What makes French a Latin-Germanic mixed language

Maria   Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:09 am GMT
Very right Russia. Sanskrit was the classical written language that was preserved in its old form, though the spoken languages (Prakrit and Apabhramsha) eventually became so distant from Sanskrit that modern languages like Hindi emerged. Unlike Latin and the Romance languages, the documentation Sanskrit's demise as a spoken language has been well-documented. If this linguistic phenomenon is so "queer", then why are we seeing it repeated in other parts of the world? I would love to hear an expert in Chinese talk about the preservation of classical forms of language while spoken languages evolved away. I would like to hear a Finnish expert talk about the huge differences between spoken and written Finnish. It's clear to me that some languages evolve in a straight line, while others have a bumpy ride. This is not due to the nature of the language, but moreso to the society and culture that they are spoken in.

So if Hindi can develop from its older forms, which in turn developed from much older forms of evolved Sanskrit, which in turn evolved from Classical Sanskrit, then why cannot French evolve from Old French, Gallo-Roman, Vulgar Latin and Classical Latin? It seems odd for one language family to be "allowed" its evolution and another to have it denied by people.
Ouest   Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:32 am GMT
Maria Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:09 am GMT
It's clear to me that some languages evolve in a straight line, while others have a bumpy ride. This is not due to the nature of the language, but moreso to the society and culture that they are spoken in.

Joshqc Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:36 am GMT
I wish people would recognise that this is not linguistic theory. It is accepted fact. Romance languages did NOT evolve directly from Classical Latin. If we believed that, we would be eliminating almost 700 years of history. A lot can happen in 700 years.
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So we all agree in that Romance languages did NOT evolve directly from Classical Latin. If we assume that mystical "vulgar Latin" is the true, 100%, father of French and Romance, and if we do not want to eliminate 700 years of history, can it be said that "vulgar Latin" IS the Latin-Germanic mix created in late antiquity and early middle ages (=700 years)?
Joshqc   Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:23 am GMT
Vulgar latin was never a germanic mix, and you know that. Just because there are certain germanic influences in spoken Latin or romance, it doesnt constitute a mix. If that were the case, Romanian would be a slavic mix, Russian would be a germanic mix as well. And the holy "pure" germanic languages would be a Latin mix, seeing how much latinate influence has taken place with them. By supporting your "theory" of a germanic-latin mix, you undermine the very existance of almost every language family on earth.

We'd have to re-classify nearly every existing language since if a language is considered "mixed" because of some phonological influence, and some (though mostly unproven) grammatical influence, then there are very few languages on earth that are "pure".

To be honest, all this talk of language purity is quite contrary to what linguistics is. We study languages and their histories and current states, not to create biased theories or one-sided arguments that feed into political feelings or nationalism, but to be able to truthfully describe languages and how they influence societies and vice versa.

If we cannot set any parametres in classifying language, no language, not even Latin nor Greek nor Chinese can be described properly. Latin had greek influence, as well as influence from 2 dozen other languages (easily). So could it be that even Latin is a mixed language? Where does it all end? French is the target of this forum. German is the target on others. English sees more than its fair share of "creolisation" theories. Koreans and Japanese are constantly told they are speaking languages that are "bascially" chinese. Even within languages there is always finger pointing and accusations of lack of "purity". I wonder what a Swiss German speaker thinks when he is told that his variety of German is unworthy since its not spoken in Berlin? What must a Québécois think when he is told by someone from Paris that his accent isnt quite right? All this nonsense is debate and babble for people who have no real clue about what language is. Being one of the basic things that makes us human means that it will influence and pick up influences from others, just as mankind gives and borrows.
about mix   Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:23 am GMT
Well,medieval Latin had Germanic influence too-burghesius,habere,marschalcus and so on.
Couldnt agree more   Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:29 pm GMT
Joshqc - as much as some of this speculation is interesting, you are right about "where does it all end?" We had a discussion one day in a linguistics class about language purity and the professor said, "in every language community there are purists. They accuse their own language of impurity as well as accusing others of impurity. They use blanket terms like "patois", "mix", and "creole" to justify their beliefs." In my opinion, if vulgar latin was a germanic mix or a creole, where is the proof? Apart from vocabulary and phonetic influences, and some proposed (unproven) influences on syntax, where is the overwhelming proof that vulgar latin was so heavily germanisized that we could consider it to be a mix or creole?

I may be wrong here (and if so, correct me), but wouldnt a creole have extremely high levels of mixing? I dont see that in vulgar latin or any proto-romance language. In fact, for a pidgin or creole to come about, the two languages would have to come to some sort of natural compromise..in which both languages have enough share in the pidgin to make it comprehensible to speakers of both languages. During the early middle ages, Germanic languages had very complex grammars (case systems, masc-fem-neuter gender, etc..). It would seem to me that if the Germanic elite of medieval societies spoke a pidgin of Latin, that this Latin would retain some of these features. It wouldnt be unthinkable for a Germanic-speaking person to easily adopt Latin grammar because of its similarity with his/her own. We dont see any of this in romance. What we do see is a constant and quite even loss of the declension system, quite early on too. Some blame this on Germanic accent stress, but if Germanic peoples were too "lazy" to pronounce the ends of words in Latin in order to convey grammatical meaning, then how did they manage their own languages, which had very similar features? Did they pronounce Latin lazily, while saving all their energy for their own tongues? I find that really hard to believe.

We also see the beginnings of major phonetic change in spoken Latin long before any real Germanic invasion or migration. I think the demise of Latin's case system was not the fault of Germans, but the fault of Latin-speakers themselves.

No one is denying that Germanic languages had an influence on spoken Latin and the later Romance languages. I just disagree with the extent to which some people believe this influence had.

I think the "need" by some to declare French a germanic-latin mix is more fueled by personal sentiment that anything based on reality.
Ouest   Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:07 pm GMT
Couldnt agree more Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:29 pm GMT

In my opinion, if vulgar latin was a germanic mix or a creole, where is the proof? Apart from vocabulary and phonetic influences, and some proposed (unproven) influences on syntax, where is the overwhelming proof that vulgar latin was so heavily germanisized that we could consider it to be a mix or creole?

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Your question aims to ascertain whether or not the phenomenon known as creolization played a role in the emergence of the Romance language from Latin. Creolization and normal language change differ in terms of their respective effects upon inflectional morphology: normal language change yields morphological loss and morphological creation through grammaticization. Creolization cause inflectional morphology to be severely reduced. Thus, one would predict that the transition from Latin to Romance would involve an unusually high degree of morphological loss and an absence of creation of new inflectional morphology. Comparison with another language, whose external history precludes its having been creolized, Greek, has been used in a study to ascertain whether Romance shows an unusual pattern of morphological loss. Comparison was first made between the fate of Latin nominal declension in Romance and Classical Greek declension in Modern Greek. It was found that declension was almost wholly eliminated in Romance but is preserved largely unscathed in Modern Greek. A similar fate befell adjectival declension. Likewise, the synthetic comparatives and superlatives of Latin did not survive into Romance, but those of Classical Greek survived into Modern Greek. Comparison of the two verb systems yields a similar result: whereas Romance severely reduced Latin verbal morphology (most importantly, the passive), Modern Greek has preserved the greater part of Classical Greek verbal morphology unscathed. If one adds to this a complete absence of any morphological creation in the emerging Romance languages, one is forced to conclude that creolization must indeed have played a role in the history of Romance.

So, that creolization has played a role seems to be a proven fact. Creolization is generated by language contact of two equaly important groups of native speakers of different languages. Creolization is not characterized by a 50% to 50% mix of vocabulary and grammar, but by a high degree of simplification, loss of morphological features etc. Migration period and Germanic conquest of Roman empire is a fact. The emergence of the Romance language from Latin took place within this period

Everything fits, il ne faut tout de meme pas nier l´évidence!
Q   Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:57 pm GMT
>> Migration period and Germanic conquest of Roman empire is a fact. The emergence of the Romance language from Latin took place within this period

I thought you said before that the creolization happened due to the influx of Germanic soldiers in the Roman Army from the 2nd C. AD onwards?
Q   Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:32 pm GMT
Just to add....it's an interesting topic, but so far, it seems to me at least, there has been a great lack of clarity from the people putting forth this theory.
greg   Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:16 pm GMT
Je viens d'apprendre le décès d'Yves Cortez survenu à la fin du mois dernier. Paix à son âme.
Joshqc   Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:59 pm GMT
Slight confusion

Ouest, what are you talking about?

1. “ normal language change yields morphological loss and morphological creation through grammaticization. “ ---- this is exactly what happened in the development of Vulgar Latin into Old French. So are you contradicting yourself?

2. “Creolization cause inflectional morphology to be severely reduced. “ ---- Then what about inflectional loss in Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, English, Frisian? What were they creolised with?

3. “Comparison with another language, whose external history precludes its having been creolized, Greek, has been used in a study to ascertain whether Romance shows an unusual pattern of morphological loss” ---- No one would support the theory that Dutch is a creolised language. According to you, if we compare it to Greek, it is.


4. “ Romance severely reduced Latin verbal morphology (most importantly, the passive), Modern Greek has preserved the greater part of Classical Greek verbal morphology unscathed.” ------ Do you know what Latin verbal structure was like in the 200’s, 300’s, 400’s? You know what Classical Latin’s was, it seems. Also, what about all the other “non-creolised” languages that have gone under considerable change in their verbal systems?


5. “If one adds to this a complete absence of any morphological creation in the emerging Romance languages, one is forced to conclude that creolization must indeed have played a role in the history of Romance.”

-----I think that the fixed use of prepositions, fixed word order, and new verb tenses constitutes quite a lot of morphological creation.

6. “ So, that creolization has played a role seems to be a proven fact.” --- Find me one linguistics department in one university that this is taught. Just one!

7. “ Migration period and Germanic conquest of Roman empire is a fact. The emergence of the Romance language from Latin took place within this period”

-----I bought a new coat in the late spring because it was on sale. It doesn’t mean that everyone out there buys coats in late spring (it was a great coat too!)

Oh, and by the way, youre completely forgetting that a lot (not all, but a lot) of change in Romance grammar was due to phonological change in Late Latin. If you end a word with a certain ending to show if it’s a subject, direct or indirect object, and you don’t pronounce that ending anymore….you sort of need prepositions and fixed word order.
greg   Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:31 pm GMT
Joshqc « Oh, and by the way, youre completely forgetting that a lot (not all, but a lot) of change in Romance grammar was due to phonological change in Late Latin. »

Ou, pour le dire autrement (d'un point de vue romaniste), que l' « évolution » grammaticale "constatée" dans les langues romanes médiévales provient en fait d'un ancêtre roman non-latin, le paléoroman, dont la grammaire n'était pas celle du latin. C'est encore l'hypothèse la plus simple : elle se passe d'emprunts germaniques non-attestés mais inventés au XIXe siècle ; elle se passe d'une créolisation qui n'existe que dans l'esprit de Ouest ; elle se passe l'accélération évolutionniste qui aurait frappé le latin sans qu'on sache ni comment ni pourquoi ; elle se passe du « bas latin » et du « latin vulgaire » que les latinocentristes eux-mêmes ne s'accordent pas à définir...
Joshqc   Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:43 pm GMT
There are always people who post things not to spread information or to debate something intellectually, but to just make jokes. Live and let live I say.

And about this whole "idea that French is a mixtude of Latin and German still spreaking and gaining ground", I dont know about that.

The problem with classifying any language when one doenst have a great amount of written documentation is that a lot of what we base our info on is re-created or is simply speculation. I wont deny this, its a fact. But, when you deal with re-creation and speculation, there is a danger of ignoring the big picture or ignoring all aspects of information that should be studied. I dont fault anyone on here for believing whatever they may believe, but some of the arguments presented here have lacked factual support or are based on only bits of info, without looking at all the info.

When someone says something like, "vulgar latin was germanicised by troops in the roman army when they conquered Gaul", they're not taking into account the fact that there werent many germanic peoples in the Roman army at this time. They probably learned or heard somewhere that at one time there were Germanic peoples in Roman legions, but they never really bothered to study the historical facts.

I'd like to toss out one question to those that disagree with my stance on French's classification:

If French, and other romance languages are germanic-latin creolisations, mixes, or whatever other terms have been used on here, then how can we explain the fact that Sardinian, a language that had very little (and I mean, very little) germanic contact or influence has all the same morphological features and quite a considerable number of the phonetic features of all other romance languages? If Germanic languages did indeed highly influence other romance languages, to an extent that they could be creolised, why is it that one romance language that was isolated and left alone would exhibit nearly all the same features that distinguish romance languages from Classical Latin?


And if youre going to say things like "Italian influenced Sardinian so much and thats why its like other romance languages, youd be mistaken. Italian did have some influence on lexicon, but not much at all on the grammar of Sardinian. Let's stick to the facts.
just a message   Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:17 pm GMT
It is clear that if romance languages were Germanic-latin mixes that were born from a "creolization" with heavy germanic contacts, then it should necessary still existing today quite a lot of languages or dialects that would continue to be very similar to classical latin, in the regions that had few to no germanic contacts.
Leasnam   Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:21 pm GMT
<<And about this whole "idea that French is a mixtude of Latin and German still spreaking and gaining ground", I dont know about that.>>

Well, the issue here is not that this has to be a new "theory" or "law"...it is a discussion topic, and no one should feel threatened to openly discuss something just because some do not agree with it.

Those who want to discuss whether French is Latin-German have every right to do so without being harassed by those who disagree. That's is just uncouth and base.

If you don't agree, say so and move on. Be civil.

Some here act like they are afraid that we are discussing this topic, as if something's gonna fall out of the bag...

For those who say that the French are trying to sweep away their Germanicness and erase it from history, this is a compelling indicator of that. I 'm beginning to believe it.



<<The problem with classifying any language when one doenst have a great amount of written documentation is that a lot of what we base our info on is re-created or is simply speculation.>>

See here too? Joshqc, no one is reclassifying anything (as if anything we say here on Antimoon is official). Think about what you all are doing. You are acting as if we are a committee appointed by the Academie Francaise to officially evaluate, determine and declare the official status of French--THIS IS AN ONLINE DISCUSSION FORUM :-o

If we want to talk about whether there are aliens or if there is life on Mars, we can do that. That doesn't make our assertions fact. Nothing we declare here means anything. Get a life.

Personally, I don't like a lot of things people say about English, one of my native tongues, yet I don't go hunting them down and pounce on them every chance I get, and look for every opportunity to undermine what they say by undermining them. I am an adult. I don't take it personally.

To the French people, the French language doesn't need you to rescue it. It is not a Lady for you to save. Do something more constructive with your lives. Go help a homeless person. Visit your grandmother. SOMETHING :P (--you guys know I love you:)



<<When someone says something like, "vulgar latin was germanicised by troops in the roman army when they conquered Gaul", they're not taking into account the fact that there werent many germanic peoples in the Roman army at this time.>>

And you're not taking into account that the transition from Gaulish to Latin was not a singular event. It didn't just happen once. It was a continual process of renewal from the heart of the empire, and increased with each sucessive generation. Do you think that the very first Roman soldier to land there taught the first Gaul to speak Latin and all other speakers learned from this one individual? and French is the descendant of this insular transfer? In America, the first permanent English settlement was at Jamestown Virginia. Do you think that All Americans today speak the descendant of their particular version of the English language? No. Settlement from England continued. That initial event has no force in the language of today's America.



<<If French, and other romance languages are germanic-latin creolisations, mixes, or whatever other terms have been used on here, then how can we explain the fact that Sardinian, a language that had very little (and I mean, very little) germanic contact or influence has all the same morphological features and quite a considerable number of the phonetic features of all other romance languages?>>

This is an exception and perhaps even a mystery, and I do not know the answer, I am not an expert on Sardinian language. But it in no way nullifies all of the overwhelming clues that point to germanization. It seems that all you can do is offer up what-ifs, and how-comes and what-about-this in your defenses. No matter how factual or true a thesis may be, someone can always throw up excuses against it. But if you be civil, I would be happy to pursue and find the answer with you. --That's what this forum is for. Not for know-it-alls to come and spout off, but for civilised adults to find the truth and get to the bottom of difficult problems. And to do so, you will hear things you may not like. That's the way life is...
Sardu   Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:27 pm GMT
Sardinian had very little germanic influence (so little that its not even considered important by the majority of linguists), but it still ressembles the other romance languages in so many ways. Grammatical innovations and phonological changes common to all romance languages can be found in Sardinian as well (though the phonetic system changed less than other romance languages). In studying Sardinian, we bascially see a modern form of Vulgar Latin, with substratal influences. We clearly see the phonological decomposition that lead to rigid word order, an abundance of prepositions and other grammatical features.

Lots of people can put forth so many isolated bits of grammar or phonology and link them to Germanic influence, but when you throw Sardinian into the mix, you cannot simply say Romance languages are germanicized Latin. Sardinian creates a huge stumbling block for that theory.

When you blame declension loss in French on Germanic, or when you blame the passé composé on Germanic, you forget that these elements exist in the one romance language that didnt have much Germanic influence at all.