25 November 2005
An alternative to French - on french as a language (1)
Like many countries, there exist different dialects in France, such as Picard, Normand, Orleanais and Champenois. The root of the Euskara, dialect of the Pays Basques, dated back to at least 2000 BC (avant notre ere) when Latin was not yet spoken. It was believed that French is evolved from a medieval Paris dialect known as Francien.
However, French as a language is so strong that overshadowed the other dialects. One reason why foreigners hardly know the fact. Today, most French don't speak these dialects. The progression line is like: grandparents know well and speak well the dialects, parents understand but don't know how to speak, young generation can neither understand nor speak the dialects, and the new generations don't even know there existed such a dialect. People regretting the loss of these beautiful local languages yet justifying the mastery of French as their most important preoccupation to be able to "function" in the society.
The first ruling of French as the official language was in 1539 when King Francois I passed the ordinance of Villers-Cotterets making French mandatory in all administrative documents. 150 years later, the first French dictionary was published by the Academie Francaise in 1694.
Despite the centralization and the "zero sum game" between the official language and the dialects, there is a secret language developed by the French criminals, the Argot. Balzac and Hugo are the defenders of Argot that they made their characters speak the language. Today, some of the Argot words sneaked into the modern French vocabularies, like fric (money) and mec (man). One of the forms of Argot that still exists today in the Arabic ghettos of the suburb is the Verlan. Verlan just reverses the syllables of a word, let me put it in an example with English, eg. "sunny" becomes "nysun". The word Verlan is itself the reverse of l'envers (reverse). The word ripou in French slang, which means "cop", is actually a Verlan word comes from the reverse of pourri (rotten).
French butchers in the 19th Century also created their own language, the Loucherbem (boucher). In the slang, they changed the first letter of all words into "L" and added bem, oche or oque at the end. So, my name becomes "Lelinaoche", "Lelinabem" or "Lelinaoque". Looks cool!!
Read from an interesting book on French