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The French Language

Information from The French American Cultural Foundation

The Romance languages are a group of closely related vernaculars descended from the LATIN LANGUAGE, a member of the Italic branch of INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES. The designation Romance is derived from the Latin phrase romanica loqui, "to speak in Roman fashion," which attests to the popular, rather than literary, origins of the languages.

The Romance languages that have acquired national standing as the official tongues of their countries are French, with approximately 98 million speakers living principally in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and parts of Africa; Italian, with 65 million speakers in Italy, Switzerland, and parts of Africa; Portuguese, with 137 million speakers in Portugal, Brazil, and parts of Africa and Asia; Spanish, with 231 million speakers in Spain, Latin America, and parts of the Caribbean; and Romanian, with 25 million speakers in Romania and other parts of the Balkans.

Several distinct Romance languages function as non-national, regional vernaculars. Among these are Rheto-Romance, or Rhaetian, which consists of a group of related languages spoken in Switzerland, where they are called Romansch, and in northern Italy, where they are called Ladin or Friulian. In southern France, Provençal, or Occitan, is spoken by about 12 million people. Formerly more unified as a literary language, Provençal now consists of a series of local dialects.

Romance creoles, whose origins are found in PIDGINS or simplified trade languages, have also sprung up around the world. Haitian and Louisiana French are such languages, as are the varieties of Portuguese found in Macao and Goa.

From the evidence of Latin grammarians, popular playwrights, and inscriptions, it is apparent that in Republican Rome the spoken language of the lower classes was undergoing modifications in pronunciation and grammar that ultimately were to differentiate it from the written language and the language of the privileged. During the period of empire and Roman expansion, it was this Latin of the people, so-called Vulgar Latin, that was carried to the far-flung provinces by soldiers, merchants, and colonists.

Not all provinces were Romanized at the same time, however. Sicily and Sardinia were colonized as early as 238 BC, while Dacia--modern Romania--did not come under Roman occupation until about AD 100. In the provinces, Vulgar Latin underwent further modification by the subjugated peoples, who brought to it their own speech habits and pronunciation influenced by their own indigenous languages. The Iberians, for example, pronounced Latin one way, whereas the Gauls pronounced it another.

The collapse of the empire's frontiers during the 5th century under the thrust of Germanic tribes left Rome cut off from the provinces, and the outer regions drifted apart as each modified its form of spoken Latin in unique ways. In every region of the former Latin-speaking world, the emerging Romance languages then in turn began to break up among themselves.

French and Provençal

In Gallo-Roman France, a split occurred between north and south, assisted by incursions of Germanic-speaking Franks--whence the name "France"--into the north. Here, too, further dialectalization occurred throughout the Middle Ages, resulting in a multitude of speech forms such as Francien, Picard, Norman, Lorrain, and Walloon. Southern French, or Provençal, split into Languedocien, Auvergnat, and many other dialects. The dialect of Paris gradually became the national language, however, because of the political prestige of the capital and today is accepted as the model for the French language.

The Case System

Broadly speaking, the trend or direction of change in the Romance languages has been to reduce the Latin case system through elimination of the distinctive endings. The Latin word porta, "door," for instance, had three singular forms: nominative, vocative, and ablative porta; accusative portam; and genitive and dative portae. Modern Romance languages, however, use only one singular form: French porte, Italian and Portuguese porta, and Spanish puerta. Other modern Romance linguistic features include the elimination of neuter gender, the development of the definite article, greater use of prepositions, stricter word order, and the emergence of auxiliary verbs to express tense.

Verb Paradigms

French leveled the verb paradigms to such an extent that subject pronouns became mandatory (contrast French je chante, "I sing," with Italian canto); but in general the Latin paradigm has remained intact.

Notable in phonology was the loss of opposition between Latin long and short vowels, the voicing of intervocalic voiceless consonants, and in some languages the loss of syllable- and word-final s. The emergence of accentual patterns led to the reduction or loss of many unstressed vowels in the more heavily accented languages such as Gallo-Roman and Old French, and to the diphthongization of some stressed vowels in most of the Romance languages. Only in French and Portuguese, however, did vowels before a nasal consonant undergo nasalization--compare French main, "hand," with Portuguese mao and Spanish and Italian mano.


Basque, or Euskara, is a language spoken by about a million people in northern Spain and southwestern France. Although attempts have been made to link it to ancient Iberian, the Hamito-Semitic group, and Caucasian, its origins remain uncertain.

The sound pattern resembles that of Spanish, with its five pure vowels and such peculiarities as a trilled r and palatal n and l. In spite of this, and the presence of numerous Latinate loanwords, Basque has maintained its distinctiveness throughout two millennia of external contacts. For example, it still places a unique emphasis on suffixes to denote case and number and to form new words.

Basque is the only language remaining of those spoken in southwestern Europe before the Roman conquest. Since the 10th century, it has gradually been supplanted by Castilian Spanish, and under the Franco regime its use in Spain was outlawed altogether. The ethnic insularity of the Basques, however, has fostered revivals. Attempts are now being made to standardize the orthography.


Creole languages are fully formed languages that develop from a PIDGIN language and gradually become the primary language of a linguistic community. As the domains of the use of the pidgin language expand, often with the development of a LINGUA FRANCA used for communication between different groups, it develops lexically and becomes phonologically and grammatically more complex. When the pidgin replaces the community's original language, it is called a creole.

Widely distributed throughout the world, creolized languages are native to between 10 and 15 million people. Different creoles share many common features, such as an outward simplicity and regularity that is believed to reflect universal linguistic processes.

Most creole languages have vocabularies derived from major European languages. French-based Creole is found in Haiti, Mauritius, the French Overseas Departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, and Guyana, in Dominica and St. Lucia, and, although disappearing, in various British-influenced Caribbean islands and in southwestern Louisiana.

When creole coexists with the language on which it is lexically based, it blends with the base language to form a decreolization continuum. Except for Tok Pisin, which has semiofficial status in Papua New Guinea, and Creole, endowed with a semicodified orthography in Haiti, creoles still bear the stigma of their pidgin origin and their association with slavery and social inferiority. They are vernaculars that are not thought appropriate for administrative, educational, and literary functions. MORE


MORE details about the history of the French Language.

Translation Tool

TV Search

MORE from Google

City College of San Francisco, California, has a great collection of French Language Links. Click HERE for the page. Here is a sample:

Writing and Reference Tools

Use Le notepad to easily add accent marks to your text. When you're done writing, cut and paste your document into a word processor.

How to type in accent marks on your computer

French Verb Conjugator

French-English Dictionary

French Grammar Guidebook from eLanguage.

Terminologie technique

TLFi: Trésor de la Langue Française informatisé -Le TLF est un dictionnaire des XIXe et XXe siècles en 16 volumes et 1 supplément. Le TLFi est la version informatisée du TLF. French/French dictionary with definitions, history, and sound. The site is in French.

Language Learning Links

Study French online through City College of San Francisco.

Text Book Sites

French On-line Grammar Quiz to accompany Allons-y

Web Exercises from CCSF (to accompany Allons-y)

Check out the Allons-y website from Heinle and Heinle. Try the Autocorrigés.

Supplementary exercises to accompany The French Experience . Here you'll find links to video, audio, interactive exercises, and more.

French Experience Audio Exercises. Audio files and interactive exercises about the following topics:
1.Nationality 2.Family 3.Work/Education 4.Parisian Life 5.Cuisine

French in Action for Students A collection of exercises and activities to accompany French in Action. From Yale University Press.

Other Language Learning Sites

Basic Pronunciation pages - This page contains links to pages where you can hear the alphabet, the days of the week, months of the year, etc.

French from eLanguage. Try Virtual Talk. Speech recognition allows you to practice your French conversation.

French Grammar Central This is the most complete list of French grammar sites on the web.

Français Interactif - from the University of Texas. Grammar and vocabulary, audio and video. - Grammar explanations, pronunciation pages. A great resource for learners of French.

The French Tutorial Many sound files. - See the picture, read the text, hear the pronunciation. Alphabet, numbers, many categories of vocabulary. A wonderful resource. Click here for the companion French grammar guide.

Lexique - FLE - Thematic lessons with sound and exercises. Great!

Real French from Manchester Metropolitan University in England. Check the message boards for students of French, France Virtuelle (view relevant links and answers questions about the Metro, movies, music and shopping), vocabulary games; includes an abundance of useful grammar exercises.

Tex's French Grammar: la grammaire de l'absurde from the University of Texas, Austin. This site has it all! Grammar explanations, exercises, sound files, and humor. Check it out.

Web Exercises from the University of Texas, Austin

Weboscope Collection of resources from Belgium for learning French.

Le français en affaires

Le français en affaires au Québec et en Amérique du Nord Fabulous site from Québec with information about letter writing, resumés, and other business conventions.

French Search Engines/Moteurs de recherche


La Toile du Québec


Web Antilles

WoYaa! Internet Africa (en français)

Other French Search Engines

Le Français à San Francisco

L'Alliance Française - Check the events section for films and for Rendez-Vous Littéraires, some featuring CCSF student (and AF prof) David Rafoni.

Bay Area Francophile List - Subscribe to this list to receive a list of all the Bay Area events for francophiles. Very complete. Edited by CSU Sonoma professor Suzanne C. Toczyski.

Le Café Musée - Don't miss the exciting art history presentations by CCSF instructor Renée Morel. All in French, with refreshments.

Le Cercle français - CCSF's own French club. Ask your French instructor for details. Enjoy films, dinners, and other activities with your fellow students and instructors who love everything French.

Consulat Général de France de San Francisco - Site of the SF French Consulate.

Pen Pals/Correspondants/Conversation


MOO français Visit the MOO and meet people from throughout the Francophone world. See the Unofficial Guide for Using the MOO français for instructions on how to use it. (The MOO is rarely used these days.)

Chat at


Print resources

Le Monde

Paris Match



Presse francophone Links to publications throughout the French speaking world.

Radio, TV, Video

LangMedia - French in France - from the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages. Videos of native speaker organized by the following categories: Basic Communications, Culture and Social Life, Necessities, Shopping and Services, Transportation.

LangMedia - French Combined Index - more from the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages. Video clips of native French speakers in Canada, Martinique, Morocco, Senegal, and Luxembourg organized into the same categories. A wonderful resource!

Canal Afrique: Programmes en Français - Toute l'actualité cinéma sur internet. Find out what films are currently playing in France. Choose "Bandes-Annonces" to see a list of movie trailers en français! Choose from 3 channels, France2, France3, France5

French Radio on-line

French TV on-line Complete alphabetical list of online TV.

Radio Canada

Points de départ

Some of the best organized and most complete French resources


France Resources from the UC Berkeley Library

French Language from You'll find many links to resources on everything French.

Guide de l'internet culturel Cultural links from the French Minister of Culture


Le Quartier français du village planétaire

Open Directory Project - French language version. This site strives to be the definitive catalog of the Web. It is developed and maintained by a community of "net-citizens" who are experts in their areas of interest.

Tennessee Bob's Famous French Links






Château de Versailles The official site of the Château de Versailles!

Le Cimitière du Père-Lachaise Photos, history, etc.

Civilisation française

France: Régions et pays from the French Ministry of Culture

French Cathedrals, Basilicas, and Churches at Globegate

L'Internet culturel from the French Ministry of Culture (list of regional and city web sites in France)

Les Pages de Paris

Les Photos de Villes (Les Pages jaunes) Enter an address, then see a photo of the place! Really neat. See photos of Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Lille, Nice, Marseille, or Toulouse. Une ville, une adresse, une photo, et un plan!

Paris - Official site of the Ville de Paris

PariServeAll Paris on the Web

La Tour Eiffel - The Official Site of the Eiffel Tower

D'autres pays francophones

Afrique francophone - An excellent collection of links to sites in and about Francophone Africa from Lehman College. You'll find print, sound, and video resources, general and organized by country.

L'Afrique Francophone Virtuelle

Agence de la FrancophonieSite of the official organization of the 49 francophone countries.

Art and Life in Africa Online A project of the University of Iowa. Much information concerning many countries in Africa where French is spoken.

L'écriture au Vietnam Virtual exposition from the French Ministry of Culture; a history of writing in Vietnam

French Guiana Resources from LANIC

MontréalCAM Many views of Montréal.

Pays et communautés francophones from ClicNet. Wonderful list of links to info from/for/about Francophone countries everywhere.

Le Royaume de Maroc Site of the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication of Morocco. In French and in English.


Venez Voir Le Sénégal is an exploration of the Francophone world developed by Colby professors and technologists. This website centers around six short video clips shot in and around Dakar, narrated in French with links to French transcriptions. You will need the free Quicktime Player installed on your machine to view the clips. NEW!

Vietnam - Site photographique.

Virtual Guidebook to Tahiti and French Polynesia - Panoramas allow you to see what you'd see if you were there.

Vieux Montréal

Virtual Francophone Tourism


Centre Georges Pompidou

Expositions virtuelles from the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication

Musée d'Histoire Naturelle

Musée d'Orsay

Musée Rodin

Musée virtuel du Louvre


Réunion des musées nationaux

WebMuseum presents "(presque) tout l'art contemporain à Paris)


Chanter! Toute la chanson francophone- Aznavour à Zebda


Musique from Yahoo France

Resonnances d'Afrique Information about the music of Africa and those who make it. In French with some short audio files available.

Radio Casablanca Listen to the top ten tunes in Morocco (Maroc)

RFI musiqueFind out what's playing on the radio in France. Read bios of artists and groups, hear their music, hear live broadcasts. de la Chanson Francophone



Galeries Lafayette

La Redoute

Stores and Shops from the Paris Pages


Rallye Paris Dakar

Roland Garros The official site of the French Open

Sports from Yahoo France

World Cup France98 Online

Web-TV "exclusivement sur le web" accesses "Canal-Sports"



ABU Bibliothèque universelle from CNAM (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers)

Archivox - La littérature comme vous ne l'avez jamais entendue! Listen to works of French litterature; fables, short stories, and more. Texts are also provided.

Femmes écrivains et littérature africaine francophone There is also a modified version in English.

Gallica Online literature project of France's Bibliothèque Nationale.

Littérature from the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication

Poésie francophone from the Club des poètes

Société Diderot


Chloé ou Les aventures d'une Parisienne A fun comic strip for learners of French.

Polar-FLE - Apprendre le français avec l'inspecteur Roger Duflair - - Learn French while you play an exciting mystery game from the Presses Universitaires de Grenoble.

Ressources diverses


Recettes de cuisine et traditions en France

Sounds of the World's Animals Find out what animals say in French!


Traditions de Noël en France et au Canada


Satellite TV Search

French American Clubs

High School Clubs

Learning from Francophone LINK plus a sample of the content follows:

 The purpose of this site is to make available in one place for learners of French, the principal interactive audio and video sites for francophone television and radio stations (except the last section). The Globe-Gate Research intends that the site become a learning resource center for listening and viewing comprehension, and to that end, we have included a resource page for obtaining appropriate audio software , a bibliography of recent articles on foreign-language listening comprehension, and our own introduction: "Listening Comprehension: Some Notions and Strategies" . This, our second edition, contains 80 links to sounds and video images of the Francophone world, divided into television and radio. The second category is further divided by geographic region. You can listen to or watch a whole newscast, listen live to talk radio or your favorite musical genre. --------

Digital Resources

Television and Video

Les Archives de guerre (extraits video de l'INA)
ARTE (voir "RealVideo - grand format [emissions courrantes])
La Semaine sur ARTE en RealVideo (un clip par jour)
La Chaine Cyber (France, en direct, par abonnement)
CosmoRadio (emission de Canal+ avec des archives en realaudio)
FranceLink - TV (tons of RealAudio and video documents)
France2 (avec des selections RealAudio)
France 3 (avec RealVideo des selections audio)
France 3 Journaux (RealAudio/video)
France Supervision - le magazine (avec des bandes d'annonces Quicktime et MPEG)
Le Guide Video de France 2 (RealAudio/video)
M6 Bordeau - le 6 Minutes du jour (RealAudio archives)
M6Music - artistes (RealAudio)
Previsions Meteo de France 3 (RealAudio/video)
Teleshopping-TF1 (avec RealVideo)
TVA Actualites (Canada, manchettes video de videotron)
Le Web de Canal+ (des clips RealAudio ici et la)

French and European Radio

ACCENT4 - la radio Classique d'Alsace (avec RealAudio 32kb et 80kb)
Audiosup (France, radio sur demande, avec RealAudio)
CBFPT (radio belge avec des clips RealAudio)
CIBL 101,5 FM - La Radio libre (avec realaudio en direct et livecam)
Europe2 (Bordeaux, en direct avec realaudio)
Europe2 Strasbourg (actualites realaudio)
France Info (actualites par realaudio)
Frequence Banane - radio universitaire suisse (avec des documents audio)
Fun Radio - libre antenne et musique (avec realaudio en directe)
Les Magazines de RFI Monde en francais (avec realaudio)
Matin Premiere de RTBF (avec le "Journal Parle" RealAudio)
Maurice Radio Libre (en direct avec RealAudio)
NRJ - radio musicale francaise (avec realaudio)
QUARTERNET - le point d'exes internet (service d'acces audio/video payant)
RADIO CAMPUS LILLE - 106,6 MHz (avec RealAudio en directe)
RCF (Radio Chretienne Francaise, avec des fiches realaudio)
Radio Contact en "live" avec Internet Explorer 3.0)
Radio FG 98.2 Paris (with a wav jingle)
Radio FG Paris, DJ Radio (RealAudio en direct)
Radio France Belfort-Montbeliard 106,8 (RealAudio en directe)
Radio France Creuse (94,3 FM, radio locale avec realaudio)
Radio France (actualites et en direct par realaudio)
Radio France Internationale (en direct avec realaudio)
Radio France - Le Mouv' (radio des jeunes, avec RealAudio)
Radio France Provence (en direct avec RealAudio)
Radio J - La Radio juive de Paris (with realaudio)
Radio Notre Dame (radio chretienne, en directe avec RealAudio)
Radio Occitania (avec des illustrations sonores en format WAV et realaudio)
Radio Prague en francais (avec realaudio)
95.9 Radio Pulsar (France, en directe avec RealAudio)
Radio Suisse Romande (avec les actualites en realaudio)
Radio Suisse Romande - radio a la demande (4 emissions en RealAudio)
RadioVie (radio chretienne, en direct bientot avec RealAudio)
RFI (Informations avec realaudio ou streamworks)
RTBF radio (Radio-Television Belge avec realaudio)
RTL (radio avec realaudio, telechargeable)
RTL2 en direct (musique avec realaudio)
Skyrock Bordeaux 102,8 (avec realaudio en directe)
Videotheque de Musique Plus (base de donnees de 33,000 clips)
WIT FM (Bordeau, utile "Streamworks")

North America

CFOU 89.1 FM (Universite du Quebec a Trois Rivieres, en directe RealAudio)
CHLT 630 Radio Media (Sherbrooke, en directe avec RealAudio)
Chroniques d'Outre-Mer de RFO (fichier hebdomadaire en RealAudio)
CISM 89,3 FM (radio etudiante de l'Universite de Montreal)
CKFM (Montreal, Radio Energie, en direct avec Widows Media Player)
CREM Radio 108.9 FM (CEGEP Montmorency, Quebec, en direct avec RealPlayer Plus)
CKOI (radio de Montreal en direct avec RealAudio et annonces en Quicktime)
ICS 89.7 et 103.9 (radio martiniquaise, en directe avec RealAudio)
PIF,82 (radio Laval, sequences Midi, extraits RealAudio)
La radio AM de Radio-Canada (en direct avec RealAudio)
La radio FM de Radio-Canada (en direct avec RealAudio)
Radio-Canada, Sports (avec video de RealAudio)
Radio Caraibes International (en ligne avec RealAudio)
Radio Ville Marie (Quebec, actualites religieuses en RealAudio)
Radio Rive Sud (Quebec, en direct avec RealAudio ou le G2 beta)
Service realaudio multilangue de Radio Canada Internationale (francais)
Radio Ciel - FM 98,5 (Canada, avec realaudio)
Rock Detente FM 107.3 Montreal (Realaudio with webcam)
Vision 2000, 99.3 FM (Haiti, en directe avec RealAudio)

Africa, Asia, Ociania

Nostalgie (radio Abijan, Liberville, Dakar, Lome, en direct avec RealAudio)
Radio Casablanca (realaudio and video)
Radio-Tunis Live (realaudio, some French)
Radiodffusion Television Senegalaise (en direct avec Microsoft NetShow)
RFI Afrique (Informations en continu specifiques Afrique, avec realaudio)
VOA daily radio news broadcast to French- speaking Africa (audio 8-10 minutes)
VOA Internet Audio RealAudio Server (Look for "French-to-Africa...)
Walf FM (radio senegalaise en live avec RealAudio)


Champs-elysees (shockwave audio)
FRANCE FREQUENCE SUR- LE-NET (service d'acces illimite, mais payant, avec realaudio)

Genealogy Resources - Best On The Net

Amazon Books

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