French influence on English language

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Influence of French words on English Grammatical Language


      As the grammatical systems of the two languages were very different, it is necessary here to see the form in which French words were adopted in English language. Substantives and adjectives were always taken over in the accusative case. In the plural, old French had a nominative without any ending and an accusative in - s and English popular instinct naturally associated the latter form with the native Pural ending in - es. French adjective had the 's' added to them just like French nouns and we finda few adjectives with the plural 's', as in the goddes, celestials (Chaucer); letters, patents. But the general rule was to treat French adjectives exactly like English ones.

French words have participated in all the sound changes that have taken place in English since their adoption. Thus words with the long (i) sound have had it dipthongised into ax e.g, fine, price, lion, etc. The long (u) has similarly become au e.g: OE. espouse, mod: spouse.
French influence on English

      As to the verb, the rule is that the stem of the French present plural served as basis for the English form. Thus nous survivous, vous survivez, its survivent became survive, resolvous became resolve. This is explained in the frequent ending - ish in punish, finish, etc. English bound (to leap) is an English formation from the noun bound which is the French bond.

      French words have participated in all the sound changes that have taken place in English since their adoption. Thus words with the long (i) sound have had it dipthongised into ax e.g, fine, price, lion, etc. The long (u) has similarly become au e.g: OE. espouse, mod: spouse.

      A great many words are now stressed on the first syllable which in French were stressed on the final syllable and this is ofted ascribed to the inability of the English to imitate the French accentuation. All English words had the stress on the first syllable and this habit was unconsciously extended to foreign words on their first adoption into the language.

      Not long after the intrusion of the first French words, there are traces of a phenomenon which was to attain very great proportion and which must now be termed as one of the most prominent features of the language, namely Hybridism. Hybrid is a composite word formed of elements from different languages. There is a hybrid when an English inflexional ending is added to a French word as in the genitive The Duke's children or the superlative noblest etc. The instances of hybrids formed by English endings added to French words are such as faintness, closeness, materialness (Ruskin ) etc.

      A great many adjectives in-ly,-ful,-less, and nouns in-ship, -down, are such examples-courtly, powerful, artless, courtship Dukedom, etc. There are many hybrids composed of a native stem and a foreign ending: -ess goddess, -nient-endearment, age-shrinkage, -ance -hindrance, etc. There are hybrids in - ous (murderous, thunderous), in - ry (fishery, bakery), - ty (.oddity, humanity ) - fy ( fishify ), -fication ( uglification ). One of the most fertile English derivative endings is-able, (agreeable, variable).

Common people manage to learn so many French words


      French words after the Norman conquest entered English language abundantly. It is pertinent to ask how the common people learnt and assimilated so many foreign words. The process of assimilation was facilitated by the fact that a French word happened to resemble an old native one, the French having borrowed in some previous period the corresponding word from Germanic dialect. Thus no one can tell how much modern 'rich' owes to OE 'rice' or to French 'riche'. The old native verb 'choose' was supplemented with the noun choice from French choix. The French Isle corrupted the spelling of English hand and into legland. But these accidental similarities were few in number and therefore have helped very little the English population in learning the new words. A greater assistance may perhaps have been derived from a habit of using a French word side by side with its native synonym, the latter serving as an interpretation of the former for the benefit of those who were not familiar with the more refined expressions. Thus in the Ancrene Rhwle: cherite, pet is luve; ignorance, pet is unwisdom. Sometimes this use of native word side by side with the French word heightened the effect of the style - for instance poynaunt (Poignant) and sharp, lord and sire, etc.

      Now we can understand the differences between two synonyms one of them native and the other French. The former has the strongest associations with everything primitive, fundamental, popular while the French word is formal, polite and refined. A cottage is finer than a hut. The word bill was too vulgar and therefore a hawk has a beak (which is a French term, whereas bill is the Anglo-Saxon bile). The differences between help and aid', folk and-people', 'hearty and cordial', 'matin and morning' are to be noted in this connection.

      In some cases, native word seems to be more colloquial and the French more literary as. begin-commence; hide-conceal; feed - nourish. Again, native word is sometimes literary, deed-action, look for-search for.

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