views updated May 21 2018

NORMAN FRENCH. The variety of Old Northern FRENCH adopted in the 10c by the Normans, Norse settlers who gave their name to Normandy. It extended to England after the Norman Conquest in 1066. In its British context, it is often referred to as ANGLO-NORMAN. Although native only to the aristocracy and their immediate retainers, Norman French was until the 13c dominant in England and important in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. It influenced English and was in turn influenced by it, as well as by Central (Parisian) French, which as the language of the French court was considered more refined. In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (14c), the Prioress is singled out as a speaker of English French: ‘And Frensh she spak ful faire and fetisly, / After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, / For Frensh of Paris was to hir unknowe.’ By the end of the Hundred Years War (mid-15c), French was no longer a living tongue in England, although elements of it were preserved for centuries afterwards, as in Law French. Its last British remnant is in the Channel Islands.

Among the many Old French words in English, the oldest have a Norman French aspect (sometimes with doublets from Central French, shown in parentheses): (1) Hard c as opposed to ch as in chair: caitiff, capon, car (chariot), carrion, carry, castle, catch (chase), cater, cattle (chattels), cauldron, decay, escape, pocket (pouch). The Modern French equivalent is the sh-sound in chateau. (2) Hard g as opposed to j as in James: gammon, garden, garter. Gaol has a Norman French spelling but a Central French pronunciation, whence the alternative jail. The Modern French equivalent is the zh-sound in jardin. (3) A w as opposed to a g(u): ewer, reward (regard), wage (gage), wait, wallop (gallop), ward (guard), warden(guardian), warranty (guarantee), warren, waste, wicket, wile (guile), wise (guise). The Modern French equivalent is the g(u) in garde, guichet. (4) The ch in chair, cherry, chisel, patch (piece), etc. The Modern French equivalent is the s-sound in cerise. (5) The sh in ashet (ScoE), brush, cushion, fashion, leash, mushroom, parish, push, usher, etc. The Modern French equivalent is the s-sound in façon, pousser. Sh is notable in English verbs formed on Norman French verbs in -ir: abolish, finish, perish, polish. (6) The qu in conquest (but not conqueror), enquire, quality, quarter, question, quit, etc. The Modern French equivalent is the k-sound in quitter. (7) An ai, ei, or ey spelling (and an ee or ay pronunciation): convey (convoy), deceive, faith, heir, leisure, prey, receive, veil. The Modern French equivalent is the wa-sound in loisir.

Norman French

views updated May 29 2018

Norman French Dialect of Old French spoken by the Normans at the time of the conquest of England (1066). In Normandy, it was the general language, but it was also used by the Normans in England, where it coexisted with contemporary Middle English for about three centuries.