I just read: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/05/not-the-oignon-fury-france-changes-2000-spellings-ditches-circumflex


Changes in the French language approved by the Académie Française and published in the French Republic Official Journal on 6 December 1990 are being put into effect in schools in September. I have learned and relearned French a few times, just when I was feeling comfortable again along comes this.


Oignon becomes ognon (onion), s’entraîner becomes s’entrainer (to train), maîtresse becomes maitresse (mistress or female teacher), coût becomes cout (cost, paraître becomes paraitre (to appear),week-end becomes weekend (weekend)[ahahah, so the word pinched from English then hyphenated become English again, in the French language it is French], mille-pattes becomes millepattes (centipede), porte-monnaie becomes portemonnaie (wallet)and des après-midi becomes des après-midis (afternoons). I pinched those from the report by the way. Anyway, for those of you who have struggle with comprehension and spoken forms, fought through the spelling lessons and finally felt half way confident - NOW it is all over. You gotta learn it again, well some of it.


There are people jumping up and down in protest of course but there you go. I am sure a few medievalists would like French from that time back and as for those who would like the classical French of the great French writers like Marquis de Sade, Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, Arthur Rimbaud and, and, and... yeah!


Languages are living and ever changing so wise up people. As they say in good French, it is 'Cool!'


(Ley Thompson) #2

I don't know what my friends, who live in Ognon, Oise, will think of it LOLOL


(Andrew Hearne) #3

Like! ;-)


(Andrew Hearne) #4

riz lacroix is correct, but for how long...! ;-)


(Brian Milne) #5

I used to buy them back in 1960s for another purpose. In those days riz and la were still slightly separated with the la close to the cross. The design changed a little after people began to refer to them as rizlas because people did not know what the cross was for. That was as much here as elsewhere. Effectively, orthography was adapted to suit what people said in that very good case. My Oh tends to say riz lacroix which is, or was, how it is/was said in much of CH.


(Christine Borrow) #6

Admit it, it looks terrible without the i in the middle.

I'm sure they won't even taste the same now! :s

I wonder if i'll end up in jail if I carry on witing it the way I always did ? Plus on https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/ognon It seems like "ognon" has always been in existence, anyway... ?!

Next in line could be our beloved " des aulx"... ;) No, I'm joking - already turned into "des ails"....


(Christine Borrow) #7


(Andrew Hearne) #8

You said it, Véro, storm in a teacup, yes it was back in 1990, I remember being taught the changes during my maîtrise, oups maitrise, and we couldn't see it coming in. Terry - I think we're the die-hards, colour, grey, specialised, etc. etc.

Brian, does your other half buy riZla plus or rizla croix rolling paper... the second is correct - it was a M Lacroix who founded the company, yet many French say riZla plus :-O


(Terry Williams) #9

I think it's the oignon/ognon bit that's kicked it off. People I've talked to (particularly teachers) see it as a concession to illiterate (aka lazy) teenagers. Don't think anyone really cares a great deal about the circumflex but if you're going to complain about ognon then you have to agree that dropping the circumflex is also a bad thing even if most people can't remember when to use it. Ever tried writing côté on the computer? Cote, côte, coté -- they're all there. But côté? None of the spell-checkers I've come across propose it even if they don't reject it as an error. Or maybe that's just me teaching mine to spell proper like.

Is there a correlation to English/American spellings? Colour/color for example. Americans being pragmatic and spelling it like it sounds and we purist Brits insisting on sticking with the traditional spelling?


(Véronique Langlands) #10

The hoo ha is unbelievable considering the reforms came out in the BO in 1990 or 1992... it's all a bit of an orage in a tasse de thé, really.


(Brian Milne) #11

Languages mostly have the little quirk of ambiguities. The spoken form assumes everybody speaks the so-called received form which is customarily the one taught by national education systems, used for official business and other domains where precision and mutual comprehension are required. However, as socio-linguists always point out it is the language used orally by only a minority. So, the balance has to be set between written and spoken forms.

We didn't have Quechua speakers when I was preparing for fieldwork in the late 1960s so I had to learn the little I ever acquired open to every imaginable bear trap, ultimately fell into them frequently. However, there were lecturers who taught quite a few African, Pacific region and a few south Asian languages. For the people preparing for East Africa where there are hundreds of languages they had the option of Kiswahili, That a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people, the Waswahili, who are an ethnic and cultural group that inhabiting coastal areas of the African Great Lakes region. Kiswahili is the first language of up to fifteen million people otherwise used as a lingua franca in much of south east Africa by varying estimates of 60 to over 150 million. So, much of that part of Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Congo region; used as the national language in four of them, alongside English as the official language in three. Many of the people in the coastal areas learn English as well so there are hundreds of local, distinct languages, some totally disconnected with each other, and the lingua franca most use outside of their own language room.

Now what has that example to do with French. Well it is in the evolution of language where it comes in. French is a Romance language within the Indo-European language family that evolved out of the Gallo-Romance dialects spoken in what is now northern France. Socio-linguistically French is also a Germanic language. It is one that has several roots. Well before the time of Charlemagne, Karl der Große, or whatever one wants to call him, consolidated his Frankish empire around his capital Cologne, Köln, or as his court would have called it Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, at the beginning of the ninth century throughout the entire Frankish world there was a language somewhat like modern Rumantsch, the Swiss minority language, which originates from spoken Latin brought to the region by the Romans in what is nnow the Graubünden canton after 15 BC. Before the invasion Celtic and Raetic languages were spoken as they were almost entirely throughout northern Europe. Over time and by the time the Roman empire went into decline Indo-Germanic languages were penetrating and eventually became the Frankish languages. It had significant influence on the Romance languages spoken in Gaul, now France. As a result, many modern French words and place names, including the country name France are of Germanic origin. Frankreich still in German.

Look at maps of the empire and those that show language. Reims was a Frankish city and Paris probably mixed, one gets right over to Aquitaine and Gascogny before it is properly a Romance speaking area. But even then they would have been very influence by Ibero-Celtic languages There would have been the influences of pre-Indo-European languages of which Basque is the last survivor in western Europe in the west and the gradual influx of German-Nordic people next to purely Celtic speakers in the north west. The closer to the declining Roan empire the stronger Latin ifluence.

The outcome is that France has its own Kiswahili in the modern world but that something equivalent to the tribal first languages semi-survive, in some case survive reasonably intact. Therefore there is no such thing as a single French language really. What is being changed is the received form that is used as the lingua franca in written form especially. Now given how much other languages have changed, for instance the logically impossible mix that made up English, what is being reformed is simply following the steps of other languages. Early English had more accents than one might imagine. They are still used to direct emphases for reading poetry or singing, for instance opera, but very rarely in normal written forms. Getting rid of them entirely and speakers instinctively knowing what is what, when and how and being able to tell what written forms mean is probably an inevitable progression. French is not the most accented by far, some of the Slavonic and Turkic languages have a large number, the Uralic languages in the Ugric group including Hungarian are extensively accented. However, they do sometimes print things without any accents for the sakes of simplicity and as they adapt to electronic media that is happening more often. The particular lingua franca we have about us here is carefully treading that path so that in X decades (centuries?) it will all be gone.


(Andrew Hearne) #12

yep, that's the one doing the rounds on the internet, the other phrase lacks the "que" : je suis sûr ta soeur elle va bien and a whole load of comas! But there again, if I'm not mistaken, it's of no relevance and we're just having a laugh as it will remain where needed:

Selon Les Décodeurs, l'accent circonflexe sera maintenu dans de nombreux cas. La conjugaison ne sera pas impactée. Le passé simple (nous voulûmes), l'imparfait du subjonctif (qu'il voulût) et le plus-que-parfait du subjonctif (qu'il eût voulu) conserveront leur accent. L'accent circonflexe ne disparaîtra pas non plus quand il est indispensable à la compréhension du mot (mûr et mur, jeune et jeûne, sûr et sur, dû et du...). En bref, la révolution annoncée était loin d'en être une.


(Véronique Langlands) #13

Oh dear that is another rather artificial example - the phrases can't be confused in correct French (and the people who would say "je suis sur ta soeur elle va bien" meaning "I'm sure your sister is well" probably neither know nor care about spelling...)


(Andrew Hearne) #14

aïe aïe aïe ! Merci, Véro, I've just given myself a firm slap on the wrist, I couldn't get the idea of faire une jeune out of my head :-O so everything went feminine...! ;-)


(Véronique Langlands) #15

Tss tss LE jeûne ;-)


(Donna Stella Vekteris) #16

As an anglophone Quebecer (yes, we still exist, despite numerous ethnic cleansing experiments), I read your article with great interest. Languages do indeed evolve, and as a translator who adapts both European and Québecois French into English for North American, European or international markets, I have to keep up with these changes. I have found that the European French use many more English words than the Québecois. In fact, here in Quebec (no accent when used in English), we have the Office de la Langue Française,
http://www.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/accueil.aspx

which comes up with new words in French as technologies evolve. They have a vast databank that continues to grow. This helps to keep the French language alive and relevant here in Canada. There is an unsavoury branch of this Office, which we anglos affectionately call the Language Police (they don't have any Thought Police... yet) that like to go around terrorizing little shopkeepers and small businesses, but that's another subject for discussion.

P.S. The cedilla under the c is alive and well here. François is still François.

Reporting from the trenches, cheers.


(Shirley Morgan) #17

I like it - given every week a nice young Frenchman and I have an English conversation session - it benefits me and my French, because many words in French and English are similiar - much of it comes down to pronunciation though! I don’t need the circumflex for speaking, but the accent does tell me which way to pronounce the ‘é’ - i think the most complicated part of French language is changing the pronounciation of a an ‘E’ to an ‘I’ sound and then ‘vice versa’.

As for Peters translation - oops! But then, how will young children learn the correct the way to pronounce a word? I can see Google Translate and the other co’s having fun changing their software!


(Christine Borrow) #18

I was only joking... well, I hope my joke won't turn into a fact in the future.

In any case - and it's a true fact - I'm learning LSF ( Langue des signes française) but really slowly 'cause I'm not a natural :s


(Simon Armstrong) #19

Not really Christine - change and evolution are one thing, diminishing use is completely another....


(Christine Borrow) #20

Pas d'accord ! :D

In any case, I would agree that any SPOKEN language altogether is on its way out : just have a look

at teenagers !