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Law French ( nrf, Louai Français, enm, Lawe Frensch) is an archaic language originally based on Old Norman and Anglo-Norman, but increasingly influenced by
Parisian French French of France () is the predominant variety of the French language in France, Andorra and Monaco, in its formal and informal registers. It has, for a long time, been associated with Standard French. It is now seen as a variety of French along ...
and, later, English. It was used in the law courts of England, beginning with the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Its use continued for several centuries in the courts of
England and Wales England and Wales () is one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It covers the constituent countries England and Wales and was formed by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. The substantive law of the jurisdiction is Engl ...
and
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the seco ...
. Although Law French as a narrative legal language is obsolete, many individual Law French terms continue to be used by lawyers and judges in common law jurisdictions (see the section "Survivals in modern legal terminology", below).


History

The earliest known documents in which ''French'' (i.e. Anglo-Norman) is used for discourse on
English law English law is the common law legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly criminal law and civil law, each branch having its own courts and procedures. Principal elements of English law Although the common law has, historically ...
date from the third quarter of the thirteenth century and include two particular documents. The first is '' The Provisions of Oxford'' (1258), consisting of the terms of oaths sworn by the 24 magnates appointed to rectify abuses in the administration of King Henry III, together with summaries of their rulings. The second is ''The Casus Placitorum'' (c. 1250 – c. 1270), a collection of legal maxims, rules and brief narratives of cases. In these works the language is already sophisticated and technical, well equipped with its own legal terminology. This includes many words which are of Latin origin but whose forms have been shortened or distorted in a way which suggests that they already possessed a long history of French usage. Some examples include ''
advowson Advowson () or patronage is the right in English law of a patron (avowee) to present to the diocesan bishop (or in some cases the ordinary if not the same person) a nominee for appointment to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice or church living ...
'' from the Latin ''advocationem'', meaning the legal right to nominate a
parish A parish is a territorial entity in many Christian denominations, constituting a division within a diocese. A parish is under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of a priest, often termed a parish priest, who might be assisted by one or m ...
priest; ''neif'' 'e'' from the Latin ''nātīvā'', meaning a female
serf Serfdom was the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism, and similar systems. It was a condition of debt bondage and indentured servitude with similarities to and differences from slavery, which develo ...
; and ''essoyne'' or ''essone'' from the Latin ''sunnis'', meaning a circumstance that provides exemption from a royal summons (later ''essonia'' replaced ''sunnis'' in Latin, thus replacing into Latin from the French form). Until the early fourteenth century, Law French largely coincided with the French used as an everyday language by the upper classes. As such, it reflected some of the changes undergone by the northern dialects of mainland French during the period. Thus, in the documents mentioned above, 'of the king' is rendered as ''del rey'', whereas by about 1330 it had become ''du roi'' (as in modern French) or ''du roy''. During the 14th century vernacular French suffered a rapid decline in Western Europe Islands. The use of Law French was criticized by those who argued that lawyers sought to restrict entry into the legal profession. The Pleading in English Act 1362 ("Statute of Pleading") acknowledged this change by ordaining that thenceforward all court pleading must be in English so "every Man….may the better govern himself without offending of the Law." From that time, Law French lost most of its status as a spoken language. It remained in use for the 'readings' (lectures) and 'moots' (academic debates), held in the Inns of Court as part of the education of young lawyers, but essentially it quickly became a written language alone; it ceased to acquire new words, its grammar degenerated (by about 1500, gender was often neglected, giving rise to such absurdities as ''une home'' ('a (feminine) man') or ''un feme'' ('a (masculine) woman'), and its vocabulary became increasingly
English English usually refers to: * English language * English people English may also refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * ''English'', an adjective for something of, from, or related to England ** English national id ...
, as it was used solely by English, Welsh and Irish lawyers and judges who often spoke no real French. In the seventeenth century, the moots and readings fell into neglect, and the rule of Oliver Cromwell, with its emphasis on removing the relics of archaic ritual from legal and governmental processes, struck a further blow at the language. Even before then, in 1628,
Sir Edward Coke ''Sir'' is a formal honorific address in English for men, derived from Sire in the High Middle Ages. Both are derived from the old French "Sieur" (Lord), brought to England by the French-speaking Normans, and which now exist in French only as ...
acknowledged in his preface to the ''First Part of the Institutes of the Law of England'' that Law French had almost ceased to be a spoken tongue. It was still used for case reports and legal textbooks until almost the end of the century, but only in an anglicized form. A frequently quoted example of this change comes from one of Chief Justice Sir George Treby's marginal notes in an annotated edition of '' Dyer's Reports'', published 1688: Only Proceedings in Courts of Justice Act 1730 made English (instead of Law French and Latin) the obligatory language for use in the courts of England and in the court of exchequer in Scotland. It was later extended to Wales, and seven years later a similar act was passed in Ireland, the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/857001/Final_Combined_Legislation_for_publication.pdf


Survivals in modern legal terminology

The postpositive adjectives in many legal
noun phrase In linguistics, a noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase that has a noun or pronoun as its head or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common cross-linguistically, and they may be the most frequently ...
s in English—'' attorney general,
fee simple In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. A "fee" is a vested, inheritable, present possessory interest in land. A "fee simple" is real property held without limit of time (i.e., per ...
''—are a heritage from Law French. Native speakers of French may not understand certain Law French terms not used in modern French or replaced by other terms. For example, the current French word for " mortgage" is ''hypothèque''. Many of the terms of Law French were converted into modern English in the 20th century to make the law more understandable in common-law jurisdictions. However, some key Law French terms remain, including the following:


See also

* French language * Norman language * French phrases used by English speakers * English words of French origin * Jersey Legal French *
Franglais Franglais (; also Frenglish ) is a French blend that referred first to the overuse of English words by French speakers and later to diglossia or the macaronic mixture of French () and English (). Etymology The word ''Franglais'' was first a ...
*
List of legal Latin terms A ''list'' is any set of items in a row. List or lists may also refer to: People * List (surname) Organizations * List College, an undergraduate division of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America * SC Germania List, German rugby unio ...
*
Legal English Legal English is the type of English as used in legal writing. In general, a legal language is a formalized language based on logic rules which differs from the ordinary natural language in vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and semantics, as well ...


Notes


References


Literature

* ''Manual of Law French'' by J. H. Baker, 1979. * ''The Mastery of the French Language in England'' by B. Clover, 1888. * "The salient features of the language of the earlier year books" in ''Year Books 10 Edward II'', pp. xxx–xlii. M. D. Legge, 1934. * "Of the Anglo-French Language in the Early Year Books" in ''Year Books 1 & 2 Edward II'', pp. xxxiii–lxxxi. F. W. Maitland, 1903. * ''The Anglo-Norman Dialect'' by L. E. Menger, 1904. * ''From Latin to Modern French, with especial Consideration of Anglo-Norman'' by M. K. Pope, 1956. * ''L'Evolution du Verbe en Anglo-Français, XIIe-XIVe Siècles'' by F. J. Tanquerey, 1915.


External links


The Law-French Dictionary Alphabetically Digested. 1718.
{{Gallo-Romance languages and dialects English law French dialects Irish law Legal history of England Norman language