french language is very ambiguous

opaze   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 08:06 GMT
I mean it's unclear: ses/ces, elle mange/elles mangent (they're pronounced the same [el mãzh], etc... etc... it'd be too long.
A lot of people say it's the language of precision, logic, clarity, i say it's false. The less ambiguous is english
Mi5 Mick   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 08:13 GMT
You can find the same ambiguous forms in English. "They eat": who eats? elles mangent ou ils mangent? As for ses/ces: this is easily deduced from the context.
Easterner   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 15:07 GMT
French is in no way ambiguous in writing, but if you're not used to it, you could overhear what is being said quite often in speech. This is because it has phonetic peculiarities like nasal sounds and homophones. But intensive listening comprehension exercises can help you out on this. I have a feeling it also depends on the dialect: I find the dialect of Southern France or that of the Western Swiss cantons a lot easier to uderstand than, say, Parisian French.
Steve K   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 15:09 GMT
Languages are not ambiguous. People using them can be if they so choose.
opaze   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 17:30 GMT

I am french and for having studied several others languages i can tell you that "mine" is particularly ambiguous and too limited. You cannot express all what you would except by using heavy periphrasa.
Nat   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 17:49 GMT
I think that words in French can be ambiguous but it's the same thing for every languages. And I don't find that, in French, you cannot express yourself without using repetitions. French has a lot of synonyms which it isn't the same thing for every languages.

But it's true that there are a lot of words which are written similar but which don't mean the same thing. For instance: "Tour".

Or which have the same sound, don't mean the same thing but aren't written on a same model: "Cour", "Cours", "Courre", "Court".
opaze   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 18:50 GMT
here we are, that's i wanted to show
Easterner   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 06:49 GMT
opaze said: >>You cannot express all what you would except by using heavy periphrasa<<

I must admit that this was bothering me a little when learning French. It relies heavily on periphrasis and idioms. Example: "to glance at" is "donner up coup de'oeil", "to slap": "donner un coup de poing", "I'm reading [right now]" is "Je suis en train de lire". So a 100-page book in English would be perhaps 150 pages or more when translated into French :-). On the other hand, most of the time this makes French more picturesque than other languages. The reason for this may be that even if the French speak a language descended from the Gallic version of vulgar Latin strongly influenced by Frankish (or Franconian?), they seem to think in the original Celtic way subconsciously. :-) As I know, such idiomatic structures are also very common in Irish Gaelic. The Celtic way of thinking is still partly reflected in the names of numerals (e.g. "soixante-dix", "quatre-vingt", etc.).
nic   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 07:27 GMT

It's not : donner un coup d'oeil but jeter un coup d'oeil, at least for donner un coup de poing you can say coller une baigne
nic   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 07:53 GMT

Gallic did not influence the french, a few words come from celtic gallic like cervoise for example, cerveza in spanish. About strong influences with frankish, it's not the case. There has been some influences but not strong and not with words, only in phonetic. The names of numerals are the same in italian, the way of thinking of french is strictly latin.

Being gallic does not mean anything, what was gallic was not especially the same culture, people whi were living in north italy were gallic for example.
nic   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 08:06 GMT
Opaze cannot be french, there is no ambiguity :

Elle mange ses bonbons
Elle mange son bonbon

Elles mangent leurs bonbons

What's the problem?
Mi5 Mick   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 08:11 GMT
Donner un coup d'oeil means the same as jeter un coup d'oeil. I don't detect any difference in meaning.

It's true what Easty says: "soixante-dix", "quatre-vingt" were/are Celtic ways of counting. It explains why the Swiss and Belgians say septante and octante. I don't know how much vocabulary originated from the Gaulois (maybe a 1000 words) but some of the idioms or phrasal forms have been preserved from what I've read.
nic   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 08:36 GMT
The italians count in the same way, i didn't know it was from celtic influence.

If belgians count septante, it's not because of celtic origins but because of Napeleon.

Influences form Gaulois represent less than 200 words.

"Donner un coup d'oeil" does not exist in french, i asked to 2 of my colleagues, they sayed the same as me "donner un coup d'oeil does not exist in french from France.
Easterner   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 09:03 GMT

I appreciate your corrections of those expressions (I don't use French acitvely nowadays, so I may keep forgetting things). However, I still think that the French numerals between sixty and one hundred reflect an earlier system of counting in units of twenty, which is also used in Celtic languages that are still spoken: Scots Gaelic uses "ceithir-fichead" (literally "four-twenties") for "eighty", and this might have been used by Anglo-Saxons as well (consider Early Modern English "fourscore" for "eighty"). On the other hand, Italians say "sessanta", "settanta", "ottanta", that is, they have a "decimal" system. The original Latin for these was "sexaginta", "septuaginta" and "ottoginta", respectively. So my assumption that the peculiarities of French numerals might have left over from the Celtic inhabitants of Gaul was based on these examples (of course you need a lot of evidence to make definite statements). I think we may agree that the French system of numerals is a combination of the Latin decimal system and an earlier one.

As for influence by Frankish: I agree that this was more or less restricted in vocabulary (some sources say the percentage of Germanic words is about 15 per cent in Modern French), but I think the present French prounciation was definitely shaped by the way the Franks pronounced Latin words. The phonetic system of French is very similar to that of Dutch, which is also a descendant of a Frankish (or a related Low German) dialect. I have found some information on this at:
Of course, the Germanic influence may have been stronger in the North, and as I know from your earlier posts, you are from the South, where the Latin character of the local languages must have been kept more intact. But of course I agree that for the most part French vocabulary is based on Latin.
Easterner   Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 09:12 GMT
As for the expressions "donner un coup d'oeil" vs. "jeter un coup d'oeil", a Google search resulted in about 350 examples for the former, and thousands of them for the latter (although I'm aware that scores of results may be the same texts at various sources). So may French teachers weren't wrong in the end, they just taught me the less common of the two expressions. :-)