French borrowings in English

List of English words of French origin, the causes of modernization. Indirect impact on the diversity of language dialect groups. Linguistic differences between the old and new English language. Relative chronology of borrowings from other languages.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
Вид реферат
Язык английский
Дата добавления 12.09.2014
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French borrowings in English



1. List of English words of French origin

2. Indirect Influences

3. Relative chronology of borrowings




English is primarily a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects, brought to Britain by Germanic invaders and/or settlers from the places which are now called North West Germany and the Netherlands. It uses a vocabulary unlike other European languages of the same era. A large portion of the modern English vocabulary came from the Anglo-Norman languages. English is considered a "borrowing" language.

Middle English differed from Old English because of two invasions which occurred during the Middle Ages. The first invasion was by peoples who spoke North Germanic languages. They conquered and colonised parts of Britain during the 8th and 9th centuries CE. The second invasion was by the Normans of the 11th century, who spoke Old Norman and eventually developed an English form of this, called Anglo-Norman. New vocabulary introduced at this time heavily influenced many organizations including the church, the court system and the government. European languages including German, Dutch, Latin and Ancient Greek influenced the English vocabulary during the Renaissance.

Old English initially was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain. The Late West Saxon dialect eventually became dominant. Written Old English of 1000 CE was similar to other Germanic languages such as Old High German and Old Norse in terms of vocabulary and grammar. Written Old English is relatively unintelligible today, in contrast to written Modern English and written Middle English. Close contact with the Scandinavians resulted in much grammatical simplification and lexical enrichment of the English language, which had been based on Anglo-Frisian. These changes did not reach South West England until the Norman invasion in 1066. Old English developed into a full-fledged literary language, based on the most common manner of speaking in London during the 13th century.

1. List of English words of French origin

french dialect borrowing language

A great number of words of French origin have entered the English language to the extent that many Latin words have come to the English language. According to different sources, nearly 30% of all English words have a French origin. This fact suggests that 80,000 words should appear in this list; this list, however, only includes words imported directly from French, such as both joy and joyous, and does not include derivatives formed in English of words borrowed from French, including joyful, joyfulness, partisanship, and parenthood. It also excludes both combinations of words of French origin with words whose origin is a language other than French?--?e. g.: ice cream, sunray, jellyfish, killjoy, lifeguard, and passageway?--?and English-made combinations of words of French origin?--?i. e.: grapefruit (grape + fruit,) layperson (lay + person,) mailorder, magpie, marketplace, surrender, petticoat, and straitjacket. This list also excludes words that come from French but were introduced into the English language via a language other than French, which include commodore, domineer, ketone, loggia, lotto, mariachi, monsignor, oboe, paella, panzer, picayune, ranch, vendue, and veneer.

Although French is mainly from Latin (which accounts for about 60% of English vocabulary either directly or via a Romance language), it also includes words from Gaulish and Germanic languages (especially Old Frankish). Since English is of Germanic origin, words that have entered English from the Germanic elements in French might not strike the eye as distinctively from French. Conversely, as Latin gave many derivatives to both the English and the French languages, ascertaining that a given Latinate derivative did not come to the English language via French can be difficult in a few cases.

Most of the French vocabulary now appearing in English was imported over the centuries following the Norman Conquest of 1066, when England came under the administration of Norman-speaking peoples. The majority of the population of England continued to use their Anglo-Saxon language, but it was influenced by the language of the ruling elite, resulting in doublets. Consider for example the words for the meats eaten by the Anglo-Norman nobility and the corresponding animals grown by the Anglo-Saxon peasants: beef / ox, mutton / sheep, veal / calf, pork / pig, or pairs of words pertaining to different registers of language: commence / start, continue / go on, disengage / withdraw, encounter / meet, vend / sell, purchase / buy. Words of French origin often refer to more abstract or elaborate notions than their Anglo-Saxon equivalents (e.g. liberty / freedom, justice / fairness), and are therefore of less frequent use in everyday language. This may not, however, be the case for all English words of French origin. Consider, for example: able, car, chair, city, country, fine, fruit, journey, juice, just, part, people, real, stay, table, travel, use, very, and wait.

After the rise of Henry Plantagenet to the throne of England, other forms of dialectal French may have gained in influence to the detriment of Norman French (notably the variants of Anjou where the House of Plantagenet came from, and possibly Poitevin, the tongue of Eleanor of Aquitaine). With the English claim to the throne of France, the influence of the language in use at the royal court of France in Paris increased. The cultural influence of France remained strong in the following centuries and from the Renaissance onward borrowings were mainly made from Parisian French, which became the de facto standard language of France.

2. Indirect Influences

Some words from Old French have been imported again from Middle French or Modern French, but have generally taken a more restrictive or specialised meaning the second time. Consider for instance : luminary / luminaire, liquor / liqueur, castle / chвteau, hostel / hotel, mask / masque, necessary / nйcessaire, petty / petit, ticket / etiquette, troop / troupe, vanguard / avant-garde. Note that the word in French has kept the general meaning: e.g. chвteau in French means castle. Even when not imported several times in different forms, loanwords from French generally have a more restrictive or specialised meaning than in French: e.g. legume (in Fr. lйgume means vegetable), gateau (in Fr. gвteau means cake).

In some cases, the English language has been more conservative than the French one with Old French words, at least in spelling if not in pronunciation: e.g. apostle (O.Fr. apostle / M.Fr. apфtre), castle (O.Fr. castel or chastel / M.Fr. chвteau), forest (O.Fr. forest / M.Fr. forкt), vessel (O.Fr. vaissel / M.Fr. vaisseau). Other Old French words have even disappeared from Modern French: dandelion.

On the other hand, a move to restore the classical roots (Latin or Ancient Greek) occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. Thus words from Old French saw their spelling re-Latinized. Although in most cases this did not affect their pronunciation (e.g. debt, doubt, indict, mayor), in some cases it did (e.g. abnormal, adventure, benefit). The ph transcription of words of Greek etymology was restored instead of the f. Thus fantosme became phantom, fesan became pheasant. This move occurred also in French, although less systematically (Old French farmacie became pharmacie ("pharmacy"), fenix became phйnix ("phoenix"), but fantosme became fantфme ("phantom, ghost") and fesan became faisan ("pheasant").

Beside re-Latinization that blurred the French origin of some words (e.g. peradventure), other modifications in spelling have included folk etymology alterations (see belfry, crayfish, gillyflower, gingerbread, penthouse, pickaxe).

Furthermore, the spelling of some words was changed to keep the pronunciation as close to the original as possible (e.g. leaven), whereas in other cases the French spelling was kept and resulted in totally different pronunciation than French (e.g. leopard, levee). Terms that most recently entered the English language have kept French pronunciation and spelling (aplomb, barrage, brochure, bureau, dossier, garage, machine, mirage, panache, cafй, dйcor, bourgeoisie, ennui, espionage, йlite, expertise, intrigue, liaison, lingerie, armoire, critique, genre, ambiance, collage, montage, plaque, penchant, repertoire, entourage, terrain, glacier, debris, tranche, entrepreneur, financier, arbitrage), though this may change with time (e.g. the initial h in hotel is not silent anymore, consider also the evolving pronunciation of herb, or garage). Expressions like femme fatale, bкte noire, enfant terrible are still recognisably French.

Borrowings are not a one-way process (See Reborrowing), some words of French origin ultimately come from Old English (Anglo-Saxon words) : e.g. : bateau, chiffon, gourmet. While conversely English words of French origin made their way "back" into Modern French : budget, challenge, fuel, gay, gin, humour, interview, jury, management, mess, pedigree, record, sport, squat, standard, suspense, tennis, ticket, toast, toboggan, tunnel, vintage.

3. Relative chronology of borrowings

It is customary to divide the time in which English was in contact with French into two periods, 1) Anglo-Norman and 2) Central French. The first period lasted from the invasion of 1066 to the loss of Normandy to England under King John in 1204.

After this there is little or no direct influence of French on English but the language remained fashionable and the practice of borrowing words from the continental language continued well into the 15th century. The Central French period (during which influence from the region around Paris dominated) can be taken to cease gradually with the introduction of printing at the end of the 15th century and the general resurgence in interest and status of English.

The form of many French loanwords can be used to date borrowing. As mentioned above there are two strands of French influence, an early Anglo-Norman one and a later Central French one. These can be identified phonologically as can be seen in the word pairs catch and chase or cattle and chattels (from captiare and capitale in Latin respectively). In the first word one sees Middle English cacchen which was borrowed from North French cachier as the retention of the /k/ before /a/ was a feature of Norman French.
After 1250 the influence of Central French was predominant in England. In this variety of French the original /k/ retained in Norman French was shifted to /t?/ which is reflected in the writing where c was changed to ch. Thus we have the Central French verb chacier being borrowed into Middle English as chacen, Modern English chase. Note that the later borrowing did not replace the earlier one in keeping with the principle that if two variant forms come to be distinguished semantically their continuing existence in the language is as good as guaranteed. Not so with a number of other Norman French borrowings which were replaced by the later Central French ones: calice, carite, cancel; chalice, charite, chancel. The Central French /t?/ underwent the further change to /?/ in the course of the post-Middle English period and later loans reflect this. Thus we have change and chief as Middle English loans from Central French with /t?/ but words like chef and champagne with /?/ are of a later origin.

Similar differences in pronunciation can be used to date other loanwords from French. For example the relationship of /dћ/ and /ћ/ shows the relative chronology of borrowing. The older loans such as siege, judge, age show the affricate /dћ/ whereas newer loans from the Early Modern English period have the simple fricative typical of Modern French as in rouge /ru:ћ/; with the word garage there still exist two alternative pronunciations /?gжr?d?/ and /g??r?:?/.

One can also recognize later borrowings by the vowel quality when the stress is found on the final syllable: memoir (cf. the earlier loan memory), liqueur (cf. the earlier form liquor).


English is primarily a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects, brought to Britain by Germanic invaders and/or settlers from the places which are now called North West Germany and the Netherlands.

English is considered a "borrowing" language.

Middle English differed from Old English because of two invasions which occurred during the Middle Ages.

In order to understand this sphere of borrowings from French one must bear in mind that the first loans were to be found in the upper classes who spoke Anglo-Norman. This fact led to French loans being automatically placed on a level above the normal everyday English vocabulary. Up to the present-day this characteristic of French words in English has remained. While it is true that some of the common French borrowings have become part of the basic stock of English vocabulary (cf. air, age, cry, change, large, manner, mountain, place, point, village, voice) a large quantity of words has remained on a stylistically higher level alongside the lower English terms. This results in such word pairs as the following which are distinguished more by register than by basic meaning: dress : clothe; amity : friendship; commence : begin; conceal : hide; nourish : feed; liberty : freedom.

Aside from borrowing and word formation, French considerably influenced English phrasing. The loan translations range from polite turns of speech, such as at your service, do me the favour, to engage somebody in a quarrel, to make (later: pay) a visit, to idiomatic phrases like by occasion, in detail, in favour of, in the last resort, in particular, to the contrary.

Nowadays 750 million people all over the world use English. It has become the language of the planet.

Most of words are the same, but there are some differences. For example in Middle English ynogh is enough in modern English; longe is long; agoon is ago and so on, but they are a little bit similar in writing, so it is not very difficult to understand them.

Though the number of French loans in the modern period is relatively minor in comparison to Middle English, the contribution is most important. The French Loans were primarily borrowed to provide richness to the language. Whilst it was arguable during the Restoration whether the loans were corrupting or enriching the language, today there is no doubt or disputable grounds to argue that the loans did nothing but enrich the English language.

The borrowing of vocabulary is rapprochement of nations on the ground of economic, political and cultural connections. The bright example of it can be numerous French borrowings to English language.

Attempts to continue borrowings in 20th century did not have special success because language became more independent.

In my opinion we managed to study the problems of French borrowings in the English language. We understood possible ways of penetrating French words in the English language, we have seen difference ways of difference types of borrowings.

In spite of arrival of the words from different languages into the English vocabulary, the English Language did not suffer from large flow of foreign elements.

On the contrary its vocabulary has been enriched due to the taken foreign elements.


1. Иванова И.П., Чахоян Л.П., Беляева Т.М. История английского языка. - СПб.: Лань, 1999.

2. Иванова И.П., Чахоян Л.П., Беляева Т.М. Практикум по истории английского языка. - СПб.: Лань, 1999.

3. Смирницкий А.И. Древнеанглийский язык. - М., 1955.

4. Советский энциклопедический словарь. - М.: Советская энциклопедия, 1980.

5. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2004 Ultimate Reference CD-ROM

6. Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2005

7. McCrum R. The Story of English. - New-York, 1987.

8. Whitelock D. The Beginning of English Society. - Harmondsworth Middlesex, 1952.

9. New Websters Dictionary, 1998.

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