French: A Fading Lingua Franca Essay

2088 words - 9 pages

Hundreds of years ago, the King of England, the Queen of Spain, and the Pope all had one trait in common- they spoke French. French symbolized nobility, intelligence, and refinement. Only the best of the western world could speak it properly, and it was a valued trait in all royalty. It was the lingua franca, the language of diplomacy, and the language all people had in common.
However, the French language is slowly declining in world importance, and the once dominant language is being replaced by English and Chinese in more developed countries. Its last stronghold outside of the motherland(France) is Quebec, and they are fighting a cultural war against the invasion of English.
II. Background and Former Glory of French throughout the World
French was once the dominant language in the world, but it started out as a combination of many other European tongues. The language first deviated from Celtic Gaul in 59 A.D., when the Roman legionaries invaded, bringing vulgar Latin with them (Price). According to Joseph E. Price, who is a renowned French historian, in the 5th century A.D. many “Germanic tribes from the east (the Franks) and the Vikings from the North” invaded and added their own language to the hybrid French(Price). In the Middle Ages, France was divided into many small fiefdoms, and each region had its own dialect. Eventually, kings conquered the surrounding land and a single dialect spread throughout the country, or kingdom as they were known as back then. Finally, around 770 A.D. the language we think of as French started to emerge with the French king Charlemagne, and his many conquests (as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and warrior king of France) spread it to the far reaches of his kingdom (Sullivan 4).

After Charlemagne, France had made itself into an indisputable European power, and the current rulers felt that it was time to join the race to colonize the recently discovered ‘New World’. Ships were bringing in news of far off lands, and men were eager to explore the uncharted waters. Technically, the French age of Exploration began in the 1555, when the explorers Giovanni da Verrazano and Jacques Cartier sailed to Newfoundland and other nearby islands (French Colonial). France, bringing their almost fully developed language with them, then tried to take root in the Americas in the late 16th century, but they were thwarted by the Spanish and Portuguese. However, France finally succeeded in colonizing a small port in Novia Scotia, Canada on July 27, 1605. The author of the article French Colonial Empires stated that the true catalyst to global French power transpired: “A few years later, in 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec, which was to become the capital of the enormous, but sparsely settled, fur-trading colony of New France (also called Canada).” The French power increased, and as the French colonists spread out they ushered their language with them. The North America of the 18th century was widely controlled by the...

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