Guide Histoire de la langue française: « Que sais-je ? » n° 167 (French Edition)

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The same is true of some of the rules devoted to orthography in the Liber Donati , which also owes something to the work of 'T. In this respect, Coyfurelly continues the efforts of the earlier writer to purify English spelling of French—efforts which at this time would meet with more success than was the case earlier. Another topic touched on in the Regulae of R. Dove is the formation of the plural of nouns, and of the feminine of adjectives. The substance of one of these rules may be quoted, as an example of the failure of these early writers to grasp general principles.

All nouns ending in ge , like lange , says the grammarian, take s in the plural, as langes ; all nouns ending in urc , as bourc , have z or s in the plural and drop the c , as bours ; all nouns ending in nyn , as conyn , take s in the plural, as chemyns ; all nouns ending in eyn , as peyn , form their plural by adding s , as peyns.

Such is the rule for the formation of the plural of nouns, and that for the feminine of adjectives, which follows, is on the same lines. Pronouns also received some attention from these early grammarians. The Liber Donati [92] contains a few remarks on the personal, demonstrative and possessive pronouns, giving the different forms for the singular and plural and the various cases; thus it tells us that jeo and sometimes moy are used for I ego in the nominative case, and in other cases moy or me in the singular, while nous is used for the plural in all cases, and so forth.

We thus see that the verbs, nouns and pronouns received consideration, varying in degree, at the hands of these pioneers in French grammar. Neither were the indeclinable parts of speech neglected; at the end of the Liber Donati there is a list of some of these as well as of the ordinal and cardinal numbers in both Latin and French, while the Donait gives the numbers only. Some manuscripts contain lists of adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions in Latin and French. Of these small treatises that which nearest approaches the form of a comprehensive grammar is the Liber Donati , which includes observations on the orthography and pronunciation, on verbs and pronouns, and lists of adverbs, conjunctions, and numerals.

A certain Englishman, John Barton, born and bred in the county of Cheshire, but a student of Paris, and a passionate lover of the French language, engaged some good clerks to compose the Donait , at his own great cost and trouble, for the benefit of the English, who are so eager "embrasez" to learn French. Most of the early treatises on French grammar which appeared in England are written in Latin. Latin appears to have been the medium through which French was learnt and explained to a large extent, although in the case of the riming vocabularies English was used for teaching the young children for whom these nomenclatures were chiefly written.


But grammar, probably intended to be learnt by older students, was usually studied in Latin, which was also found to be a help in learning French. Students are told to base French orthography on that of Latin, and there are constant references from French words to their Latin originals.

The Donait soloum douce franceis de Paris is apparently the only work of any importance written in French before that of Barton. English was not used for this purpose before the sixteenth century, when it was almost invariably employed, even by Frenchmen. A grammar such as Barton's would, no doubt, be read and translated with the help of a tutor; and it is highly probable that the children for whom it was intended would have previously acquired some practical knowledge of French from some such elementary treatise as Bibbesworth's vocabulary.

Moreover, French was so generally in use in the higher classes of society, and had been for so long a kind of semi-national tongue, that it would hardly be approached as an entirely foreign language, as in later times. In writing a French grammar in French, Barton and those who followed the same course merely adopted for the teaching of French a method in common use in the teaching of Latin. The advisability of writing French grammars in French was a question, as we shall see, much discussed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as in much more recent times.

The clerks employed by Barton made free use of the observations on French grammar which had appeared previously. But their work had an additional value; the rules are stated with considerable clearness and are usually correct. Quantez letters est il? Cinq voielx et quinse consonantez. Next come a few observations on the parts of speech; for "apres le Chapitre des lettres il nous fault dire des accidens.

At about the same time an English poet is said to have written a French grammar, as another poet, Alexander Barclay, actually did later. An early bibliographer [] includes in his list of Lydgate's works one entitled Praeceptiones Linguae Gallicae , in one book, of which no further trace remains to-day. Lydgate, however, was well acquainted with French; he made the customary foreign tour, besides visiting Paris again on a later occasion in attendance on noble patrons, and put his knowledge of the language to the test by translating or adapting several works from the French, like most contemporary writers.

Probably Lydgate wrote a French grammar for the use of these young noblemen, who would certainly have to learn the language; and, after serving their immediate purpose, these rules, we may surmise, were lost and soon forgotten. Contrary to the custom, prevalent at this later period, of providing English translations, the earliest of these contain no English gloss, but simply the French text without any attempt at even the slight grammatical instruction provided in the vocabularies. Their sole purpose was to give the traveller or wayfarer a supply of phrases and expressions on the customary topics; grammatical instruction could be sought elsewhere.

The earliest of these [] is the first work for teaching French to which a definite date can be assigned. A sort of dedication at the end is dated from Bury St. Edmunds, "la veille du Pentecote, He may have been Canon M. Coyfurelly, Doctor of Law of Orleans, [] and author of the contemporary recasting of T. A noster commencement nous dirons ainsi: en nom du pere, filz et Saint Esperit, amen.

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Then, because man is the noblest of all created things, the author proceeds to give a list of the parts of his body, which recalls the old riming vocabularies. This, however, is the only portion in which conversation is sacrificed to vocabulary. In the rest of the work, though the vocabulary is increased by alternative phrases wherever possible, it is never allowed to encroach too much on the conversation.

The second chapter presents a scene between a lord and his page, in which the page receives minute instructions for commissions to the draper, the mercer, and upholsterer—an excellent opportunity of introducing a large choice of words. Conversation for travellers is the subject of the third chapter, the most important, and certainly the most interesting in the whole book. It tells, "Coment un homme chivalchant ou cheminant se doit contenir et parler sur son chemin qui voult aler bien loin hors de son pais. Dialogue and narrative alternate, and the lord talks with his page Janyn or whiles away the time with songs:.

Coment vous est avis? A gardener and a ditcher discuss their respective earnings, describe their work, and finally go and dine together; a baker talks with his servant, and so gives us the names of the chief things used in his trade, just as the gardener gave a list of flowers and fruits.

A merchant scolds his apprentice for various misdemeanours, and then sends him off to market:. Ore regardez, biau sire, comment vous est avis; vel sic: comment vous plaist il;. A chapter of more interest and importance is that dealing with greetings and salutations to be used at different times of the day to members of the various ranks of society:.

Histoire de la langue française

One traveller asks another whence he comes and where he was born, and the other says he comes from Orleans, where there is a fierce quarrel between the students and the townspeople; and was born in Hainaut, where they love the English well, and there is a saying that "qui tient un Henner Hennuyer par la main, tient un Englois par le cuer. From this we return to subjects more suited to merchants and wayfarers—how to inquire the road, and to go on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St.

The work closes with a gathering of companions in an inn, which, like the rest of the chapters, is full of life and interest. Last of all, a sort of supplement is added in the form of a short poem on the drawbacks of poverty:. The metrical vocabularies of Bibbesworth and his successors were chiefly intended for the use of children. There is also some evidence to show that the grammatical treatises were used by children; the commentary was added to the Orthographica Gallica because the rules were somewhat obscure "pour jeosne gentz," and Barton, in his introduction, mentions the "chiers enfantz" and "tresdoulez puselles," as those whom his grammar particularly concerns.


In the Petit livre , however, the teaching is of the simplest kind, and specially suited to children. The children are then taught the numbers in French, the names of the coins, and those of the persons and things with which they come into daily contact. Then follow appropriate terms for addressing and greeting different persons, and the author even goes so far as to provide the child with a stock of insulting terms for use in quarrels. The rest of the treatise does not appear to be intended for children.

There are conversations in a tavern, lists of salutations, familiar talk for the wayside and for buying and selling, all of which has little special interest, and is designed apparently to meet the needs of merchants more than any other class. In the chatter on the events of the day there occurs a passage which enables us to date the work. The traveller tells the hostess of the captivity of Richard II. The authorship is not so easy to ascertain. The manual may be due to Canon T. Coyfurelly, probable author of the earlier and better-known work also. Another book of conversation appeared in , [] as may be gathered from its first two chapters, in which a person fresh from the wars in France tells of the siege of Harfleur and the battle of Agincourt, and announces the return of the victorious English army.

The rest of the dialogues are represented as taking place in and about Oxford. There is the usual tavern scene. Travellers from Tetsworth arrive at an Oxford inn, and are present at the evening meal and diversions. The hostess describes the fair at Woodstock and the articles bought and sold there; her son, a boy of twelve years, wants to be apprenticed in London; he goes to the school of Will Kyngesmylle, where writing, counting, and French are taught.

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One of the merchants calls the lad and questions him as to his knowledge of French: "Et que savez vous en fraunceys dire? Je pri a Dieu tout puissant nous graunte le joye tous diz durant!

This reference to the teaching of French in the school of an Oxford pedagogue shows that, though French had at this time lost all standing in the Grammar Schools, it was still taught in private establishments. At the close comes a chapter belonging to another work of the same type, which is only preserved in this fragment; no doubt other such works existed and have been entirely lost.

It is likely that in the fifteenth century these conversational manuals supplanted, to a considerable extent, the earlier type of practical manual for teaching French—the metrical vocabulary—with which they had something in common. At any rate, there is no copy of such nomenclatures extant after Femina Further, the vocabularies, which had never departed from the type instituted by Bibbesworth in the thirteenth century, dealt more with the feudal and agricultural life of the Middle Ages, and so had fallen behind the times.

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For instance, the French is arranged in short lines, which, however, do not rime, and vary considerably in the number of syllables they contain; and these are followed by a full interlinear English gloss, as in the later vocabularies. The subject matter, however, is similar to that of the early conversation books. First comes gossip at taverns and by the wayside:.

After some disconnected discourse on inquiring the time, asking the way, etc. After attending to their horses, the travellers sup and spend the night at the inn, and set out the next morning after reckoning with their hostess. The manuscript ends abruptly in the midst of a list of salutations. The nature of the French [] betrays the author's nationality; he was evidently an Englishman. As to the English, the quaint turn given to many of the phrases is usually explained by the writer's desire to give a literal translation of the French; many of the inaccuracies in both versions are probably due to careless work on the part of the scribe.

Passé composé ou imparfait en français ?

Merchants thus appear to have been one of the chief classes among which there was a demand for instruction in French. They are usually called 'cartularies,' are accompanied by explanations in Latin, and may be looked upon as the first text-books of commercial French. More emphasis is laid on the demand for instruction in French among the merchant class by the fact that the earliest printed text-books were designed chiefly for their use. The aim of the work is stated clearly in an introductory passage which informs the reader that "who this book shall learn may well enterprise merchandise from one land to another and to know many wares which to him shall be good to be bought, or sold for rich to become.

The 'doctrine' itself opens with a list of salutations with the appropriate answers. A house and all its contents come next, then its inhabitants, which introduces the subject of degrees of kinship:. At the end of the category come the servants and their occupations, which affords an opportunity of bringing in the different shops to which they are sent and of specifying the meat and drink they purchase there. After an enumeration of the great persons of the earth comes the main chapter of the work, giving a fairly complete list of crafts and trades.

This takes the form of an alphabetical list of Christian names, each of which is made to represent one of the trades, beginning with Adam the ostler: "For this that many words shall fall or may fall which be not plainly heretofore written, so shall I write you from henceforth divers matters of all things, first of one thing, then of another, in which chapter I will conclude the names of men and women after the order of a, b, c. At last the author, "all weary of so many names to name, of so many crafts, so many offices, so many services," finds relief in certain considerations of a religious order: "God hath made us unto the likeness of himself, he will reward those who do well and punish those who do not repent of their sins, and attend the holy services: If ye owe any pilgrimages, so pay them hastily; when you be moved for to go your journey, and ye know not the waye, so axe it thus.