Who in­vented the French lan­guage?

Guru Magazine - - Ask A Guru - Asked by Molly Brown via e-mail

With a few ex­cep­tions, like Esperanto and Klin­gon, lan­guages are not di­rectly ‘in­vented’ by any one par­tic­u­lar per­son – they ‘evolve’ from other lan­guages. French is the con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing in­ven­tion of ev­ery per­son who has ever spo­ken French. Mod­ern French de­vel­oped grad­u­ally from the Latin spo­ken in Gaul about 2,000 years ago. Gaul is the area of the Ro­man Em­pire that roughly cor­re­sponds to the mod­ern Euro­pean coun­tries of France, Bel­gium and

Switzer­land (As­terix & Obe­lix fans will know this al­ready

– Ed.) At first, the dif­fer­ences be­tween the Latin spo­ken in Gaul and the Latin spo­ken in Rome her­self was small, but the dif­fer­ences in­creased over the cen­turies. New words were in­vented or im­ported from other lan­guages, and the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of words changed. ‘Selfie’, for ex­am­ple, is a newly in­vented word in the English lan­guage, mean­ing a photo taken of you by you. Even­tu­ally the ‘Latin’ of Gaul was so dif­fer­ent from the ‘Latin’ of Rome, the two dif­fer­ent peo­ples would hardly be able to hold a con­ver­sa­tion – they spoke so dif­fer­ently that they even­tu­ally started call­ing each other’s gib­ber­ish French and Ital­ian. Mod­ern Span­ish, Por­tuguese, Ro­ma­nian and Cata­lan evolved in sim­i­lar ways in other parts of the Ro­man Em­pire, all from the same Latin root. The same thing is also true of Latin it­self. A lan­guage spo­ken some­where around the Black Sea, about 6,000 years ago, was prob­a­bly the an­ces­tor of most of the lan­guages of Europe, Iran and In­dia, in­clud­ing French, English, Welsh, Ger­man, Greek, Rus­sian, Hindi and Farsi. The same ‘lan­guage evo­lu­tion’ is still hap­pen­ing to­day. The French spo­ken in France, Bel­gium, Que­bec and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo are not iden­ti­cal. Who knows? In the far fu­ture they may be­come as dif­fer­ent from one another as French and Ital­ian are to­day.

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