Some issues on french borrowings in the english language

The history of the English language. Three main types of difference in any language: geographical, social and temporal. Comprehensive analysis of the current state of the lexical system. Etymological layers of English: Latin, Scandinavian and French.

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Some issues on french borrowings in the english language

Every living language changes through time. It is natural that no records of linguistic changes have ever been kept, as most changes pass unnoticed by contemporaries.

The history of the English language has been reconstructed on the basis of written records of different periods. The earliest extant written texts in English are dated in the 7th century; the earliest records in other Germanic languages go back to the 3rd or 4th century.

The development of English, however, began a long before it was first recoded. In order to say where the English language came from, to what languages it is related, when and how it has acquired its specific features, one must get acquainted with some facts of the prewritten history of the Germanic group. [1;12]

One can distinguish three main types of difference in any language: geographical, social and temporal. Linguistic change imply temporal difference, which become apparent if the same elements or parts of the language are compared at successive historical stages; there are transformations of the same units in time which can be registered as distinct steps in their evolution. For instance, the OE form the Past tense pl Ind. Mood of the verb to find -fundon [/fundon] became founden [/fu:nden]

The concept of linguistic change is not limited to internal, structural changes. Most linguistic changes involve some kind of substitution and can therefore be called replacement. Linguistic changes classified into different types of replacement, namely split and mergers ,can also be described in terms of oppositions, which is widely recognized method of scientific linguistic analysis.[1;16-17]

A comprehensive analysis of the current state of lexical system is impossible without the knowledge of the history of its development and consistent study of its various historical sections. The unity of synchronic and diachronic approaches here is absolutely necessary. As an integral part of the English language vocabulary developed and enriched together with this system, being in a very complicated and multi-faceted relations with it. Many words in the English were borrowed from different languages. They differ in number and specific weight in the vocabulary structure of the English language. Words of foreign origin are called borrowings. The issue of studying French borrowings were engaged the following linguists. [2;183] english language lexical etymological

As we know, borrowed words comprise more than half of the vocabulary of the language. These borrowings entered the language from many sources, forming consequently various etymological strata. The principal ones here are as follows:

-- the Latin element

-- the Scandinavian element

-- the French element.

The French element in the English vocabulary is a large and important one. Words of this origin entered the language in the Middle and New English periods. Among Middle English borrowings we generally mention earlier borrowings, their source being Norman French -- the dialect of William the Conqueror and his followers. They entered the language in the period beginning with the time of Edward the Confessor and continued up to the loss of Normandy in 1204. Later Middle English borrowings have as their source Parisian French. The time of these borrowings may be estimated as end of the 13th century and up to 1500. These words are generally fully assimilated in English and felt as its integral part: government, parliament, justice, peace, prison, court, crime, etc. Many of these words (though by no means all of them) are terms used in reference to government and courts of law. Later Middle English borrowings are more colloquial words: air, river, mountain, branch, cage, calm, cost, table, chair.

The amount of these Middle English borrowings is as estimated as much as 3,500. French borrowings of the New English period entered the language beginning with the 17th century -- the time of the Restoration of monarchy in Britain, which began with the accession to the throne of Charles II, who had long lived in exile at the French court aggressor, apartment, brunette, campaign, caprice, caress, console, coquette, cravat, billet-doux, carte blanche.

Later also such words appeared in the language as: garage, magazine, policy, machine. It is interesting to note that the phonetics of French borrowings always helps us to prove their origin. These phonetic features are at least two: stress and special sound/letter features. Concerning the first (stress), words which do not have stress on the first syllable unless the first syllable is a prefix are almost always French borrowings of the New English period. Words containing the sounds ["] spelled not sh, [d] -- ?°-? dg,[t"] -- not ch and practically all words with the sound [3]are sure to be of French origin: aviation, social, Asia, soldier, jury, literature, pleasure, treasure[3;196-7].

The Norman Conquest began in 1066. The Normans were by origin a Scandinavian tribe who two centuries back began their inroads on the Northern part of France and finally occupied the territory on both shores of the Seine. The French King Charles the Simple ceded to the Normans the territory occupied by them, which came to be called Normandy. The Normans adopted the French language and culture, and when they came to Britain they brought with them the French language.

In 1066 King Edward the Confessor died, and the Norman Duke William, profiting by the weakness of King Harold who succeeded King Edward on the English throne, invaded England. He assembled an army, landed in England and in a battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066 managed to defeat Harold and proclaimed himself King of England. The Norman conquest had far-reaching consequences for the English people and the English language. The English nobility perished through different reasons and was replaced by the Norman barons. The new king William confiscated the estates of the Anglo-Saxons nobility and distributed them among the Norman barons. The Norman conquerors continued pouring into England thousands after thousands, years and years after the conquest, and during the reign of King William over 200,000 Frenchmen settled in England and occupied all positions of prominence in the country, be it in court, Parliament, Church or school.[1;52]

When people hear a foreign or unfamiliar word for the first time, they try to make sense of it by relating it to words they know well. They guess what it must mean-- and often guess wrongly. However, if enough people make the same wrong guess, the error can become part of the language. Such erroneous forms are called folk or popular etymologies. Bridegroom provides a good example. What has a groom got to do with getting married? Is he going to groom the bride? Or perhaps he is responsible for horses to carry him and his bride off into the sunset? The true explanation is more prosaic. The Middle English form was bridgome, which goes back to Old English brydguma, from "bride" + guma "man". However, gome died out during the Middle English period. By the 16"century its meaning was no longer apparent, and it came to be popularly replaced by a similar-sounding word, grome, "serving lad". This later developed the sense of "servant having the care of horses", which is the dominant sense today. But bridegroom never meant anything more than "bride's man". Here are a few other folk etymologies:

* sparrow-grass -- a popular name for asparagus -- though this vegetable has nothing to do with sparrows.

There are three types of the French loan-words in the English language: -actually borrowed words;

-blueprints - semantic borrowing. [3;56]

We have already discussed the question about the process of the French borrowings in the English language. Let us study different types of loan-words. There are three ways of word borrowings:



We may tell about "loan-words" when the borrowed word takes not only the meaning but also takes the sound envelope. For example, the English word "shivaree"- "cat performance" is not an exact phonetic match simulated words "chaviary", but it's so close to him that origin one from another is not in doubt.

Semantic borrowings implies the process when the word acquires modern meaning due to its semantic and phonetic similarities with the word from given language. Calling this henomena "semantic borrowings", we mean that it is really semantic shift. As an example we may give following words "gratte-ciel", "sky-scraper"

As a result of the French borrowings the English language had acquire a huge number of lexical units and many of them had a sophisticated word-formation. The influence of the French language recoiled upon the system of the English word-building. Certain English suffixes and prefixes (can be encountered in loan-words), were able to have been taken and used for word-formation. For example, a large number of French words were formed with the suffixes -ance, -ence: ignorance, entrance, innocence. [4;88]

The suffix-ess is used to denote female gender, that was brought in the following words: princess, baroness. Then they were added to the English roots: goddess, murderess.

French suffix-able-ible, which form adjectives with the meaning "able of being exposed, marked the verb", entered the English language in the words: admirable, tolerable, flexible. Some French prefixes also became productive in English. For example, the prefix dis-, -des - with a negative meaning were introduced into the English language by the following French words (disappoint, disdain).

Having studied the types of French borrowings, let us briefly review them in the examples taken from the works of some English writers.

The research of linguistic material was examined in the work of English writer of the late XIX - early XX centuries W. M. Thackeray "Vanity Fair".

The First criterion is the presence of the words that fully preserved French spelling or pronunciation: pincette, camaraderier, dejeuner, monsenieur, menage, demagogue, ennui, avenue.

The second criterion is determined by the presence of words that have suffixes: -ment, -able,-tion, -sion. eclaricissement, disappointment, miserable, situation, appartement, etc.

The Third criterion is determined by the presence in the studied language material, words with буквосочетаниями: -ai--ion-lie affaire, aides-de-camp, billet-doux, etc.

The Fourth criterion is the presence of the words with combinations of letters -ch- chaussure, chausse, chambre, etc. [5;101]

Lexical borrowings are interaction between nations in economics, policy and culture. One of the outstanding examples is French borrowings in the English language. According to the system structure of the given language some loan-words acquire new meaning which is unnatural for its origin.

Many words in the English were borrowed from different languages. They differ in number and specific weight in the vocabulary structure of the English language. As we know, borrowed words comprise more than half of the vocabulary of the language. The French element in the English vocabulary is a large and important one. Words of this origin entered the language in the Middle and New English periods.


1)T.A.Rastorguyeva A History of English.Москва Высшая школа 1983-345 p.

2) Smirnitsky A.I. Lexicology of the English language. M: 2000. -260C.

3) Reznik Z.V.,T.A. and Sorokin, Reznik I.V. The History of English language Москава Издательство "Флинта",издательство "Наука"2001-496p.

4)E.Haugen borrowing process New in Linguistics (Moscow:Progress) Publishers, 1985- 250

5) Kunin A.V. Phraseology of modern English: Textbook for institutes and faculties Foreign Languages - Moscow: Higher School, 1986. - 336.

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