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French Language MapFrench Language MapPhoto: Public domain

The official language is French, in addition Breton (Brittany) is spoken by minorities, Occitan (the south), Basque (in the western Pyrenees ), German (Alsace-Lorraine), Dutch (French Flanders), Catalan (Roussillon), Italian (around Nice), Corsican (on Corsica).

French is a Romance language spoken by approximately 100 million people as their mother tongue, of which approximately 60 million in France. French is also spoken in Belgium below the line Weset-Mouscron and Brussels, in Switzerland (Suisse romande), Italy (Aosta Valley), Haiti and Canada (Quebec), which, in addition to the native language, is used as the language of government and administration in many former French colonies. French is the continuation of Vulgar Latin, which was introduced by the Roman conquerors in Gallia Transalpina (58–50 BC) and developed there.

The history of French begins when people through the Carolingian Renaissance, which revived the study of classical Latin, became aware of a gap between Latin, language of administration, jurisdiction and religion, and colloquialism. This is evidenced, among other things, by a decision of the Council of Tours (813), which henceforth had to be preached in the vernacular ("lingua romana rustica"). Broadly speaking, three periods can be distinguished in the history of French: Old French (early 9th- early 14th century), Middle French (early 14th- early 17th century) and modern French (early 17th century- present).

The French language originally consisted of Latin words introduced by the Romans, supplemented by words of Celtic and Frankish origin. From the 12th century onwards, these "folk words" are borrowed from Latin, the "learned" words. In the 16th century, many words were also borrowed from Italian. Many words have also been borrowed from Dutch and since the 18th century also from English.

Especially in recent decades, much has been borrowed from English in the field of technology, sports, fashion, etc. originated. French purists oppose this "invasion" of foreign words.


Graaf, G. de / Auvergne, Ardèche

Strijbos, E. / Auvergne, Ardèche, Lyon, Beaujolais

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Last updated June 2024
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