Encyclopedia > French language

  Article Content

French language

French (Langue Française) is one of the most important Romance languages, outnumbered only by Spanish and Portuguese. French is the 11th most spoken language in the world, spoken by about 77 million people as a mother tongue[?], and 128 million including second language speakers, in 1999. It is an official or administrative language in various communities and organizations (such as the European Union, IOC, United Nations and Universal Postal Union).

Table of contents
1 External links


Although many Frenchmen like to refer to their descent from Gallic ancestors ("Nos ancêtres les gaulois"), very little Celtic influence seems to remain in the French of today. Most of the vocabulary is of Latin and Germanic (Frankish) origin.

Originally, many dialects and languages were spoken throughout contemporary French territory (among them were several langue d'Oïl dialects, like Picard, Valon, etc.), Occitan dialects (Gascon, Provençal, etc.), Breton, Basque, Catalan, Low German, etc., but over time the dialect of the Ile-de-France (the region around Paris), Francien, has supplanted the others and has become the basis for the official French language.

The worldwide use of French

French is a first language in:

Also, it is the major second language in Algeria, Lebanon, Mauritius, Morocco, New Caledonia, Reunion and Tunisia.

It is the official and only language for instruction in schools in Comoros, Republic of the Congo, French Polynesia, Gabon and Mali.

It is the official language, but actually less commonly used than the native languages, in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Guinea, Madagascar, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, Vanuatu and Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire).

It is a common third language in Andorra and Luxembourg.

Also, there are some French-speakers in Egypt, India (Pondicherry), Italy (Aosta Valley[?]), Laos, Mauritania, United Kingdom (Channel Islands), the United States of America (Cajun) and Vietnam.

La Francophonie is an international organization of French-speaking and not French-speaking countries and governments.

French Phonemes

French spelling is by no means phonetic. Terminal consonants have often become silent in most dialects, unless followed by a vowel sound (liaison) or silent altogether (e.g., "et" is never pronounced with the ending "t"). In many words, the "n" and "m" becomes silent and causes the preceding vowel to become nasalized (i.e. pronounced with the soft palate extended downward so as to cause the air to leave through the nostrils instead of through the mouth). Furthermore, French words tend to run together when spoken, with ending consonants often being chained to the start of the next word.


i y u

e 2 o

E 9 O

a A



Note: /A/ is for many speakers no longer a phoneme. Whether /@/ (Schwa) is a phoneme of French is controversial. Some see it as an allophone of /9/


/p, b/

/k, g/

/t, d/


/s, z/

/f, v/

/S, Z/


/m, n, n_j/ For some speakers, /n_j/ is probably /n/ + /j/




/r/ (Uvular trill)



Some common phrases

  • French: français /frA~ sE/ ("frawn-say")
  • hello: bonjour /bO~ Zur/ ("bohn-jure")
  • good-bye: au revoir /o r@ vwar/ ("o-reh-vwa")
  • please: s'il vous plaît /sil vu plE/ ("seal vuh play")
  • thank you: merci /mEr si/ ("mair-see")
  • that one: celui-là (seh-loo-wee lah) or celle-là /s@ la/ ("cell-lah")
  • how much?: combien /kO~ bjE~/ ("kom-bee-en")
  • English: anglais /A~ glE/ ("ahng-glay")
  • yes: oui /wi/ ("wee")
  • no: non /nO~/ ("nuh")
  • I'm sorry: Je suis désolé ("zhe swee day-so-lay")
  • I don't understand: Je ne comprends pas /Z@~ co~'pRA~ 'pa/
  • Where's the bathroom?: Où sont les toilettes? /u sO~ lE twa lEt/ (ooh song lay twa-let)8
  • generic toast: santé /sA~te/ ("sahn-TAY")
  • Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais ? /par lE vu A~ glE/ ("parlay voo ahng-glay") OR "Vous parlez anglais ?" /vu par lE A~ glE/ ("voo parlay ahng-lay")

See also:

External links

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... 1925. The Free State of Christiania - a partially self-governing neighborhood in the city of Copenhagen. This is a disambiguation page; that is, one that just points ...

This page was created in 38.8 ms