French: background, influence and my journey

2023-11-26 @Languages

I’ve held a subliminal relation with the French language the greater part of my existence. But I didn’t begin to practice bidirectional discourse until this year in Morocco. As far, however, as adapting its basic structure, reading and (albeit weak) listening comprehension, that’s a development of more or less the last several years. Before that, nil, ever since my flunked compulsory exploratory French course in middle school.

I wish I flunked more courses. I think it would’ve somehow developed a stronger, less furtive character.

Anyway, I say subliminal relation, as, like Portuguese, French subversively occupied my linguistic conciousness map for decades, well before I understood the word Linguistics. Likewise, French literature nearly always invaded my strata of interest, though by indirect acquaintance of select works translated. And yet I always held a priori to eventually read French unhampered.

Having plunged into deeper French language research: the background, the evolution, the substrate/superstrate influences, I now begin to comprehend the motives behind these surreal reigns thrust upon me over so many years.

Specifically. My first, second and all subsequent adapted languages all share traits with French. But let’s focus on Russian and English, the first and the second, which I may, under general terms view equally just as the Beatles classified both sides of their vinyl singles as side A, or so I’m told.

Russian and French

Russian adapted tons of French lexicon over the centuries. As far as I’m concerned, this began with the great Peter, the expansion continuing across the nobility until the popularity fermented well into the 19th century impound lot. Many of these words are domain specific, but I’ve used them my entire life without due credit.

Ie, paletot, chapeau, bouillon, côtelette, riz, portefeuil, jupe, quittance, soldat, étage, épatage, chantage, mirage, collage (the entire abundant -ge pool), and so on: having close correspondents in the Russian lexicon, though never identical, the language notorious for adapting foreign borrowed words to the local pronunciation, sometimes past recognition, causing me no rare disturbance. Russian also sports myriads of Latinisms which may or may not have entered through French.

English and French

English, I now effectively consider a close cousin of French, however strange that resounds with some. Undeniably a close cousin: the blood semblance never as apparent as when reading and juxtaposing, particularly (but not exclusively) the lexicon/morphology and the semantics.

Many get thrown off by the comparison, obstinate to abstract the phonetics from the analytics, the phonetics as singular across the Germanic as the Romance languages, though oftentimes directly echoed in English.

To clarify:

As Norman French effectively fornicated with the Anglo-Saxon following the 11th century Norman invasion of the British isles, transforming into Middle and consequently the Modern English over the centuries, the fraternal relation makes all the sense, I just didn’t realize to what severe extent until late.

French, the Germanic of the Romance languages

In many ways I consider English the most Romance of Germanic languages, and French, inversely, the most Germanic of the Romance. Yes, this too makes all the sense, given that, in contrast to the other Romance siblings:

  1. French, though heavily affected by Latin (of the invading Romans), bore heavy Gaulish and Frankish influence, of those respectfully Celtic and Germanic groups native or invading of the vicinities. Their underlying languages, while also contributors of respectable lexicon, were heavily influential towards the grammatical and the phonetic singularities ascribed to French.

  2. the French, particularly the Normans, long before their British conquests, themselves hosted/suffered Viking invasions, the respective Scandinavian language influence thus incumbent.

That should shed at least superficial light on the English/French linguistic camaraderie, irony notwithstanding.

I respect English all the more for being (more) faithful to the original pronunciation of French lexicon; in many select cases, maintaining it verbatim. But then again, this also makes sense given the French superstrate placement within English.

Other Romance languages don’t treat French words in like wise. Neither does Russian, as I’d above critiqued.

I love English notably for this dual-register property, the Germanic and the French register: the former ascribed to the more vulgar aspects of spoken and written language, the latter to the higher echelon and literature.

Recent developments and conclusion

Hence the French language, all the above considered, has marked me to a greater extent than I gave credit, demonstrating why I not only take sick pleasure in my form of English scripture, but my affinity for older English literature, especially manifest of the wider vastitudes of the French register.

This year I’ve taken to the well: to unhampered, French reading. Far from a loquacious character, I couldn’t have thus far progressed in French without the reading.

And my choices make for anything but conventional, comprising of symbolist poets, baroque drama, Romanticism and Realism prose.

But as I’ve always maintained, the ways of language hacking are my ways, and should be yours. That is to say, do upon the language as you would the language do onto you.

Wait, I’ve fallen into a nonsensical fallacious cliché.

What I meant: interact with the language in the ways you genuinely and hedonisticly enjoy. Scrap synthetic, lubricated means. Hacked thus, grandest motivation is to be therein derived.

Questions, comments? Connect.