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French ( or ) is a
Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance language
of the
Indo-European family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
. It descended from the
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from
Gallo-Romance The Gallo-Romance branch of the Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a rang ...
, the Latin spoken in
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries and territories vary depending on context. Beginning with foreign exploration during the Age of Discovery, roughly fro ...

Gaul
, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other
langues d'oïl The ''langues d'oïl'' (; ) are a dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible In linguistics ...
—languages historically spoken in northern
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Western Europe and Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Ame ...

France
and in southern
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the ...

Belgium
, which French (
Francien Francien is a 19th-century term in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas ...
) largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native
Celtic languages The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication u ...
of Northern Roman Gaul like
Gallia Belgica Gallia Belgica ("Belgic Gaul") was a of the located in the north-eastern part of , in what is today primarily northern , , and , along with parts of the and . In 50 BC after the conquest by during his , it became one of the three parts of G ...
and by the (
Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Germanic language, a reconstructed proto-language of ...

Germanic
)
Frankish language Frankish (reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a l ...
of the post-Roman
Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mentioned by Graeco-Roman author ...

Frankish
invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous
French-based creole languages A French creole, or French-based creole language, is a creole language Creole may refer to: Anthropology * Creole peoples, ethnic groups which originated from linguistic, cultural, and racial mixing between colonial-era emigrants from Europe ...
, most notably
Haitian Creole Haitian Creole (; ht, kreyòl ayisyen, links=no; french: créole haïtien), commonly referred to as simply ''Creole'', or ''Kreyòl'' in the Creole language, is a French-based creole language A French creole, or French-based creole language, ...
. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French. French is an
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciary ...

official language
in 29 countries across multiple continents, most of which are members of the ''
Organisation internationale de la Francophonie The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF; sometimes shortened to the Francophonie, french: La Francophonie , but also called International Organisation of La Francophonie in English-language context) is an international organiza ...
'' (OIF), the community of 84 countries which share the official use or teaching of French. French is also one of six official languages used in the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as ''member states''), or of other organizations through formal ...

United Nations
. It is spoken as a first language (in descending order of the number of speakers) in: France;
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Oce ...

Canada
(especially in the
provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are gene ...
of
Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...

Quebec
, Ontario, and
New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , Label_map = yes , coordinates = , capital = Fredericton Fredericton (; ) is the capital of the Provinces and territor ...

New Brunswick
, as well as other Francophone regions);
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the ...

Belgium
(
Wallonia Wallonia (; french: link=no, Wallonie ; wa, link=no, Waloneye; german: link=no, Wallonien or ; nl, link=no, Wallonië ) is one of the three communities, regions and language areas of Belgium, regions of Belgium—alongside the Flemish Region a ...

Wallonia
and the
Brussels Brussels (french: Bruxelles or ; nl, Brussel ), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (All text and all but one graphic show the English name as Brussels-Capital Region.) (french: link=no, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale; nl, link=no, Brusse ...

Brussels
-Capital Region); western
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
(specifically the cantons forming the
Romandy Romandy (french: Romandie or ,Before World War I, the term French Switzerland (french: Suisse française) waalso used german: Romandie or , it, Romandia, rm, Romanda) is the Swiss French, French-speaking part of western Switzerland. In 2018, ...
region); parts of
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...

Luxembourg
; parts of the United States (the states of
Louisiana Louisiana (Standard French Standard French (in French: ''le français standard'', ''le français normé'', ''le français neutre'' eutral Frenchor ''le français international'' nternational French is an unofficial term for a standard ...

Louisiana
,
Maine Maine () is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the United States, bordered by New Hampshire to the west; the Gulf of Maine to the southeast; and the Provinces and territories of Canada, Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Qu ...

Maine
,
New Hampshire New Hampshire ( ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspap ...

New Hampshire
and
Vermont Vermont () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Vermont
);
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque Ligurian: ''Prinçipatu de Mu̍negu''), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The ...

Monaco
; the
Aosta Valley , Valdostan or Valdotainian it, Valdostano (man) it, Valdostana (woman)french: Valdôtain (man)french: Valdôtaine (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = Official languages , population_blank1 = Italian Italian ...

Aosta Valley
region of Italy; and various communities elsewhere. In 2015, approximately 40% of the francophone population (including L2 and partial speakers) lived in
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered ...

Europe
, 36% in
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all list of sovereign states and dependent territories in ...

sub-Saharan Africa
and the
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five ocean The ocean (also the or the world ocean) is the body of that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of and contains 97% of . Another definition is "any of the large ...

Indian Ocean
, 15% in
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
and the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task whi ...

Middle East
, 8% in the
Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' ...

Americas
, and 1% in
Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia covers an area of , about 30% of Earth's total lan ...

Asia
and
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a geographic region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth ...

Oceania
. French is the second most widely spoken mother tongue in the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
. Of Europeans who speak other languages natively, approximately one-fifth are able to speak French as a second language. French is the second most taught foreign language in the EU. All institutions of the EU use French as a working language along with English and German; in certain institutions, French is the sole working language (e.g. at the
Court of Justice of the European Union The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) (french: Cour de justice de l'Union européenne or "''CJUE''"; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European language ...
). French is also the 18th
most natively spoken language
most natively spoken language
in the world, 6th most spoken language by total number of speakers and the second or third most studied language worldwide (with about 120 million current learners). As a result of French and Belgian
colonialism Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, often by establishing colony, colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose the ...

colonialism
from the 16th century onward, French was introduced to new territories in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Most second-language speakers reside in
Francophone Africa A man from Pular_and_West_African_French.html" ;"title="Pular_language.html" ;"title="Guinea.html" ;"title="Labé, Labé,_Guinea,_speaking_Pular_language">Pular_and_West_African_French">Pular_language.html"_;"title="Guinea.html"_;"title="Labé ...

Francophone Africa
, in particular
Gabon Gabon (; ), officially the Gabonese Republic (french: République gabonaise), is a country on the west coast of . Located on the , Gabon is bordered by to the northwest, to the north, the on the east and south, and the to the west. It has ...

Gabon
,
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers Algiers ( ; ar, الجزائر; Berber language, Berber: ''Dzayer;'' French language, French'': Alger'') is ...

Algeria
,
Morocco ) , image_map = Morocco (orthographic projection, WS claimed).svg , map_caption = Location of Morocco in northwest Africa.Dark green: Undisputed territory of Morocco.Lighter green: Western Sahara, a United Nations lis ...

Morocco
,
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several larg ...

Tunisia
,
Mauritius Mauritius ( ; french: Maurice, link=no ; mfe, label=, Moris ]), officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an in the about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent, east of . It includes the main isla ...

Mauritius
,
Senegal Senegal (; french: link=no, Sénégal; : ''Senegaal''; : السنغال ''As-Sinighal''), officially the Republic of Senegal (french: link=no, République du Sénégal; : ''Réewum Senegaal''; : جمهورية السنغال ''Jumhuriat As-Sin ...

Senegal
and
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Côte d'Ivoire's political capital is Yamoussoukro in the centre of the country, while its largest ...
.''La Francophonie dans le monde 2006–2007''
published by the
Organisation internationale de la Francophonie The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF; sometimes shortened to the Francophonie, french: La Francophonie , but also called International Organisation of La Francophonie in English-language context) is an international organiza ...

Nathan
, Paris, 2007.
French is estimated to have about 76 million native speakers; about 235 million daily, fluent speakers; and another 77–110 million secondary speakers who speak it as a
second language A person's second language, or L2, is a language that is not the native language A first language, native tongue, native language, or mother/father/parent tongue (also known as arterial language or L1), is a language A language is a struc ...
to varying degrees of proficiency, mainly in Africa. According to the OIF, approximately 300 million people worldwide are "able to speak the language", without specifying the criteria for this estimation or whom it encompasses. According to a demographic projection led by the
Université Laval Université Laval is a public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept to the sociolog ...

Université Laval
and the Réseau Démographie de l'Agence universitaire de la Francophonie, the total number of French speakers will reach approximately 500 million in 2025 and 650 million by 2050. OIF estimates 700 million by 2050, 80% of whom will be in Africa. French has a long history as an international language of literature and scientific standards and is a primary or second language of many international organisations including the United Nations, the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
, the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 European and North American countries. Th ...
, the
World Trade Organization The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that regulates and facilitates international trade between nations. Governments use the organization to establish, revise, and enforce the rules that govern international ...
, the
International Olympic Committee The International Olympic Committee (IOC; french: Comité international olympique, ''CIO'') is a non-governmental sports organisation based in Lausanne , neighboring_municipalities= Bottens, Bretigny-sur-Morrens, Chavannes-près-Renens, ...
, and the
International Committee of the Red Cross The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC; french: Comité international de la Croix-Rouge) is a humanitarian organization An aid agency, also known as development charity, is an organization dedicated to distributing aid. Many profess ...
. In 2011, ''
Bloomberg Businessweek ''Bloomberg Businessweek'', previously known as ''BusinessWeek'', is an American weekly business magazine, published 50 times a year. Since 2009, the magazine is owned by New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish i ...
'' ranked French the third most useful language for business, after English and
Standard Mandarin Chinese Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of Chi ...
.


History

French is a
Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
(meaning that it is descended primarily from
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
) that evolved out of the Gallo-Romance dialects spoken in northern France. The language's early forms include Old French and Middle French.


Vulgar Latin in Gallia

Due to Roman rule, Latin was gradually adopted by the inhabitants of Gaul, and as the language was learned by the common people it developed a distinct local character, with grammatical differences from Latin as spoken elsewhere, some of which being attested on graffiti. This local variety evolved into the Gallo-Romance tongues, which include French and its closest relatives, such as Arpitan. The evolution of Latin in Gaul was shaped by its coexistence for over half a millennium beside the native
Celtic The words Celt and Celtic (also Keltic) may refer to: Ethno-linguistics *Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: ...
Gaulish language Gaulish was an ancient Celtic language The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European language family. The term "Celtic" was first used to describe this ...
, which did not go extinct until the late 6th century, long after the
Fall of the Western Roman Empire The fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called the fall of the Roman Empire or the fall of Rome) was the loss of central political control in the Western Roman Empire, a process in which the Empire failed to enforce its rule, and its vast ...
. The population remained 90% indigenous in origin; the Romanizing class were the local native elite (not Roman settlers), whose children learned Latin in Roman schools. At the time of the collapse of the Empire, this local elite had been slowly abandoning Gaulish entirely, but the rural and lower class populations remained Gaulish speakers who could sometimes also speak Latin or Greek.Mufwene, Salikoko S. "Language birth and death." Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 33 (2004): 201-222. The final language shift from Gaulish to Vulgar Latin among rural and lower class populations occurred later, when both they and the incoming Frankish ruler/military class adopted the Gallo-Roman Vulgar Latin speech of the urban intellectual elite. The Gaulish language likely survived into the 6th century in France despite considerable
Romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lan ...
. Coexisting with Latin, Gaulish helped shape the
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
dialects that developed into French contributing
loanwords A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning ...
and
calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...

calque
s (including ''oui'', the word for "yes"), sound changes shaped by Gaulish influence,Pellegrini, Giovanni Battista. 2011. "Substrata." In Posner and Green (2011), ''Romance Comparative and Historical Linguistics'', De Gruyter Mouton: pages 43-74. Celtic influences on French discussed in pages 64-67. Page 65:"In recent years the primary role of the substratum... has been disputed. Beset doucmented is the CT- > ''it'' change which is found in all Western Romania... more reservations have been expressed about... ū > .."; :"Summary on page 67: "There can be no doubt that the way French stands out from the other Western Romance languages (Vidos 1956: 363) is largely due to the intensity of its Celtic substratum, compared with lateral areas like Iberia and Venetia..." and influences in conjugation and word order. Recent computational studies suggest that early gender shifts may have been motivated by the gender of the corresponding word in Gaulish. The estimated number of French words that can be attributed to Gaulish is placed at 154 by the ''
Petit Robert ''Le Petit Robert de la Langue Française'' (), known as just ''Petit Robert'', is a popular single-volume French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the Fr ...
'', which is often viewed as representing standardized French, while if non-standard dialects are included, the number increases to 240. Known Gaulish loans are skewed toward certain semantic fields, such as plant life (''chêne'', ''bille'', etc.), animals (''mouton'', etc.), nature (''boue'', etc.), domestic activities (ex. ''berceau''), farming and rural units of measure (''arpent'', ''lieue'', ''borne'', ''boisseau''), weapons, and products traded regionally rather than further afield.Eugeen Roegiest, ''Vers les sources des langues romanes: Un itinéraire linguistique à travers la Romania'' (Leuven, Belgium: Acco, 2006), page 82. This semantic distribution has been attributed to peasants being the last to hold onto Gaulish.


Old French

The beginning of French in Gaul was greatly influenced by Germanic invasions into the country. These invasions had the greatest impact on the northern part of the country and on the language there. A language divide began to grow across the country. The population in the north spoke while the population in the south spoke . Langue d'oïl grew into what is known as Old French. The period of Old French spanned between the 8th and 14th centuries. Old French shared many characteristics with Latin. For example, Old French made use of different possible word orders just as Latin did because it had a case system that retained the difference between nominative subjects and oblique non-subjects. The period is marked by a heavy
superstrate In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
influence from the Germanic
Frankish language Frankish (reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a l ...
, which non-exhaustively included the use in upper-class speech and higher registers of
V2 word order In syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word order. The t ...
, a large percentage of the vocabulary (now at around 15% of modern French vocabulary) including the impersonal singular pronoun ''on'' (a calque of Germanic ''man''), and the name of the language itself. Up until its later stages,
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
, alongside Old Occitan, maintained a relic of the old nominal
case system Grammatical case is a linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of languag ...
of Latin longer than most other Romance languages (with the notable exception of Romanian which still currently maintains a case distinction), differentiating between an oblique case and a nominative case. The phonology was characterized by a heavy syllabic stress, which led to the emergence of various complicated
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
s such as ''-eau'' which would later be leveled to monophthongs. The earliest evidence of what became Old French can be seen in the
Oaths of Strasbourg The Oaths of Strasbourg were a military pact made on the 14th of February, A.D. 842 by Charles the Bald and Louis the German against their older brother Lothair I, the designated heir of Louis the Pious, the successor of Charlemagne. One year late ...
and the
Sequence of Saint Eulalia The ''Sequence of Saint Eulalia'', also known as the ''Canticle of Saint Eulalia'' (french: Séquence/Cantilène de sainte Eulalie) is the earliest surviving piece of France, French hagiography and one of the earliest extant texts in the vernacula ...
, while Old French literature began to be produced in the eleventh century, with major early works often focusing on the lives of saints (such as the ''Vie de Saint Alexis''), or wars and royal courts, notably including the ''
Chanson de Roland ''The Song of Roland'' (french: La Chanson de Roland) is an 11th-century epic poem (chanson de geste) based on Roland and the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, during the reign of Charlemagne. It is the oldest surviving major work of French lite ...
'', epic cycles focused on King Arthur and his court, as well as a cycle focused on William of Orange.


Middle French

Within Old French many dialects emerged but the
Francien Francien is a 19th-century term in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas ...
dialect is one that not only continued but also thrived during the Middle French period (14th–17th centuries). Modern French grew out of this Francien dialect. Grammatically, during the period of Middle French, noun declensions were lost and there began to be standardized rules.
Robert Estienne Robert I Estienne (; 15037 September 1559), known as ''Robertus Stephanus'' in Latin and sometimes referred to as ''Robert Stephens'', was a 16th-century printer and classical scholar in Paris. He was the proprietor of the Estienne print shop afte ...

Robert Estienne
published the first Latin-French dictionary, which included information about phonetics, etymology, and grammar. Politically, the
Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts The Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts (french: Ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts) is an extensive piece of reform legislation Legislation is law which has been promulgation, promulgated (or "enactment of a bill, enacted") by a legislature or other G ...
(1539) named French the language of law.


Modern French

During the 17th century, French replaced
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
as the most important language of diplomacy and international relations (
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a ...
). It retained this role until approximately the middle of the 20th century, when it was replaced by English as the United States became the dominant global power following the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
.The World's 10 Most Influential Languages
''Top Languages''. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
Stanley Meisler of the ''
Los Angeles Times The ''Los Angeles Times'' (abbreviated as ''LA Times'') is a Newspaper#Daily, daily newspaper based in El Segundo, California, which has been published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It has the List of newspapers in the United States, ...

Los Angeles Times
'' said that the fact that the
Treaty of Versailles The Treaty of Versailles (french: Traité de Versailles; german: Versailler Vertrag, ) was the most important of the peace treaties A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or government ...
was written in English as well as French was the "first diplomatic blow" against the language. During the
Grand Siècle Grand Siècle refers to the period of French history during the 17th century, under the reign of Louis XIII Louis XIII (; sometimes called the Just; 27 September 1601 – 14 May 1643) was King of France The monarchs of the Kingdom of F ...
(17th century), France, under the rule of powerful leaders such as
Cardinal Richelieu Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu Duke of Richelieu was a title of French nobility. It was created on 26 November 1629 for Cardinal Richelieu, Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu (known as Cardinal Richelieu) who, as a Roman Catholic cl ...
and
Louis XIV , house = House of Bourbon, Bourbon , father = Louis XIII, Louis XIII of France , mother = Anne of Austria , birth_date = , birth_place = Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Kingdom of France, F ...

Louis XIV
, enjoyed a period of prosperity and prominence among European nations. Richelieu established the
Académie française An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the w ...
to protect the French language. By the early 1800s, Parisian French had become the primary language of the aristocracy in France. Near the beginning of the 19th century, the
French government The Government of the French Republic (french: Gouvernement de la République française ) exercises executive power ''Executive Power'' is Vince Flynn's fifth novel, and the fourth to feature Mitch Rapp, an American agent that works for t ...

French government
began to pursue policies with the end goal of eradicating the many minorities and regional languages (
patois ''Patois'' (, pl. same or ) is speech or language that is considered nonstandard, although the term is not formally defined in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect ...
) spoken in France. This began in 1794 with Henri Grégoire's "Report on the necessity and means to annihilate the patois and to universalize the use of the French language". When public education was made compulsory, only French was taught and the use of any other (patois) language was punished. The goals of the Public School System were made especially clear to the French-speaking teachers sent to teach students in regions such as
Occitania Occitania ( oc, Occitània, , or ) is the historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελ ...

Occitania
and
Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo language, Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula and cultural region in the west of France, covering the western part of what was known as Armorica during the period of Roman occup ...
. Instructions given by a French official to teachers in the
department Department may refer to: * Departmentalization, division of a larger organization into parts with specific responsibility Government and military *Department (country subdivision), a geographical and administrative division within a country, for e ...
of
Finistère Finistère (, ; br, Penn-ar-Bed ) is a department of France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and O ...

Finistère
, in western
Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo language, Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula and cultural region in the west of France, covering the western part of what was known as Armorica during the period of Roman occup ...
, included the following: "And remember, Gents: you were given your position in order to kill the Breton language". The prefect of Basses-Pyrénées in the French
Basque Country Image:Euskal Herriaren terminologia.png, Map showing the geographical and political divisions of the Basque Country Basque Country may refer to: *Basque Country (autonomous community) (''Euskal Autonomia Erkidegoa'' in Basque; ''Comunidad Autónoma ...
wrote in 1846: "Our schools in the Basque Country are particularly meant to replace the
Basque language Basque (; , ) is a language spoken by Basques and others of the Basque Country (greater region), Basque Country, a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of Northern Spain and Southwestern France. Linguistically, Ba ...
with French..." Students were taught that their ancestral languages were inferior and they should be ashamed of them; this process was known in the Occitan-speaking region as Vergonha.


Geographic distribution


Europe

Spoken by 19.71% of the European Union's population, French is the third most widely spoken language in the EU, after English and German and the second most-widely taught language after English. Under the
Constitution of France The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and it replaced the Constitution of the Fourth Republic, of 1946. Charles de Gaulle Charles André Joseph Marie ...
, French has been the official language of the Republic since 1992, although the
ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts The Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts (french: Ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts) is an extensive piece of reform legislation Legislation is law which has been promulgation, promulgated (or "enactment of a bill, enacted") by a legislature or other G ...
made it mandatory for legal documents in 1539. France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education except in specific cases, and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words. In Belgium, French is an official language at the federal level along with Dutch and German. At the regional level, French is the sole official language of
Wallonia Wallonia (; french: link=no, Wallonie ; wa, link=no, Waloneye; german: link=no, Wallonien or ; nl, link=no, Wallonië ) is one of the three communities, regions and language areas of Belgium, regions of Belgium—alongside the Flemish Region a ...

Wallonia
(excluding a part of the
East Cantons Eupen-Malmedy or Eupen-Malmédy is a small, predominantly German-speaking region in eastern Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bord ...
, which are
German-speaking The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe Central Europe is the central region of Europe. Central Europe includes contiguous territories that are sometimes also considered parts of Western Europe ...

German-speaking
) and one of the two official languages—along with
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
—of the
Brussels-Capital Region Brussels (french: Bruxelles or ; nl, Brussel ), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (All text and all but one graphic show the English name as Brussels-Capital Region.) (french: link=no, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale; nl, link=no, Brusse ...
, where it is spoken by the majority of the population (approx. 80%), often as their primary language. – The linguistic situation in Belgium (and in particular various estimates of the population speaking French and Dutch in Brussels) is discussed in detail. French is one of the four official languages of
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
, along with German, Italian, and Romansh, and is spoken in the western part of Switzerland, called
Romandy Romandy (french: Romandie or ,Before World War I, the term French Switzerland (french: Suisse française) waalso used german: Romandie or , it, Romandia, rm, Romanda) is the Swiss French, French-speaking part of western Switzerland. In 2018, ...
, of which Geneva is the largest city. The language divisions in Switzerland do not coincide with political subdivisions, and some
cantons A canton is a type of administrative division of a country. In general, cantons are relatively small in terms of area and population when compared with other administrative divisions such as county, counties, Department (administrative division), ...
have bilingual status: for example, cities such as
Biel/Bienne Biel/Bienne (official bilingual wording; , ; it, Bienna; rm, Bienna; la, Belna) is a List of towns in Switzerland, town and a Municipalities of Switzerland, municipality in the Biel/Bienne (administrative district), Biel/Bienne administrative di ...
and cantons such as
Valais Valais (in French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Wester ...
,
Fribourg , Location of , Location of () (; frp, Fribôrg or ) or (also called ''Freiburg im Üechtland'' ( gsw, label=Swiss German, Frybùrg ; it, Friburgo or ; rm, Friburg) (not to be confused with Freiburg im Breisgau) is the capital of the Cant ...
and
Berne german: Berner(in)french: Bernois(e) it, bernese , neighboring_municipalities = Bremgarten bei Bern, Frauenkappelen, Ittigen, Kirchlindach, Köniz, Mühleberg, Muri bei Bern, Neuenegg, Ostermundigen, Wohlen bei Bern, Zollikofen , website ...
. French is the native language of about 23% of the Swiss population, and is spoken by 50% of the population. Along with Luxembourgish and German, French is one of the three official languages of
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...

Luxembourg
, where it is generally the preferred language of business as well as of the different public administrations. It is also the official language of
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque Ligurian: ''Prinçipatu de Mu̍negu''), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The ...

Monaco
. At a regional level, French is acknowledged as official language in the
Aosta Valley , Valdostan or Valdotainian it, Valdostano (man) it, Valdostana (woman)french: Valdôtain (man)french: Valdôtaine (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = Official languages , population_blank1 = Italian Italian ...

Aosta Valley
region of Italy where it is the first language of approximately 30% of the population, while French dialects remain spoken by minorities on the
Channel Islands The Channel Islands ( nrf, Îles d'la Manche; french: îles Anglo-Normandes or ''îles de la Manche'') are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two Crown Dependencies: the Jersey, Bailiwick of ...

Channel Islands
. It is also spoken in
Andorra Andorra (, ; ), officially the Principality of Andorra ( ca, Principat d'Andorra), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French ( ...

Andorra
and is the main language after
Catalan Catalan may refer to: Catalonia From, or related to Catalonia: * Catalan language, a Romance language * Catalans, an ethnic group formed by the people from, or with origins in, Catalonia * Països Catalans, territories where Catalan is spoken * C ...
in
El Pas de la Casa El Pas de la Casa (; french: Le Pas de la Case) is a skiing, ski resort (part of the Grandvalira resort), town, and mountain pass in the Encamp Parishes of Andorra, parish of Andorra, lying on the border with France. Overview Its name literally tr ...
. The language is taught as the primary second language in the German ''land'' of
Saarland The Saarland ( , , ; french: Sarre ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper) ...
, with French being taught from pre-school and over 43% of citizens being able to speak French.


Africa

The majority of the world's French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to a 2018 estimate from the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 141 million African people spread across 34 countries and territories29 full members of the
Organisation internationale de la Francophonie The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF; sometimes shortened to the Francophonie, french: La Francophonie , but also called International Organisation of La Francophonie in English-language context) is an international organiza ...
(OIF):
Benin Benin ( , ; french: Bénin ), officially the Republic of Benin (french: République du Bénin) (formerly known as Dahomey The Kingdom of Dahomey () was a West African kingdom located within present-day Benin Benin ( , ; french: ...
,
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso (, ; ) is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwe ...

Burkina Faso
,
Burundi Burundi (, ), officially the Republic of Burundi ( rn, Repubulika y’u Burundi, ; Swahili: Jamuhuri ya Burundi; french: link=no, République du Burundi, or ), is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is ...

Burundi
,
Cameroon Cameroon (, french: Cameroun), officially the Republic of Cameroon (french: République du Cameroun, links=no), is a country in west 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal direc ...

Cameroon
,
Cape Verde Cape Verde () or Cabo Verde (, ) ( pt, Cabo Verde, ), officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an and in the central , consisting of ten with a combined land area of about . These islands lie between west of situated at the westernmost poin ...

Cape Verde
,
Central African Republic The Central African Republic (CAR; sg, Ködörösêse tî Bêafrîka; french: République centrafricaine, RCA; , or , ) is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...
,
Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link=no '; ), is a country at the crossroads of -. Chad is bordered by to , to , the to , to , to (at ), and ...

Chad
,
Comoros The Comoros,; ar, جزر القمر, ' officially the Union of the Comoros,Comorian languages, Comorian: ''Udzima wa Komori,'' french: Union des Comores, ar, الاتحاد القمري ' is an island country in the Indian Ocean, at the nor ...
,
DR Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly Zaire Zaire (, ), officially the Republic of Zaire (french ...

DR Congo
,
Republic of the Congo The Republic of the Congo ( french: République du Congo, mkw, Repubilika ya Kôngo), also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa ...
,
Côte d'Ivoire Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations The ...
,
Djibouti Djibouti, ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsu ...

Djibouti
,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a spanning the and the of . It is bordered by the to , the () and to , the to the east, to , and to . In the northeast, the , which is the northern arm of the R ...

Egypt
,
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea ( es, Guinea Ecuatorial; french: Guinée équatoriale; pt, Guiné Equatorial), officially the Republic of Equatorial Guinea ( es, link=no, República de Guinea Ecuatorial, french: link=no, République de Guinée équatoriale, ...

Equatorial Guinea
,
Gabon Gabon (; ), officially the Gabonese Republic (french: République gabonaise), is a country on the west coast of . Located on the , Gabon is bordered by to the northwest, to the north, the on the east and south, and the to the west. It has ...

Gabon
, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania,
Mauritius Mauritius ( ; french: Maurice, link=no ; mfe, label=, Moris ]), officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an in the about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent, east of . It includes the main isla ...

Mauritius
,
Morocco ) , image_map = Morocco (orthographic projection, WS claimed).svg , map_caption = Location of Morocco in northwest Africa.Dark green: Undisputed territory of Morocco.Lighter green: Western Sahara, a United Nations lis ...

Morocco
, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe,
Senegal Senegal (; french: link=no, Sénégal; : ''Senegaal''; : السنغال ''As-Sinighal''), officially the Republic of Senegal (french: link=no, République du Sénégal; : ''Réewum Senegaal''; : جمهورية السنغال ''Jumhuriat As-Sin ...

Senegal
, Seychelles, Togo, and
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several larg ...

Tunisia
.
One associate member of the OIF: Ghana.
One observer of the OIF: Mozambique.
One country not member or observer of the OIF:
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers Algiers ( ; ar, الجزائر; Berber language, Berber: ''Dzayer;'' French language, French'': Alger'') is ...

Algeria
.
Two French territories in Africa: Réunion and Mayotte.
can speak French as either a first language, first or a
second language A person's second language, or L2, is a language that is not the native language A first language, native tongue, native language, or mother/father/parent tongue (also known as arterial language or L1), is a language A language is a struc ...
. This number does not include the people living in non-Francophone African countries who have learned French as a foreign language. Due to the rise of French in Africa, the total French-speaking population worldwide is expected to reach 700 million people in 2050. French is the fastest growing language on the continent (in terms of either official or foreign languages). French is mostly a second language in Africa, but it has become a first language in some urban areas, such as the region of Abidjan,
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Côte d'Ivoire's political capital is Yamoussoukro in the centre of the country, while its largest ...
and in Libreville, Gabon. There is not a single African French, but multiple forms that diverged through contact with various indigenous African languages. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand, because of the expansion of education and rapid population growth. It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years. Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries, but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.


Americas

French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. It is the first language of 9.5 million people or 29% and the second language for 2.07 million or 6% of the entire population of Canada. French is the sole official language in the province of
Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...

Quebec
, being the mother tongue for some 7 million people, or almost 80% (2006 Census) of the province. About 95% of the people of Quebec speak French as either their first or second language, and for some as their third language. Quebec is also home to the city of Montreal, which is the world's 4th-largest French-speaking city, by number of first language speakers.
New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , Label_map = yes , coordinates = , capital = Fredericton Fredericton (; ) is the capital of the Provinces and territor ...

New Brunswick
and Manitoba are the only officially bilingual provinces, though full bilingualism is enacted only in New Brunswick, where about one third of the population is Francophone. French is also an official language of all of the territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon). Out of the three, Yukon has the most French speakers, making up just under 4% of the population. Furthermore, while French is not an official language in Ontario, the French Language Services Act ensures that provincial services are to be available in the language. The Act applies to areas of the province where there are significant Francophone communities, namely Eastern Ontario and Northern Ontario. Elsewhere, sizable French-speaking minorities are found in southern Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Port au Port Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the unique Newfoundland French dialect was historically spoken. Smaller pockets of French speakers exist in all other provinces. The Ontarian city of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, is also effectively bilingual, as it has a large population of federal government workers, who are required to offer services in both French and English, and is across a river from Quebec, opposite the major city of Gatineau with which it forms a single metropolitan area. According to the United States Census Bureau (2011), French is the fourth most-spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese, when all forms of French are considered together and all dialects of Chinese are similarly combined. French remains the second most-spoken language in the states of
Louisiana Louisiana (Standard French Standard French (in French: ''le français standard'', ''le français normé'', ''le français neutre'' eutral Frenchor ''le français international'' nternational French is an unofficial term for a standard ...

Louisiana
,
Maine Maine () is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the United States, bordered by New Hampshire to the west; the Gulf of Maine to the southeast; and the Provinces and territories of Canada, Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Qu ...

Maine
,
Vermont Vermont () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Vermont
and
New Hampshire New Hampshire ( ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspap ...

New Hampshire
. Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, collectively known as Louisiana French. According to the 2000 United States Census, there are over 194,000 people in Louisiana who speak French at home, the most of any state if Louisiana Creole French, Creole French is excluded.U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3
– Language Spoken at Home: 2000.
New England French, essentially a variant of Canadian French, is spoken in parts of New England. Missouri French was historically spoken in Missouri and Illinois (formerly known as Upper Louisiana), but is nearly extinct today. French also survived in isolated pockets along the Gulf Coast of what was previously French Lower Louisiana, such as Mon Louis Island, Alabama and DeLisle, Mississippi (the latter only being discovered by linguists in the 1990s) but these varieties are severely endangered or presumed extinct. French is one of Haiti's two official languages. It is the principal language of writing, school instruction, and administrative use. It is spoken by all educated Haitians and is used in the business sector. It is also used for ceremonial events such as weddings, graduations and church masses. About 70–80% of the country's population have Haitian Creole as their first language; the rest speak French as a first language. The second official language is the recently standardized Haitian Creole, which virtually the entire population of Haiti speaks. Haitian Creole is one of the
French-based creole languages A French creole, or French-based creole language, is a creole language Creole may refer to: Anthropology * Creole peoples, ethnic groups which originated from linguistic, cultural, and racial mixing between colonial-era emigrants from Europe ...
, drawing the large majority of its vocabulary from French, with influences from West African languages, as well as several European languages. Haitian Creole is closely related to Louisiana Creole and the creole from the Lesser Antilles. French is the official language of both French Guiana on the South American continent, and of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, an archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland in North America.


Asia


Southeast Asia

French was the official language of the colony of French Indochina, comprising modern-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It continues to be an administrative language in Laos and Cambodia, although its influence has waned in recent years. In colonial Vietnam, the elites primarily spoke French, while many servants who worked in French households spoke a French pidgin known as "Tây Bồi Pidgin French, Tây Bồi" (now extinct). After French rule ended, South Vietnam continued to use French in administration, education, and trade. But since the Fall of Saigon and the opening of a unified Vietnam's economy, French has gradually been effectively displaced as the main foreign language of choice by English language, English in Vietnam. All three countries are full members of La Francophonie (OIF).


South Asia

French was the official language of French India, consisting of geographically separate enclaves now referred to as Puducherry (union territory), Puducherry. It was an official languages of Puducherry, official language of Puducherry until its cession to India in 1956, and a small number of older locals still retain knowledge of the language although is has now given way to Tamil and English.


Western Asia


=Lebanon

= A former French French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, mandate, Lebanon designates Arabic as the sole official language, while a special law regulates cases when French can be publicly used. Article 11 of Lebanon's Constitution states that "Arabic is the official national language. A law determines the cases in which the French language is to be used". The French language in Lebanon is a widespread second language among the Lebanese people, and is taught in many schools along with Arabic and English. French is used on Lebanese pound banknotes, on road signs, on Lebanese Vehicle registration plates of Lebanon, license plates, and on official buildings (alongside Arabic). Today, French and English are secondary languages of Lebanon, with about 40% of the population being Francophone and 40% Anglophone. The use of English is growing in the business and media environment. Out of about 900,000 students, about 500,000 are enrolled in Francophone schools, public or private, in which the teaching of mathematics and scientific subjects is provided in French. Actual usage of French varies depending on the region and social status. One-third of high school students educated in French go on to pursue higher education in English-speaking institutions. English is the language of business and communication, with French being an element of social distinction, chosen for its emotional value.


=Israel

= A significant French-speaking community is also present in Israel, primarily among the communities of French Jews in Israel, Moroccan Jews in Israel and Lebanese Jews. Many secondary schools offer French as a foreign language.


=United Arab Emirates and Qatar

= The United Arab Emirates, UAE has the status in the
Organisation internationale de la Francophonie The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF; sometimes shortened to the Francophonie, french: La Francophonie , but also called International Organisation of La Francophonie in English-language context) is an international organiza ...
as an observer state, and Qatar has the status in the organization as an associate state. However, in both countries, French is not spoken by almost any of the general population or migrant workers, but spoken by a small minority of those who invest in Francophone countries or have other financial or family ties. Their entrance as observer and associate states respectively into the organization was aided a good deal by their investments into the Organisation and France itself. A country's status as an observer state in the
Organisation internationale de la Francophonie The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF; sometimes shortened to the Francophonie, french: La Francophonie , but also called International Organisation of La Francophonie in English-language context) is an international organiza ...
gives the country the right to send representatives to organization meetings and make formal requests to the organization but they do not have voting rights within the OIF. A country's status as an associate state also does not give a country voting abilities but associate states can discuss and review organization matters.


Oceania and Australasia

French is an official language of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, where 31% of the population was estimated to speak it in 2018. In the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, 97% of the population can speak, read and write French while in French Polynesia this figure is 95%, and in the French collectivity of Wallis and Futuna, it is 84%. In French Polynesia and to a lesser extent Wallis and Futuna, where oral and written knowledge of the French language has become almost universal (95% and 84% respectively), French increasingly tends to displace the native Polynesian languages as the language most spoken at home. In French Polynesia, the percentage of the population who reported that French was the language they use the most at home rose from 67% at the 2007 census to 74% at the 2017 census. In Wallis and Futuna, the percentage of the population who reported that French was the language they use the most at home rose from 10% at the 2008 census to 13% at the 2018 census.


Future

The future of the French language is often discussed in the news. For example, in 2014, ''The New York Times'' documented an increase in the teaching of French in New York, especially in K-12 dual-language programs where Spanish and Mandarin are the only second-language options more popular than French. In a study published in March 2014 by ''Forbes'', the investment bank Natixis said that French could become the world's most spoken language by 2050. It noted that French is spreading in areas where the population is rapidly increasing, especially in
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all list of sovereign states and dependent territories in ...

sub-Saharan Africa
. In the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
, French was once the dominant language within all institutions until the 1990s. After several enlargements of the EU (1995, 2004), French significantly lost ground in favour of English, which is more widely spoken and taught in most EU countries. French currently remains one of the three working languages, or "procedural languages", of the EU, along with English and German. It is the second most widely used language within EU institutions after English, but remains the preferred language of certain institutions or administrations such as the
Court of Justice of the European Union The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) (french: Cour de justice de l'Union européenne or "''CJUE''"; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European language ...
, where it is the sole internal working language, or the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, Directorate-General for Agriculture. Since 2016, Brexit has rekindled discussions on whether or not French should again hold greater role within the institutions of the European Union.


Varieties

* African French ** Maghreb French (North African French) * Aostan French * Belgian French * Cambodian French * Canadian French ** Acadian French ** Newfoundland French ** New England French ** Ontario French ** Quebec French * French in France, French French ** French Guiana, Guianese French ** Meridional French * Haitian French * Indian French * Jersey Legal French * French language in Laos, Lao French * Louisiana French ** Cajun French * Missouri French * Varieties of French#Asian dialects, South East Asian French * Swiss French * French language in Vietnam, Vietnamese French * French West Indies, West Indian French


Current status and importance

A leading world language, French is taught in universities around the world, and is one of the world's most influential languages because of its wide use in the worlds of journalism, jurisprudence, education, and diplomacy. In diplomacy, French is one of the six official languages of the United Nations (and one of the UN Secretariat's only two working languagesRodney Ball, Dawn Marley, ''The French-Speaking World: A Practical Introduction to Sociolinguistic Issues'', Taylor & Francis, 2016, page 6), one of twenty official and three working languages of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
, an official language of NATO, the
International Olympic Committee The International Olympic Committee (IOC; french: Comité international olympique, ''CIO'') is a non-governmental sports organisation based in Lausanne , neighboring_municipalities= Bottens, Bretigny-sur-Morrens, Chavannes-près-Renens, ...
, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Organization of American States (alongside Spanish, Portuguese and English), the Eurovision Song Contest, one of eighteen official languages of the European Space Agency,
World Trade Organization The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that regulates and facilitates international trade between nations. Governments use the organization to establish, revise, and enforce the rules that govern international ...
and the least used of the three official languages in the North American Free Trade Agreement countries. It is also a working language in nonprofit organisations such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Red Cross (alongside English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian), Amnesty International (alongside 32 other languages of which English is the most used, followed by Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Italian), Médecins sans Frontières (used alongside English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic), and Médecins du Monde (used alongside English). Given the demographic prospects of the French-speaking nations of Africa, researcher Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote in 2014 that French "could be the language of the future". Significant as a judicial language, French is one of the official languages of such major international and regional courts, tribunals, and dispute-settlement bodies as the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Economic Community of West African States#Community Court of Justice, Court of Justice for the Economic Community of West African States, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea the International Criminal Court and the Appellate Body, World Trade Organization Appellate Body. It is the sole internal working language of the
Court of Justice of the European Union The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) (french: Cour de justice de l'Union européenne or "''CJUE''"; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European language ...
, and makes with English the European Court of Human Rights's two working languages. In 1997, George Weber published, in ''Language Today'', a comprehensive academic study entitled "The World's 10 most influential languages".The World's 10 most influential languages
George Weber, 1997, ''Language Today'', retrieved on scribd.com
In the article, Weber ranked French as, after English, the second most ''influential'' language of the world, ahead of Spanish. His criteria were the numbers of native speakers, the number of secondary speakers (especially high for French among fellow world languages), the number of countries using the language and their respective populations, the economic power of the countries using the language, the number of major areas in which the language is used, and the linguistic prestige associated with the mastery of the language (Weber highlighted that French in particular enjoys considerable linguistic prestige). In a 2008 reassessment of his article, Weber concluded that his findings were still correct since "the situation among the top ten remains unchanged." Knowledge of French is often considered to be a useful skill by business owners in the United Kingdom; a 2014 study found that 50% of British managers considered French to be a valuable asset for their business, thus ranking French as the most sought-after foreign language there, ahead of German (49%) and Spanish (44%). MIT economist Albert Saiz calculated a 2.3% premium for those who have French as a foreign language in the workplace. In English-speaking Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, French is the first foreign language taught and in number of pupils is far ahead of other languages. In the United States, French is the second-most commonly taught foreign language in schools and universities, after Spanish. In some areas of the country near French-speaking Quebec, it is the language more commonly taught.


Phonology

Vowel phonemes in French Although there are many French regional accents, foreign learners normally use only one variety of the language. * There are a maximum of 17 vowels in French, not all of which are used in every dialect: plus the nasalized vowels and . In France, the vowels , and are tending to be replaced by , and in many people's speech, but the distinction of and is present in Meridional French. In Quebec and Belgian French, the vowels , , and are present. * Voiced stops (i.e., ) are typically produced fully voiced throughout. * Voiceless stops (i.e., ) are unaspirated. * The velar nasal can occur in final position in borrowed (usually English) words: ''parking, camping, swing''. The palatal nasal can occur in word initial position (e.g., ''gnon''), but it is most frequently found in intervocalic, onset position or word-finally (e.g., ''montagne''). * French has three pairs of homorganic fricatives distinguished by voicing, i.e., labiodental , dental , and palato-alveolar . are dental, like the plosives and the nasal . * French has one rhotic whose pronunciation varies considerably among speakers and phonetic contexts. In general, it is described as a voiced uvular fricative, as in ', "wheel". Vowels are often lengthened before this segment. It can be reduced to an approximant, particularly in final position (e.g., ''fort''), or reduced to zero in some word-final positions. For other speakers, a uvular trill is also common, and an apical trill occurs in some dialects. * Lateral and central approximants: The lateral approximant is unvelarised in both onset (''lire'') and coda position (''il''). In the onset, the central approximants , , and each correspond to a high vowel, , , and respectively. There are a few minimal pairs where the approximant and corresponding vowel contrast, but there are also many cases where they are in free variation. Contrasts between and occur in final position as in ', "pay", vs. ', "country". French pronunciation follows strict rules based on spelling, but French spelling is often based more on history than phonology. The rules for pronunciation vary between dialects, but the standard rules are: * Final single consonants, in particular ''s'', ''x'', ''z'', ''t'', ''d'', ''n'', ''p'' and ''g,'' are normally silent. (A consonant is considered "final" when no vowel follows it even if one or more consonants follow it.) The final letters ''f'', ''k'', ''q'', and ''l'', however, are normally pronounced. The final c is sometimes pronounced like in bac, sac, roc but can also be silent like in blanc or estomac. The final ''r'' is usually silent when it follows an ''e'' in a word of two or more syllables, but it is pronounced in some words (''hiver'', ''super'', ''cancer'' etc.). ** When the following word begins with a vowel, however, a silent consonant ''may'' once again be pronounced, to provide a ''liaison (linguistics), liaison'' or "link" between the two words. Some liaisons are ''mandatory'', for example the ''s'' in ''les amants'' or ''vous avez''; some are ''optional'', depending on dialect and Register (sociolinguistics), register, for example, the first ''s'' in ''deux cents euros'' or ''euros irlandais''; and some are ''forbidden'', for example, the ''s'' in ''beaucoup d'hommes aiment''. The ''t'' of ''et'' is never pronounced and the silent final consonant of a noun is only pronounced in the plural and in set phrases like ''pied-à-terre''. ** Doubling a final ''n'' and adding a silent ''e'' at the end of a word (e.g., ''chien'' → ''chienne'') makes it clearly pronounced. Doubling a final ''l'' and adding a silent ''e'' (e.g., ''gentil'' → ''gentille'') adds a [j] sound if the ''l'' is preceded by the letter ''i''. * Some monosyllabic function words ending in ''a'' or ''e'', such as ''je'' and ''que'', drop their final vowel when placed before a word that begins with a vowel sound (thus avoiding a hiatus (linguistics), hiatus). The missing vowel is replaced by an apostrophe. (e.g., ''*je ai'' is instead pronounced and spelled → ''j'ai''). This gives, for example, the same pronunciation for ''l'homme qu'il a vu'' ("the man whom he saw") and ''l'homme qui l'a vu'' ("the man who saw him"). However, for Belgian French the sentences are pronounced differently; in the first sentence the syllable break is as "qu'il-a", while the second breaks as "qui-l'a". It can also be noted that, in Quebec French, the second example (''l'homme qui l'a vu'') is more emphasized on ''l'a vu''.


Writing system


Alphabet

French is written with the 26 letters of the basic Latin script, with four diacritics appearing on vowels (circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, Diaeresis (diacritic), diaeresis) and the cedilla appearing in "ç". There are two ligature (typography), ligatures, "œ" and "æ", but they are often replaced in contemporary French with "oe" and "ae", because the ligatures do not appear on the AZERTY keyboard layout used in French-speaking countries. However this is nonstandard in formal and literary texts.


Orthography

French spelling, like English spelling, tends to preserve obsolete pronunciation rules. This is mainly due to extreme phonetic changes since the Old French period, without a corresponding change in spelling. Moreover, some conscious changes were made to restore Latin orthography (as with some English words such as "debt"): * Old French ''doit'' > French ''doigt'' "finger" (Latin ''digitus'') * Old French ''pie'' > French ''pied'' "foot" [Latin ''pes'' (stem: ''ped-'')] French is a Morphophonemic orthography, morphophonemic language. While it contains 130 graphemes that denote only 36 phonemes, many of its spelling rules are likely due to a consistency in morphemic patterns such as adding suffixes and prefixes. Many given spellings of common morphemes usually lead to a predictable sound. In particular, a given vowel combination or diacritic generally leads to one phoneme. However, there is not a one-to-one relation of a phoneme and a single related grapheme, which can be seen in how ''tomber'' and ''tombé'' both end with the /e/ phoneme. Additionally, there are many variations in the pronunciation of consonants at the end of words, demonstrated by how the ''x'' in ''paix'' is not pronounced though at the end of ''Aix'' it is''.'' As a result, it can be difficult to predict the spelling of a word based on the sound. Final consonants are generally silent, except when the following word begins with a vowel (see Liaison (French)). For example, the following words end in a vowel sound: ''pied'', ''aller'', ''les'', ', ''beaux''. The same words followed by a vowel, however, may sound the consonants, as they do in these examples: ''beaux-arts'', ''les amis'', ''pied-à-terre''. French writing, as with any language, is affected by the spoken language. In Old French, the plural for ''animal'' was ''animals''. The sequence was unstable and was turned into a diphthong . This change was then reflected in the orthography: ''animaus''. The ''us'' ending, very common in Latin, was then abbreviated by copyists (monks) by the letter ''x'', resulting in a written form ''animax''. As the French language further evolved, the pronunciation of ''au'' turned into so that the ''u'' was reestablished in orthography for consistency, resulting in modern French ''animaux'' (pronounced first before the final was dropped in contemporary French). The same is true for ''cheval'' pluralized as ''chevaux'' and many others. In addition, ''castel'' pl. ''castels'' became ''château'' pl. ''châteaux''. * Nasal vowel, Nasal: ''n'' and ''m''. When ''n'' or ''m'' follows a vowel or diphthong, the ''n'' or ''m'' becomes silent and causes the preceding vowel to become nasalized (i.e., pronounced with the soft palate extended downward so as to allow part of the air to leave through the nostrils). Exceptions are when the ''n'' or ''m'' is doubled, or immediately followed by a vowel. The prefixes ''en-'' and ''em-'' are always nasalized. The rules are more complex than this but may vary between dialects. * digraph (orthography), Digraphs: French uses not only diacritics to specify its large range of vowel sounds and diphthongs, but also specific combinations of vowels, sometimes with following consonants, to show which sound is intended. * Consonant length, Gemination: Within words, double consonants are generally not pronounced as geminates in modern French (but geminates can be heard in the cinema or TV news from as recently as the 1970s, and in very refined elocution they may still occur). For example, ''illusion'' is pronounced and not . However, gemination does occur between words; for example, ''une info'' ("a news item" or "a piece of information") is pronounced , whereas ''une nympho'' ("a nymphomaniac") is pronounced . * Diacritic, Accents are used sometimes for pronunciation, sometimes to distinguish similar words, and sometimes based on etymology alone. ** Accents that affect pronunciation *** The acute accent (''l'accent aigu'') ''é'' (e.g., ''école''—school) means that the vowel is pronounced instead of the default . *** The grave accent (''l'accent grave'') ''è'' (e.g., ''élève''—pupil) means that the vowel is pronounced instead of the default . *** The circumflex (''l'accent circonflexe'') ''ê'' (e.g. ''forêt''—forest) shows that an ''e'' is pronounced and that an ''ô'' is pronounced . In standard French, it also signifies a pronunciation of for the letter ''â'', but this differentiation is disappearing. In the mid-18th century, the circumflex was used in place of ''s'' after a vowel, where that letter ''s'' was not pronounced. Thus, ''forest'' became ''forêt'', ''hospital'' became ''hôpital'', and ''hostel'' became ''hôtel''. *** Diaeresis (diacritic), Diaeresis or ''tréma'' (''ë'', ''ï'', ''ü'', ''ÿ''): over ''e'', ''i'', ''u'' or ''y'', indicates that a vowel is to be pronounced separately from the preceding one: ''naïve'', ''Noël''. ****The combination of ''e'' with diaeresis following ''o'' (''Noël'' ) is nasalized in the regular way if followed by ''n'' (''Samoëns, Samoëns'' ) ****The combination of ''e'' with diaeresis following ''a'' is either pronounced (''Raphaël'', ''Israël'' ) or not pronounced, leaving only the ''a'' (''Madame de Staël, Staël'' ) and the ''a'' is nasalized in the regular way if ''aë'' is followed by ''n'' (''Saint-Saëns, Saint-Saëns'' ) ****A diaeresis on ''y'' only occurs in some proper names and in modern editions of old French texts. Some proper names in which ''ÿ'' appears include ''Aÿ'' (a commune in Marne (department), Marne, formerly ''Aÿ-Champagne''), ''Rue des Cloÿs'' (an alley in Paris), ''Croÿ'' (family name and hotel on the Boulevard Raspail, Paris), '':fr:Château du Feÿ, Château du Feÿ'' (near Joigny), ''Ghÿs'' (name of Flemish origin spelt ''Ghijs'' where ''ij'' in handwriting looked like ''ÿ'' to French clerks), ''L'Haÿ-les-Roses'' (commune near Paris), Pierre Louÿs (author), Moÿ-de-l'Aisne (commune in Aisne (department), Aisne and a family name), and ''Le Blanc de Nicolaÿ'' (an insurance company in eastern France). ****The diaeresis on ''u'' appears in the Biblical proper names ''Archélaüs'', ''Capharnaüm'', ''Emmaüs'', ''Ésaü'', and ''Saül'', as well as French names such as René Just Haüy, Haüy. Nevertheless, since the 1990 orthographic changes, the diaeresis in words containing ''guë'' (such as ''aiguë'' or ''ciguë'') may be moved onto the ''u'': ''aigüe'', ''cigüe'', and by analogy may be used in verbs such as ''j'argüe''. ****In addition, words coming from German retain their Diaeresis (diacritic)#Umlaut, umlaut (''ä'', ''ö'' and ''ü'') if applicable but use often French pronunciation, such as ''Kärcher'' (trademark of a pressure washer). *** The cedilla (''la cédille'') ''ç'' (e.g., ''garçon''—boy) means that the letter ''ç'' is pronounced in front of the back vowels ''a'', ''o'' and ''u'' (''c'' is otherwise before a back vowel). ''C'' is always pronounced in front of the front vowels ''e'', ''i'', and ''y'', thus ''ç'' is never found in front of front vowels. ** Accents with no pronunciation effect *** The circumflex does not affect the pronunciation of the letters ''i'' or ''u'', nor, in most dialects, ''a''. It usually indicates that an ''s'' came after it long ago, as in ''île'' (from former ''isle'', compare with English word "isle")
-->. The explanation is that some words share the same orthography, so the circumflex is put here to mark the difference between the two words. For example, ''dites'' (you say) / ''dîtes'' (you said), or even ''du'' (of the) / ''dû'' (past participle for the verb ''devoir'' = must, have to, owe; in this case, the circumflex disappears in the plural and the feminine). *** All other accents are used only to distinguish similar words, as in the case of distinguishing the adverbs ''là'' and ''où'' ("there", "where") from the article ''la'' ("the" feminine singular) and the conjunction ''ou'' ("or"), respectively. Some proposals exist to simplify the existing writing system, but they still fail to gather interest. In 1990, a Reforms of French orthography, reform accepted some changes to French orthography. At the time the proposed changes were considered to be suggestions. In 2016, schoolbooks in France began to use the newer recommended spellings, with instruction to teachers that both old and new spellings be deemed correct.


Grammar

French is a moderately Inflection, inflected language. Nouns and most pronouns are inflected for grammatical number, number (singular or plural, though in most nouns the plural is pronounced the same as the singular even if spelled differently); adjectives, for number and grammatical gender, gender (masculine or feminine) of their nouns; personal pronouns and a few other pronouns, for grammatical person, person, number, gender, and grammatical case, case; and verbs, for grammatical tense, tense, Grammatical aspect, aspect, grammatical mood, mood, and the person and number of their subject (grammar), subjects. Case is primarily marked using word order and prepositions, while certain verb features are marked using auxiliary verbs. According to the French lexicogrammatical system, French has a rank-scale hierarchy with clause as the top rank, which is followed by group rank, word rank, and morpheme rank. A French clause is made up of groups, groups are made up of words, and lastly, words are made up of morphemes. French grammar shares several notable features with most other Romance languages, including * the loss of Latin declensions * the loss of the neuter gender * the development of grammatical article (grammar), articles from Latin demonstratives * the loss of certain Latin Grammatical tense, tenses and the creation of new tenses from auxiliaries.


Nouns

Every French noun is either masculine or feminine. Because French nouns are not inflected for gender, a noun's form cannot specify its gender. For nouns regarding the living, their grammatical genders often correspond to that which they refer to. For example, a male teacher is a "enseignant" while a female teacher is a "enseignante". However, plural nouns that refer to a group that includes both masculine and feminine entities are always masculine. So a group of two male teachers would be "enseignants". A group of two male teachers and two female teachers would still be "enseignants". In many situations, and in the case of "enseignant", both the singular and plural form of a noun are pronounced identically. The article used for singular nouns is different from that used for plural nouns and the article provides a distinguishing factor between the two in speech. For example, the singular "le professeur" or "la professeur(e)" (the male or female teacher, professor) can be distinguished from the plural "les professeurs" because "le", "la", and "les" are all pronounced differently. There are some situations where both the feminine and masculine form of a noun are the same and the article provides the only difference. For example, "le dentiste" refers to a male dentist while "la dentiste" refers to a female dentist.


Verbs


Moods and tense-aspect forms

The French language consists of both finite and non-finite moods. The finite moods include the indicative mood (indicatif), the subjunctive mood (subjonctif), the imperative mood (impératif), and the conditional mood (conditionnel). The non-finite moods include the infinitive mood (infinitif), the present participle (participe présent), and the past participle (participe passé).


= Finite moods

=


Indicative (Indicatif)

The indicative mood makes use of eight tense-aspect forms. These include the Present tense, present (présent), the simple past (passé composé and passé simple), the past imperfective (imparfait), the pluperfect (plus-que-parfait), the simple future (futur simple), the future perfect (futur antérieur), and the past perfect (passé antérieur). Some forms are less commonly used today. In today's spoken French, the passé composé is used while the passé simple is reserved for formal situations or for literary purposes. Similarly, the plus-que-parfait is used for speaking rather than the older passé antérieur seen in literary works. Within the indicative mood, the passé composé, plus-que-parfait, futur antérieur, and passé antérieur all use auxiliary verbs in their forms.


Subjunctive (Subjonctif)

The subjunctive mood only includes four of the tense-aspect forms found in the indicative: present (présent), simple past (passé composé), past imperfective (imparfait), and pluperfect (plus-que-parfait). Within the subjunctive mood, the passé composé and plus-que-parfait use auxiliary verbs in their forms.


Imperative (Imperatif)

The imperative is used in the present tense (with the exception of a few instances where it is used in the perfect tense). The imperative is used to give commands to you (tu), we/us (nous), and plural you (vous).


Conditional (Conditionnel)

The conditional makes use of the present (présent) and the past (passé). The passé uses auxiliary verbs in its forms.


Voice

French uses both the active voice and the passive voice. The active voice is unmarked while the passive voice is formed by using a form of verb ''être'' ("to be") and the past participle. Example of the active voice: * "Elle aime le chien." ''She loves the dog.'' * "Marc a conduit la voiture." ''Marc drove the car.'' Example of the passive voice: * "Le chien est aimé par elle." ''The dog is loved by her.'' * "La voiture était conduite par Marc." ''The car was driven by Marc.''


Syntax


= Word order

= French declarative word order is subject–verb–object although a pronoun object precedes the verb. Some types of sentences allow for or require different word orders, in particular inversion (linguistics), inversion of the subject and verb, as in "Parlez-vous français ?" when asking a question rather than "Vous parlez français ?" Both formulations are used, and carry a rising inflection on the last word. The literal English translations are "Do you speak French?" and "You speak French?", respectively. To avoid inversion while asking a question, "Est-ce que" (literally "is it that") may be placed at the beginning of the sentence. "Parlez-vous français ?" may become "Est-ce que vous parlez français ?" French also uses verb–object–subject (VOS) and object–subject–verb (OSV) word order. OSV word order is not used often and VOS is reserved for formal writings.


Vocabulary

The majority of French words derive from
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
or were constructed from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
or Ancient Greek, Greek roots. In many cases, a single etymological root appears in French in a "popular" or native form, inherited from Vulgar Latin, and a learned form, borrowed later from Classical Latin. The following pairs consist of a native noun and a learned adjective: * brother: ''wikt:frère, frère'' / ''wikt:fraternel, fraternel'' from Latin ''wikt:frater, frater / wikt:fraternalis, fraternalis'' * finger: ''wikt:doigt, doigt'' / ''wikt:digital, digital'' from Latin ''wikt:digitus, digitus / wikt:digitalis, digitalis'' * faith: ''wikt:foi, foi'' / ''wikt:fidèle, fidèle'' from Latin ''wikt:fides, fides / wikt:fidelis, fidelis'' * eye: ''wikt:œil, œil'' / ''wikt:oculaire, oculaire'' from Latin ''wikt:oculus, oculus / wikt:ocularis, ocularis'' However, a historical tendency to Francization, Gallicise Latin roots can be identified, whereas English conversely leans towards a more direct incorporation of the Latin: * ''wikt:rayonnement, rayonnement'' / ''radiation'' from Latin ''wikt:radiatio, radiatio'' * ''wikt:éteindre, éteindre'' / ''extinguish'' from Latin ''wikt:exstinguo#Latin, exstinguere'' * ''wikt:noyau, noyau'' / ''nucleus'' from Latin ''wikt:nucleus#Latin, nucleus'' * ''wikt:ensoleillement, ensoleillement'' / ''insolation'' from Latin ''wikt:insolatio, insolatio'' There are also noun-noun and adjective-adjective pairs: * thing/cause: ''wikt:chose, chose'' / ''wikt:cause, cause'' from Latin ''wikt:causa, causa'' * cold: ''wikt:froid, froid'' / ''wikt:frigide, frigide'' from Latin ''wikt:frigidum, frigidum'' It can be difficult to identify the Latin source of native French words because in the evolution from
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
, unstressed syllables were severely reduced and the remaining vowels and consonants underwent significant modifications. More recently the linguistic policy of the French language academies of France and Quebec has been to provide French equivalents to (mainly English) imported words, either by using existing vocabulary, extending its meaning or deriving a new word according to French morphological rules. The result is often two (or more) co-existing terms for describing the same phenomenon. * ''mercatique ''/ ''marketing'' * ''finance'' ''fantôme'' / ''shadow'' ''banking'' * ''bloc-notes'' / ''notepad'' * ''ailière'' / ''wingsuit'' * ''tiers-lieu ''/'' coworking'' It is estimated that 12% (4,200) of common French words found in a typical dictionary such as the ''Petit Larousse'' or ''Micro-Robert Plus'' (35,000 words) are of foreign origin (where Ancient Greek, Greek and Latin language, Latin learned words are not seen as foreign). About 25% (1,054) of these foreign words come from English and are fairly recent borrowings. The others are some 707 words from Italian, 550 from ancient Germanic languages, 481 from other Gallo-Romance languages, 215 from Arabic, 164 from German, 160 from
Celtic languages The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication u ...
, 159 from Spanish, 153 from
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
, 112 from Persian language, Persian and Sanskrit language, Sanskrit, 101 from Native American languages, 89 from other Asian languages, 56 from other Afro-Asiatic languages, 55 from Balto-Slavic languages, 10 from Basque language, Basque and 144 (about 3%) from other languages. One study analyzing the degree of differentiation of Romance languages in comparison to Latin estimated that among the languages analyzed French has the greatest distance from Latin. Lexical similarity is 89% with Italian, 80% with Sardinian, 78% with Rhaeto-Romance, and 75% with Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese.Ethnologue report for language code:ita (Italy)
– Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version


Numerals

The French counting system is partially vigesimal: 20 (number), twenty (') is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 70 to 99. The French word for ''80'' is ', literally "four twenties", and the word for ''75'' is ', literally "sixty-fifteen". This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the counting systems (mostly vigesimal near the coast, because of Celtic (via Breton language, Breton) and Viking influences. This system is comparable to the archaic English use of ''score'', as in "fourscore and seven" (87), or "threescore and ten" (70). In Old French (during the Middle Ages), all numbers from 30 to 99 could be said in either base 10 or base 20, e.g. ''vint et doze'' (twenty and twelve) for 32, ''dous vinz et diz'' (two twenties and ten) for 50, ''uitante'' for 80, or ''nonante'' for 90. Belgian French, Swiss French, Aostan FrenchJean-Pierre Martin, ''Description lexicale du français parlé en Vallée d'Aoste'', éd. Musumeci, Quart, Aosta Valley, Quart, 1984. and the French used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and
Burundi Burundi (, ), officially the Republic of Burundi ( rn, Repubulika y’u Burundi, ; Swahili: Jamuhuri ya Burundi; french: link=no, République du Burundi, or ), is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is ...

Burundi
are different in this respect. In the French spoken in these places, 70 and 90 are ' and '. In Switzerland, depending on the local dialect, 80 can be ' (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura) or ' (Vaud, Valais, Fribourg). ''Octante'' had been used in
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
in the past, but is now considered archaic, while in the
Aosta Valley , Valdostan or Valdotainian it, Valdostano (man) it, Valdostana (woman)french: Valdôtain (man)french: Valdôtaine (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = Official languages , population_blank1 = Italian Italian ...

Aosta Valley
80 is '. In Belgium and in its former African colonies, however, ''quatre-vingts'' is universally used. French, like most European languages, uses a space to separate thousands. The comma (french: virgule, link=no) is used in French numbers as a decimal point, i.e. "2,5" instead of "2.5". In the case of currencies, the currency markers are substituted for decimal point, i.e. "5$7" for "5 dollars and 7 cent (currency), cents".


See also

* Alliance Française * AZERTY * Français fondamental * Francization * Francophile * Francophobia * Francophonie * French language in the United States * French language in Canada * French poetry * French proverbs * Glossary of French expressions in English * Influence of French on English * Language education * List of countries where French is an official language * List of English words of French origin * List of French loanwords in Persian * List of French words and phrases used by English speakers * List of German words of French origin * Official bilingualism in Canada * Varieties of French


Notes


References


Further reading

* * Nadeau, Jean-Benoît, and Julie Barlow (2006). ''The Story of French''. (First U.S. ed.) New York: St. Martin's Press. . * Ursula Reutner (2017). ''Manuel des francophonies''. Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter. . *


External links


Organisations


Fondation Alliance française
an international organisation for the promotion of French language and culture
Agence de promotion du FLE
Agency for promoting French as a foreign language


Courses and tutorials


Français interactif
interactive French program, University of Texas at Austin
Tex's French Grammar
University of Texas at Austin
Lingopolo French

French lessons in London
The Language machine


Online dictionaries

* Oxford Dictionarie
French Dictionary

Collins Online English↔French Dictionary

Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales
monolingual dictionaries (including the Trésor de la langue française), language corpora, etc.


Grammar


Verbs


French verb conjugation
at Verbix


Vocabulary

* :wikt:Appendix:French Swadesh list, Swadesh list in English and French


Numbers

*


Books

*
La langue française dans le monde 2010
Full book freely accessible)


Articles

*
The status of French in the world
. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (France) {{DEFAULTSORT:French Language French language, Articles containing video clips Fusional languages Languages attested from the 9th century Languages of France Languages of Algeria Languages of Belgium Languages of Benin Languages of Burkina Faso Languages of Burundi Languages of Cambodia Languages of Cameroon Languages of Canada Languages of the Central African Republic Languages of Chad Languages of the Comoros Languages of the Republic of the Congo Languages of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Languages of Djibouti Languages of French Guiana Languages of French Polynesia Languages of Gabon Languages of Guadeloupe Languages of Guinea Languages of Haiti Languages of Ivory Coast Languages of Laos Languages of Luxembourg Languages of Madagascar Languages of Mali Languages of Martinique Languages of Mauritania Languages of Mauritius Languages of Monaco Languages of Morocco Languages of New Caledonia Languages of Niger Languages of Réunion Languages of Rwanda Languages of Saint Martin (island) Languages of Senegal Languages of Seychelles Languages of Switzerland Languages of Togo Languages of Tunisia Languages of the United States Languages of Vanuatu Languages of Vietnam Languages of Wallis and Futuna Subject–verb–object languages