Germanic Influence on French

I knew that French had some Germanic influence, but I did not know where it was from. I thought maybe it was from the Gauls. But it turns out it was from a Germanic group called the Franks who apparently ruled France for many years. There are a number of German languages called variations of the word Franconian in Germany, mostly right over the border from France – Moselle Franconian, Rhine Franconian, etc.

The piece is correct that northern France is more Germanic. Southern France or the Occitan region is more like Spanish or Catalan.

As a result of over 500 years of Germano-Latin bilingualism, many Germanic words became ingrafted into the Gallo-Romance speech by the time it emerged as Old French in AD 900. And after the Franks abandoned Frankish, the Old French they spoke tended to be heavily Frankish influenced, with a distinctively Frankish accent, which introduced new phonemes, stress-timing, Germanic grammatical and syntactical elements, and contained many more Germanic loans not found in the Old French spoken by the native Gallo-Romans.

Even though the Franks were largely outnumbered by the Gallo-Roman population, the position of the Franks as leaders and landholders lent their version of Old French a greater power of influence over that of the Gallo-Romans; it thereby became the basis of later versions of the French language, including Modern French (see Francien language).

It is for this reason that Modern French pronunciation has a rather distinct and undeniably “Germanic” sound when compared to other Romance languages, such as Italian and Spanish, and is a major contributing factor in why there exists a distinction between Northern French varieties spoken in regions where Frankish settlement was heavy (langue d’oïl) vs. those where Frankish settlement was relatively slight (langue d’oc).


Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Europe, European, France, French, German, Germanic, Germany, History, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Middle Ages, Moselle Franconian, Regional, Romance

10 responses to “Germanic Influence on French

  1. Guy from Montréal

    The Alsace region of France has always been very Germanic.

  2. Clairvaux

    I was listening to Romansch online and it sounded as if it were a Latin language being attempted by a Germanic speaker, but still faintly like Portuguese. Maybe this is what happens in general in multi-lingual territories in general. I wouldn’t say that French sounds ‘Germanic’ though.

    • Yes it does sound like a Latin language being spoken by a German speaker! I think some of those lects do have quite a bit of German influence if I am not mistaken.

      If it doesn’t sound German, what the Hell is the root of all those weird vowels?

  3. Matt

    The Gauls were quite definitely Celts, so no Germanic influence there.

  4. The Gauls were Celts, so it couldn’t have been from them. I don’t think we have any written examples of Frankish, but from Wulfilla’s Gothic translation of the Bible we have been able to determine the Gothic influence on Spanish.

    I did always think that French had that guttural sound that is very Germanic and not Romance.

  5. I have one thing to add here for clarification purposes. The Romans were actually invaders, not native to the area. The Gaulish territories were originally inhabited by Celtic tribes, led by chieftains (one of the most famous being Vercingetorix). The Romans then arrived on the scene & stayed for years, until the collapse of their empire, at which point the Franks arrived and gave their name to the modern nation we today call France. The French royal line descends from Charles Martel, a Frank. Then, the Normans/Norsemen arrived and made Paris a Viking stronghold (we call modern-day Normandy after them).

  6. dano

    That’s interesting. I learned French as a toddler, my family being from St. Quentin in north-central France, My mother would take me there every other year for summer vacation. I took the 10th grade in a French school in Aix-en-provence.
    I never noticed the Germanic element of the French spoken in the north, even when visiting my uncle in Belgium. I don’t know why.
    But I definitely noticed the Spanish influence in the French spoken in the south. The Parisians have a dialect too that’s noticeable. For instance they say Weh instead of wee (oui).

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