English Words Shared with the French Language
English and French sound very dissimilar when you hear them spoken, but these two languages actually share quite a few commonalities, especially when written. Understanding the history of the two languages will help you understand the similarities and differences that they enjoy.
History of Modern French
Both French and English started in European countries. French is a "Romance" language, which means its origins lie in the ancient Roman Empire. Latin was the language of the Roman Empire, but since the Empire had such a vast reach, many areas developed their own dialects of the language, often mixed with the languages of the native people. When the area that is today known as France was invaded by Germanic tribes in the 400s, the language took on a decidedly Germanic flavor. The native tongue of the new governing body was mixed with the Latin the people were speaking to create a new dialect, decidedly Latin, but with Germanic pronunciations.
As the Germanic tribes maintained control of the area, the language digressed further from Latin and became its own distinct tongue. This required the language to be codified, or written, so that political and legal process could take place much easier. The language was named "French" for the Frankish people that lived in the area where it was predominantly spoken. French became the official language of the new country in 1539 by the Edict of Villers Cotterets. The grammar of the language has remained relatively the same since the early 1600s, which is when the language was standardized by the French Academy. Today it is the official language of 22 countries, and the co-official language of many others, including Canada, Switzerland, Madagascar, and Belgium.
History of Modern English
English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. A truly global language, it is the language of finance, technology, and diplomacy. This is surprising in light of the fact that the language originated on the tiny island of Great Britain.
The English language is not a Romantic language like French. Because the island was isolated from the Roman Empire, it was not influenced as heavily by Latin as the inland languages were. However, French and English share one main commonality, and that is the influence of invading Germanic tribes.
While different tribes invaded England than invaded France, they spoke similar languages. Prior to the Germanic invasion, the people of Great Britain spoke a Celtic language. However, the Germanic people spoke a language that eventually developed into Old English. This was the language spoken on the island until 1100.
In 1066, France and England's histories overlapped, when the William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, conquered the island and brought French to the land. While the people did not speak France, the government did, and the language began to influence the language of the common people, eventually developing into Middle English, a combination of French and Old English. This gradually developed into Modern English, the language that is spoken today, and the invention of the printing press made it possible to unify and standardize the language.
Words Common to French and English
The overlapping influence of the Germanic tribes and the French influence on English history cause there to be several words that the two languages share. The pronunciation may be different, but these common words include:
- Chaise lounge
- Hors d'oeuvre