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Is it unusual that English uses possessive for past tense?

This is what's called a "Sprachbund" feature: it's a trait shared by a bunch of languages in an area, even ones that aren't genetically related. In particular, this one is a feature of the "Standard ...
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15 votes
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Derivatives of Latin *mulier* in French

The Trésor de la langue française has most the answer to your question in the etymology section for femme: From Classical Latin femina “female”, then “woman, wife” which competed against the Latin ...
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14 votes
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Does the French word for Friday, "vendredi", come from the Latin "Veneris" or the old Norse "Vanadis"?

Very unlikely! While the phonetic similarities are real, the old Norse name of the weekday etymologically goes back to Frig's day, and not Freyja's day. The actual form of the Norse word is ...
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13 votes

Why did England not maintain French as a spoken language?

The Norman conquest was hardly a case of 'French' colonization. France barely existed at the time. The Normans were fervently not French in their self-identity and can't even really be said to have ...
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13 votes
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How do illiterate French people learn which pronunciation to use in different sentences?

I don't think the question of "are these two words, or one word with two forms" is particularly interesting linguistically, at least, not if you're basing the answer on the intuitions of illiterate ...
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12 votes
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How is French written in telegraphy and other settings in which diacritics are not possible?

There is no common conventions in French for replacing letters with diacritics by digraphs. In contexts where the diacritics are not available, the usage is just to omit them. This is still common ...
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11 votes
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Latin's excrescent e- in English and French

Generally this process is called prothesis when it occurs at the start of a word (epenthesis occurs between two sounds). This process did indeed involve the addition of a vowel to the start of words ...
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11 votes
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What came first: «starboard» or «estribor»?

According to CRNTL1 and the RAE2: Proto-Germanic *steuraz + *burdą Old English stēorbord Middle English sterbord English starboard Classic Dutch stierboord (1588) Old French destribort (1550)9 /...
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11 votes
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Does the English "Garden" come from the French "Jardin" or the German "Garten"?

First of all, a warning: all these etymologies are to some extent hypothetical. Especially when it gets back to Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European, there's no actual proof of how the language ...
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11 votes

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

Words like je, le, lui are historically pronouns (meaning: they derive from Latin freestanding pronouns) and are treated orthographically as separate words, but from a synchronic point of view they ...
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10 votes
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The French of Shakespeare -- why does it seem so modern?

It's your third point: Written modern French reflects a much older version of the spoken language than the analogous situation for English. Different languages have different orthographic depth, i.e. ...
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10 votes

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

It is normal that you find this rule1 "unnatural". It is entirely artificial and has no logic. It is considered artificial by most grammarians of the French language nowadays (including ...
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10 votes
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Does "Je n’ai jamais vu personne" truly have triple negatives? Isn't 'ne' the only negative?

The "one negator" interpretation would be a "historical" way of looking at it. There are a couple of problems with using that analysis for present-day French. "J'ai jamais vu personne" does not ...
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10 votes

Why the French 'noir' has perspired in so many languages?

The French word ‘noir’ means ‘black’ and it is used in the names of art genres which are characterized by their dark atmosphere. Historically, the first such genre to which ‘noir’ was applied was film ...
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9 votes

List of French minimal pairs

Update: I have cleaned up and organized this list significantly, and it is now available here. I had the same question as you, and ended up throwing together some perl scripts to scrape Wikipedia's ...
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9 votes
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Meaning of the root "ject"

The root is Latin iaciō (throw, cast), whose supine is iactum. Because of Latin ablaut (vowel change), prefixes like sub-, ob-, pro- trigger a vowel change to *-iectum.
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9 votes
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Was the change in spelling from "cw" to "qu" in English associated with any difference in pronunciation?

Anglo-Norman French (or Anglo-Norman) was a dialect of Old French that died out as a spoken language by the beginning of the 13th century. It was used by by the ruling elite, which constituted no more ...
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9 votes
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Why does French "cheveu(x)" have "eu" and not "eau"?

L /kasˈtɛl.lʊm/ > VL /kasˈtɛl.lũ/ > OF /t͡ʃahˈtɛl/ > MF /ʃaˈtɛau/> F /ʃaˈto/ L /ˈwɛ.tʊ.lʊm/ > VL /ˈβɛ.lũ/ > /ˈvjɛ.lu/ > OF /vjɛl/ > MF /vjɛu/ > F /vjø/ L /kaˈpɪl.lʊm/ ...
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9 votes

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

The etymology of vendredi is completely straightforward. It is from “Veneris dies” (the day of Venus), well attested in Roman texts as the name for one of the seven days of the “planetary” week.
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9 votes

Language in England during 1066

It depends on who "we" are. French (or rather, Anglo-Norman French) was never the universal language of England, but it was the first language of the ruling class. The kings were first-language ...
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9 votes
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Free variation in French

That is not an example of free variation but loss of an opposition (a phonological merger). Free variation is a situation where two or more options are available and interchangeable. For example, ...
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9 votes
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Why do French words tend to become so much more intense in English?

It's because of a generalized phenomenon where loans generally have a narrower, more specific meaning in their destination language than in their original language. The best example is in my opinion ...
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9 votes
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Evidence that ø and œ are separate phonemes in French?

There is an opposition between /ʒøn/ in "jeûne" and /ʒœn/ in "jeune" but the opposition between ø and œ is clearly not productive anymore. addendum #1: as you said, the opposition ...
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9 votes

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

This is a (perhaps surprisingly) complex question. The short answer is that it's a widely-held axiom that no naturally-spoken languages are more or less complex than others, but solid proof of this is ...
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8 votes
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Where do the spelling rules for French imperatives come from?

This is known as an ephelcystic s and is analogous to the ephelcystic t in "Parle-t-il français?". It's euphonic rather than etymological, used to avoid a hiatus between the imperative and the y/en. I ...
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  • 1,152
8 votes

Fronting of /u/ from Latin to French

The question does not accurately summarize the relevant sound changes. Latin short /u/ was not fronted to /y/. Only Latin long /uː/, as in dūrus /duːrus/, regularly developed to /y/ in French. (Of ...
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8 votes

Latin jūs and sūcus, and the words in Romance languages

sorry - no time to write, just posting a screenshot from Penny 2002:
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  • 8,394
8 votes

Evidence that ø and œ are separate phonemes in French?

The distinction between French open-mid and close-mid vowels is often neutralized or unstable in certain positions. The distribution of the sounds also varies in some cases between dialects, so it's a ...
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7 votes

How do we get from Greek τρόπος to French trouver?

The Ancient Greek word τρόπος meant originally "turn", hence various meanings like "way (to be), manner, style"... and even "way to sing/compose" like in Plato's Republic 424c μουσικῆς τρόποι "~ ...
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7 votes

How do we get from Greek τρόπος to French trouver?

The derivation of trouver “to find” < *trobare < *tropare, supposedly meaning “to compose poetry” < tropos “rhetorical figure” can be found in many respectable etymological dictionaries, but ...
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