Episode 44: The Romance of Old French

The modern French language evolved from a Latin dialect spoken in Gaul during the period of the late Roman Empire. That language ultimately became mixed with Old English after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Approximately half of the words in conversational English come from French.  So in this episode, we explore the ultimate origins of the early Romance dialect known as ‘Old French.’  We also examine the impact which the early French language had on English. And along the way, we look at the evolution of the Frankish kingdom from Clovis to Charlemagne.

5 thoughts on “Episode 44: The Romance of Old French

  1. I know I’m a long way behind but I just listened to this episode on a plane today. It was one of my favourite episodes because I study Romance languages and I’m really interested in this time period. I wish I had more time to catch up, but in any case I continue to be super impressed with this podcast. I found the herb debate fascinating because my wife is an ‘erb’ pronouncer, while I am a ‘herb’ guy (she says that when she hears me say ‘herbs’, it makes her think of a group of men, all named Herb).

    One small correction: the Spanish verb for ‘to speak’ is hablar, not habler.

  2. Okay I’m even farther behind but this episode raises a question for me and maybe you can answer it.

    I speak Portuguese and Spanish. I had always learned that Portuguese is a descendent of Spanish, not from Latin directly. As such I assumed that the Portuguese verb “falar” for “to speak”, come from the Spanish “hablar”. (There are a few words in Portuguese that have an “f” where spanish has an “h”- such as fazenda and hacienda).

    But now I’m wondering if the “falar” is actually more related to the other “parabola”.

    Tl;dr – Is the portuguese word for “to speak” cognate with the Spanish “hablar” or with the French “parlay”? And, secondarily, is Portuguese really a derivative of Spanish?

    • I am not an expert on Portuguese, but I don’t think it is accurate to say that Portuguese descended from Spanish. It evolved from a distinct Vulgar Latin dialect spoken in the western portion of the Iberian Peninsula.

      According to my sources, Portuguese “falar” is derived from Latin “fabula” meaning a story or speech. The Latin root is also the source of the word “fable” in English. It’s also another one of those Latin words with the “fa” root related to the mouth (see “fame,” “profess,” “profane,” etc.).

      Modern Spanish “habler” is indeed derived from this same Latin root word. However, it does not appear to be related to “parler” in French.

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