It goes without saying that the French language is a complex and sometimes challenging language. It is the product of various linguistic mixtures. But did you know that the French that we speak and use today was significantly different in the past? It has, in fact, been formed and transformed over centuries with many languages spoken in different parts of the country (France).
First of all, we need to know that Europe was once a commotion of countless Latin derived dialects that had gradually morphed into a few distinct languages; French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian. In addition, France was crossed by many nations; many people that had their own languages left a small part of it wherever they went, which changed the language over and over again. What happened in France was an organic evolution: the dialect of the most distinguished city gradually became the accepted language of the whole region. Thus, what we call today French is, in fact, a version of medieval Parisian.
Now, let’s go back more into history, into 50 B.C exactly. At that time, the Romans decided to invade France, not only spatially, but linguistically too. Therefore, Latin became the most spoken language in the era. In the 5th century, with the arrival of the Franks, a new language appeared: the Roman. Again, following the evolution of low Latin and vulgar Latin, the Gallo-Roman language was born. All of these changes lead to the creation of the French language at the beginning of the 10th century. However, it was not until the 1950s that French became an official, legal, and administrative language.
Here are some examples of the transformations that occurred on words:
- Manger (to eat) was originally manducare in latin.
- Amare (to love) became aimer.
- Agenda is derived from the latin verb agere (agir in French)
Some latin expressions that are still used today:
- Grosso modo – in a coarse way : roughly : approximately
- A contrario – in contrast, on the contrary
But who is Molière and why do we call French “la langue de Molière”?
Molière (1622-1673) is a French actor and comedian from a Parisian family. Fun fact: his real name is Jean-Baptiste Poquelin and Molière is merely a stage name. His plays such as “L’Avare”, “Le Malade Imaginaire” and many others marked the 17th century. In fact, Molière was so good at what he did that his plays were the most performed ones in European courts. So talented and well articulated that he became the favorite actor of the French king at that time. And, as it is known, language is the perfect representation of the genius of the people. So, briefly, that is how the French became associated with this famous comedian and is, until the present day, called the language of Molière.