Frases de Jean-Benoît Nadeau

Jean-Benoît Nadeau Foto
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Jean-Benoît Nadeau

Fecha de nacimiento: 1964

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Frases Jean-Benoît Nadeau

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„The mixture of a solidly established Romance aristocracy with the Old English grassroots produced a new language, a “French of England,” which came to be known as Anglo-Norman. It was perfectly intelligible to the speakers of other langues d’oïl and also gave French its first anglicisms, words such as bateau (boat) and the four points of the compass, nord, sud, est and ouest. The most famous Romance chanson de geste, the Song of Roland, was written in Anglo-Norman. The first verse shows how “French” this language was: Carles li reis, nostre emperere magnes, set anz tuz pleins ad estéd en Espaigne, Tresqu’en la mer cunquist la tere altaigne… King Charles, our great emperor, stayed in Spain a full seven years: and he conquered the high lands up to the sea… Francophones are probably not aware of how much England contributed to the development of French. England’s court was an important production centre for Romance literature, and most of the early legends of King Arthur were written in Anglo-Norman. Robert Wace, who came from the Channel Island of Jersey, first evoked the mythical Round Table in his Roman de Brut, written in French in 1155. An Englishman, William Caxton, even produced the first “vocabulary” of French and English (a precursor of the dictionary) in 1480. But for four centuries after William seized the English crown, the exchange between Old English and Romance was pretty much the other way around—from Romance to English. Linguists dispute whether a quarter or a half of the basic English vocabulary comes from French. Part of the argument has to do with the fact that some borrowings are referred to as Latinates, a term that tends to obscure the fact that they actually come from French (as we explain later, the English worked hard to push away or hide the influence of French). Words such as charge, council, court, debt, judge, justice, merchant and parliament are straight borrowings from eleventh-century Romance, often with no modification in spelling. In her book Honni soit qui mal y pense, Henriette Walter points out that the historical developments of French and English are so closely related that anglophone students find it easier to read Old French than francophones do. The reason is simple: Words such as acointance, chalenge, plege, estriver, remaindre and esquier disappeared from the French vocabulary but remained in English as acquaintance, challenge, pledge, strive, remain and squire—with their original meanings. The word bacon, which francophones today decry as an English import, is an old Frankish term that took root in English. Words that people think are totally English, such as foreign, pedigree, budget, proud and view, are actually Romance terms pronounced with an English accent: forain, pied-de-grue (crane’s foot—a symbol used in genealogical trees to mark a line of succession), bougette (purse), prud (valiant) and vëue. Like all other Romance vernaculars, Anglo-Norman evolved quickly.

English became the expression of a profound brand of nationalism long before French did. As early as the thirteenth century, the English were struggling to define their nation in opposition to the French, a phenomenon that is no doubt the root of the peculiar mixture of attraction and repulsion most anglophones feel towards the French today, whether they admit it or not. When Norman kings tried to add their French territory to England and unify their kingdom under the English Crown, the French of course resisted. The situation led to the first, lesser-known Hundred Years War (1159–1299). This long quarrel forced the Anglo-Norman aristocracy to take sides. Those who chose England got closer to the local grassroots, setting the Anglo-Norman aristocracy on the road to assimilation into English.“

— Jean-Benoît Nadeau, The Story of French

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„It’s hard to imagine a time when French writers were uncertain about the legitimacy and importance of their language, but that was the case in the sixteenth century. French was considered appropriate for vulgar (that is, popular) writing or for old medieval poetic forms such as rondeaux or madrigals, but not for “higher” forms of writing, higher learning or the sciences, which were still the exclusive domain of Latin. While François I didn’t regulate French in any way, his policies did legitimize the efforts of the many artists, poets, savants and printers who were trying to dump Latin and make French prestigious by inserting it into the language of state administration, universities and spheres of higher learning such as medicine and poetry. In some ways writers led the way in this movement.

The most militant anti-Latin lobby in France was a group of poets originally called the Brigade who were soon to choose a more poetic name: La Pléiade. They were up-and-coming writers who wanted to position themselves as a literary avant-garde. Their manifesto, Déffence et illustration de la langue Françoyse (Defence and Illustration of the French Language), was an indictment of Latin in favour of French. It was published in 1549, ten years after the publication of the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts. Signed by the poet Joachim Du Bellay, it begged poets to use French for the new-found forms of classic Greek and Latin literature—the ode, the elegy, and comedy and tragedy (these were, of course, very old forms, but they were only just being rediscovered after having been forgotten for more than a thousand years). In a chapter titled “Exhortation to Frenchmen,” Du Bellay wonders, “Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we use foreign languages as if we were ashamed to use our own?…Thou must not be ashamed of writing in thy own language.” The debate is surprisingly similar to the twentieth-century one in which French musicians wondered if it was possible to make rock ’n’ roll in their own language. François I’s policies definitely added weight to the case made by Du Bellay and the Pléiade poets. While Du Bellay’s Déffence was in many ways a squabble between poets over their art, it also contained a program for the promotion of French in science and art.“

— Jean-Benoît Nadeau, The Story of French

„By the fourteenth century, Romance dialects belonged to two broad categories. Those in which “yes” was pronounced oc—mostly south of the Loire River—were called langues d’oc (oc languages). Those in which speakers said oïl for “yes”—in the north—were called langues d’oïl, a term which came to be used interchangeably with Françoys. Oïl and oc are both derivatives of the Latin hoc (this, that), which at the time was used to say yes. In the south they simply chopped off the h. In the north, for some reason, hoc was reduced to a simple o, and qualifiers were added—o-je, o-nos, o-vos for “yes for me,” “yes for us” and “yes for you.” This was complicated, so speakers eventually settled for the neutral o-il—“yes for that.” The term was used in the dialects of Picardy, Normandy, Champagne and Orléans. Other important langues d’oïl were Angevin, Poitevin and Bourguignon, spoken in Anjou, Poitiers and Burgundy, which were considerably farther south of Paris. Scholars debate who created the designations langues d’oïl and langues d’oc. The poet Dante Alighieri, in his De vulgari eloquentia of 1304, was one of the first to introduce the term langue d’oc, opposing it to the langue d’oïl and the langue de si (Romance from Italy). A fifth important langue d’oïl was Walloon, the dialect of the future Belgium. The langues d’oc attained their golden age in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when groups of wandering musicians, or troubadours, travelled from city to city spreading a new form of sung poem that extolled the ideal of courtly love, or fin’amor. This new poetry was very different from the cruder epic poems of the north, the chansons de geste, and it enjoyed great literary prestige that boosted the influence of two southern rulers, the Count of Toulouse and the Duke of Aquitaine. Even many Italian courts adopted the langue d’oc, which is also known today as Occitan. Wandering poets of the north, the trouvères of Champagne, also borrowed and popularized the song-poems of the south.“

— Jean-Benoît Nadeau, The Story of French

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