Questions tagged [french]

Romance language, official in 29 states, including France, Belgium and Côte d'Ivoire. For non-linguistic questions about the French language, visit our sister site French Language Stack Exchange.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
30 votes
1 answer
5k views

Is it unusual that English uses possessive for past tense?

When learning some basic French, I was somewhat surprised to learn that phrases of the form "I have found the cat" generally translate almost word-for-word from English (J'ai trouvé le chat). To me, ...
user avatar
  • 403
18 votes
4 answers
16k views

Why don't the French pronounce consonants at the ends of words?

I am curious what could have caused the shift in pronunciation. I presume it must have occurred after the spelling of words was standardized. According to the History of French wikipedia article, this ...
user avatar
17 votes
5 answers
4k views

When and how did French become a non-null-subject language?

First of all, what does "null-subject" mean? Taken from the Wikipedia page for "Null-subject languages": […] a null-subject language is a language whose grammar permits an ...
user avatar
  • 9,200
15 votes
6 answers
55k views

Why did England not maintain French as a spoken language?

In many countries around the world, especially in Africa, the people natively speak both an indigenous language and French due to French colonization. The Norman conquest of England left us with many,...
user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
2k views

French conjugation, spoken vs written

French verbs are conjugated depending on the subject's person and number (ex. je parle, tu parles, il parle, etc.) However in spoken language most of these sound the same anyway because the end part ...
user avatar
  • 8,411
12 votes
3 answers
1k views

How can adjective-noun order in French be explained by parameter theory?

I just finished reading The Atoms of Language. The gist is that languages have parameters, one of which will tell you which side of a phrase to add a new word. But in some languages, like French and ...
user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
440 views

Where do the spelling rules for French imperatives come from?

French verbs are, for historical reasons, typically grouped into three classes. The loss of final consonants in French has resulted in a serious divergence, wherein the verb conjugation system of the ...
user avatar
  • 812
11 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why has Paris French mostly lost the distinction between /e/ and /ɛ/?

Why has Paris French mostly lost the distinction between /e/ and /ɛ/? As in, the difference between 'Je le ferai' and 'Je le ferais', 'poignée' and 'poignet', or more simply between the é sound and ...
user avatar
  • 111
10 votes
3 answers
525 views

The French of Shakespeare -- why does it seem so modern?

In Henry V, Shakesperean English is difficult to understand (even for modern native English speakers -- at least for me) without a good amount of help. However, there are a few scenes conducted ...
user avatar
  • 812
10 votes
5 answers
7k views

Online etymology dictionaries for French, beyond CNTRL?

Are there etymology dictionaries for French available on the Internet? To wit, what's a French equivalent of http://etymonline.com/? I already know about TLF informatisé (TLFi), but often, it does ...
user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
431 views

Is this natural: gender concord of direct objects with the past participle in French?

Phrases in French like la photo que j'ai prise (instead of que j'ai pris) have always struck me as unnatural. I've heard a lot of French people who fail to follow this rule when speaking spontaneously,...
user avatar
  • 232
10 votes
4 answers
9k views

Why there are no grammatical cases in the French language?

As far as I know, the French language is considered as a Romance language, which is derived, in its turn, from the Latin language. The last one has a rich grammatical cases system. I am interested to ...
user avatar
  • 201
10 votes
1 answer
568 views

Universals and emphatic pronouns

In (spoken) English, the object pronouns "me/you/her/him/us/them" are, in some sense, the "unmarked" pronouns. (I only claim native knowledge of English as it is spoken in parts of the US). By this I ...
user avatar
  • 812
9 votes
5 answers
649 views

Which language is more complex, English or French? Is it even possible to objectively measure a language's complexity?

OK, so I'm a native English speaker who learned French as a teenager and I have a friend who is French and learned English as a teenager (so the opposite). The other day he was telling me how easy ...
user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
1k views

Evidence that ø and œ are separate phonemes in French?

Are there any minimal pairs between ø and œ or other evidence that these are separate phonemes? I have been studying French, and so far it seems like ø is found in open syllables and œ is found in ...
user avatar
  • 257
8 votes
2 answers
562 views

Why does French "cheveu(x)" have "eu" and not "eau"?

Many French words have lost etymological /l/. I have read that this occured due to a process of l-vocalization around the 10th-12th centuries which turned pre-consonantal l to u after any vowel aside ...
user avatar
  • 16.6k
7 votes
5 answers
2k views

Plural "you" in different language families connoting respect

I recently found out that French has two different words for "you." From here: Tu is the familiar "you," which demonstrates a certain closeness and informality. ... Vous is the formal "you." It is ...
user avatar
  • 2,705
7 votes
2 answers
407 views

What came first: «starboard» or «estribor»?

In English, the right side of a ship (and everything beyond said side) is called «starboard». I know enough about sailing and about stars to know that stars can't have anything to do with that name, ...
user avatar
  • 184
7 votes
4 answers
579 views

How do illiterate French people learn which pronunciation to use in different sentences?

Are there any studies on language acquisition for illiterate French people? Are they aware of the spelling of French words on a subconscious level to be able to pronounce them correctly in different ...
user avatar
  • 1,148
7 votes
2 answers
5k views

List of French minimal pairs

I recently asked a general question about minimal pairs (i.e. words that differ by one phoneme) and got a link to a website that provides a comprehensive list of English minimal pairs. Is there a ...
user avatar
  • 788
7 votes
3 answers
948 views

Why does French use “be” as the auxiliary for a few verbs? [duplicate]

In French, there are a set of 17 verbs lovingly called the Vandertramps: Devenir (to become) Revenir (to come back) . & Monter (to climb) Rentrer (to reenter) Sortir (to exit) ...
user avatar
  • 175
7 votes
3 answers
1k views

Does the English "Garden" come from the French "Jardin" or the German "Garten"?

I always assumed that the English word "Garden" was similar to the German "Garten" due to the Germanic roots of English. But according to Wikipedia, "Garden" in English is related to the French "...
user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
475 views

Earliest recognition that Romance languages are related

I don't know if this is a question for this Stack Exchange or for the History Stack Exchange, but I would like to know when people first understood that the Romance languages were related. I have ...
user avatar
  • 238
7 votes
1 answer
442 views

French dialects from west to east: no distinct breaks, blend into German?

A long time ago, I remember reading about a work that showed that there were no distinct breaks in the local dialects as one travelled from west to east across France, and how at the easternmost areas,...
user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
383 views

Why do many French and Spanish noun cognates have opposing grammatical gender?

While most French/Spanish noun cognates share the same gender (both descending from the same vulgar latin root), there are many exceptions having opposing genders (e.g. la couleur / el color; la ...
user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
193 views

How to synthesize French vowels

I am trying to synthesize the French vowels [o] and [ɔ] for running a perception experiment. I have been using the Praat Vocal Toolkit and got pretty nice results with the following formant values: F1(...
user avatar
  • 173
7 votes
1 answer
200 views

Why are French nouns in -eur feminine when their latin origin in -or is masculine?

The suffix -eur in modern French typically gives feminine nouns: erreur, ferveur, torpeur, fureur. (Confusingly there's also -(a)teur which gives masculine nouns, but it seems etymologically separate)....
user avatar
  • 213
7 votes
2 answers
3k views

What are the differences between the French and English [i] and how does it affect the perception?

I'm rephrasing my question after (very helpful) comments to my initial version: What are the differences between the [i] produced by French speakers (in French) and English speakers (in English)? ...
user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
725 views

Derivatives of Latin *mulier* in French

It is well known that the derivatives of Latin mulier and fēmina competed in Romance languages as the main word for `woman'. For instance, the former remained as Spanish mujer and Portuguese mulher (...
user avatar
6 votes
3 answers
2k views

Did Latin "cum" get replaced in French by "avec" because "con" sounded obscene?

While the words for "with" in most Romance languages seem to be direct descendents from Latin "cum" (e.g. Spanish/Italian "con", Portuguese "com", Romanian "cu") it got replaced by "avec" in French. ...
user avatar
  • 349
6 votes
1 answer
4k views

Was the change in spelling from "cw" to "qu" in English associated with any difference in pronunciation?

I always thought that "cw" in Old English represented /kw/, and the same for modern English "qu", and that the change from one to the other was purely orthographic, since the "qu" digraph was more ...
user avatar
  • 16.6k
6 votes
2 answers
4k views

Substitution of w for g between certain words in French and English

A few words/names in French strongly resemble their English equivalents but with g substituted for w: Guillaume ~ William guêpe ~ wasp guerre ~ war I'm curious as to how this came about. Is there a ...
user avatar
6 votes
3 answers
825 views

What is the etymological relationship between French "feu", Lao "ເຝີ" (feu), and Vietnamese "phở"?

In both Lao cuisine and Vietnamese cuisine there exists a noodle dish with a similar name. Lao ເຝີ (feu) and Vietnamese phở. Each Wikipedia article discusses the possibility of the dish/word being ...
user avatar
  • 14.2k
6 votes
2 answers
398 views

Historical development of English pronunciation(s) of "hygiene"

I have a two-part question about the pronunciation of hygiene in English. The usual pronunciation, as shown by a variety of online dictionaries accessible from OneLook Dictionary Search, is /...
user avatar
  • 16.6k
6 votes
0 answers
146 views

Just how silent is the French e muet?

I know the e muet is usually considered silent. That being said, it is still often pronounced in songs and poetry (famously, in the Marseillaise). This is completely contrary to the situation in ...
user avatar
  • 161
6 votes
0 answers
134 views

Term for non-homograph homophone synonyms?

In Japanese, 熱い and 暑い are both read atsui and both mean 'hot'. The former pertains to an object (e.g. hot coffee) and the latter to weather. In French 'cuissot' and 'cuisseau' have the same ...
user avatar
5 votes
3 answers
1k views

How is French written in telegraphy and other settings in which diacritics are not possible?

The French alphabet has 5 diacritics and 2 orthographic ligatures, to make 16 extra letters. In Latin scripts, letters with diacritics like ä, å or à, ñ, ö, and ü can be transcribed as ae, aa, gn, oe, ...
user avatar
  • 283
5 votes
2 answers
206 views

How do we get from Greek τρόπος to French trouver?

The French verb trouver (to find/think) can trace its ancestry back to the Greek word τρόπος, which means a turn, manner, style, or figure of speech. Is there any logic to this seemingly disconnected ...
user avatar
  • 459
5 votes
1 answer
778 views

Why do object pronouns precede the predicate in French, while R-expressions follow it?

How to explain the situation in French where an object pronoun needs to precede the predicate, while an object R-expression stands to the right of the predicate? Here is an example: a. Il le regarde. (...
user avatar
  • 439
5 votes
1 answer
400 views

Latin's excrescent e- in English and French

Etymonline's entry on 'estate' broaches the excrescent e-. Is this excrescence called epenthesis? the later Romans evidently found words beginning insc-, sp-, st-difficult or unpleasant to ...
user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
276 views

Why do French words tend to become so much more intense in English?

My knowledge of French is very rudimentary, but one common theme I noticed in English words borrowed from French is that their meaning becomes so much more intense. To give just a few examples, ...
user avatar
  • 654
5 votes
2 answers
221 views

Adjective position in Provençal (Occitan)

Can anyone tell me the rules for adjective position in Provençal? I know that, like most other Romance languages, most adjectives go after the noun, with some exceptions. But I can't find the exact ...
user avatar
  • 111
5 votes
1 answer
6k views

How and why did so many French letters become silent?

It would seem that much ease of use must have been lost when a lot of French letters came to be silent - I never fail to be amazed that "il parle" and "ils parlent" are homophones, and it's very easy ...
user avatar
  • 399
5 votes
1 answer
239 views

Why do Spanish and other Romance Languages use the preposition "a" for culinary styles?

I've looked in the Real Academia Española dictionary and I can't find any information regarding why Spanish uses the preposition a for cooking styles, and I've noticed French and Italian do it too. I ...
user avatar
  • 880
5 votes
2 answers
221 views

On an apparent " masstermization" phenomenon in contemporary informal French: " il y a de la jolie nana par ici"

I have noticed a tendency to " masstermize" nouns in contemporary informal French, I mean to use nouns as mass terms ( uncountable), though they cannot be strictly used in this way. What I call " ...
user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
220 views

Is there any case which we need to care about stative verbs in French grammar?

It seems that in context of French grammar (at least in traditional grammar) talking about stative and dynamic verbs is not relevant. because there is no real progressive aspect in french and there is ...
user avatar
  • 497
5 votes
1 answer
195 views

What is the postfix that makes "figurine" diminutive of "figure"?

"figurine" means "little figure". From etymonline: figurine (n.) [Look up figurine at Dictionary.com] 1854, from French figurine (16c.), from Italian figurina, diminutive of figura, from ...
user avatar
  • 365
4 votes
3 answers
6k views

Why do some languages not have the "th" sound?

Why some languages don't have the "th" sound? (voiced and voiceless dental fricatives) They say languages such as French, Turkish etc don't have the "th" sound as in "thin" and "then". I sometimes ...
user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
1k views

Does the French word for Friday, "vendredi", come from the Latin "Veneris" or the old Norse "Vanadis"?

When looking up the etymology of the French vendredi online, I can only find the suggestion that it comes from the Latin Veneris (Venus). However, the English, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish and ...
user avatar
  • 151
4 votes
3 answers
742 views

As French is a so-called Roman language, where are the cases? [duplicate]

French language is known to be a Roman language, just like Spanish, Italian, Swiss Roman… Those Roman languages are told to be originating from Latin language. When I learnt Latin, one of the first (...
user avatar
  • 141