Old French Language Term Paper

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Old French Before and After the Oaths of Strasbourg

The Historical Background of Old French

The evolution of Old French language began in 52 Before Christ when Julius Cesar held the power over the continents of the Gaul. According to Columbian Encyclopedia, Gaul was under the Roman Empire in the first and second century. With the strong influence it brought, Latin spoken by the Romans gradually replaced the Gaelic, a Celtic language as the Gaul's mother tongue, for a long time. Latin became the national language, spoken widely among people and became the root of recently spoken languages through Europe, including English (Le Tacon).

Marnette in her lecture notes gives hints, that during the occupation, a settlement of Germanic tribes was recorded in the border of Gaul in the first century. This would be an important step onto political action affecting the regions of the Roman Empire. As the immigration crisis arose in the third century, the Franks, one of the Germanic tribes, arrived in Gaul and became 'Foederati'. When crisis and poverty hit the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the great invasion of the Franks started and the Franks fully occupied the Gaul. Extraordinarily they adopted Latin for their everyday language, and left their own. During the Franks invasion, Paris was acknowledged as the capital, and the center of the cultural activities. They gave strong influence to the development of Latin.

Both cultures had given important influence to French structure and vocabulary. A lot of French vocabularies were derived from Latin, while the other parts of modern French inherited Celtic and Germanic words.

Vulgar Latin as the Source of Old French

Hall (qtd. in. Batzarov) shows, that French dialect developed under the strong influence of Vulgar Latin and Proto Gallo-Romance. Vulgar Latin was characterized by "simple, rational word order, a disregard of unnecessary distinctions, and a desire for greater regularity in word forms" (Carl).

Roman soldiers were the parts who introduced the Latin vernacular to the Gaul, and the language itself had influence important aspects of the Gaul's lifestyle, although they didn't speak the language exactly like the Roman. For the Gaul community, the language was there to develop into their own vocabulary.

The Gaul used Latin widely. The common people, spoke Vulgar Latin, or also known as Proto-Romance, showing exactly who spoke the language and what class show behind that. This Latin vernacular was quite different from the classical one used by the distinguished people from the higher class, noticing that Roman had advanced civilization with its language. However, Vulgar Latin was commonly used as the conversational language of the uneducated people and the lower class, which had underwent modification in the pronunciation and grammar.

Why the Oath of Strasbourg was so important

The Oaths of Strasbourg (Le Serment de Strasbourg) makes a significant open to Old French to emerge. It was the earliest documented Old French text. The oaths were an allegiance notation / pledge between Charles the Bald and Louis the German, who swore to help each other against their other brother, Lothaire, the emperor of Lotharingia. The three of them were descendants of Charlemagne who had conquered both regions from 814-840.

The oaths were written in Old French to suit Charles' people and in Teutonic (Old German) for Louis' colony (Le Tacon), so that it was easier for them to understand. By recording the oaths in two languages, they expected full understanding of the troops, and to each other's followers, so that they could later participate in the support to the allegiance.

Because it was the first written form of the Old French, the Oaths of Strasbourg is believed to be the birth of French (Old French). The version used by Louis is often considered the oldest known specimen of French (Batzarov).

The recognition of Old French after the Oaths of Strasbourg was also supported by the French Crusades and military interests abroad (Columbia Encyclopedia). After the period people start to know Old French and gave it space to grow unreservedly to be the modern French and got international recognition.

Old French started to appear in production of recorded works during the period of new France under the era of Treaty of Verdun, such as in military speech and activities. Chanson de Roland was one of it, which became a favorite and translated into English, Spanish, and…[continue]

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