FREN-492 History of the French Language I
Spring for 2011-2012
The history of the French language is the story of a language evolving within concrete situations to meet the needs of its users. We trace its emancipation from Classical Latin and its gradual transformation into a recognizable French language by the thirteenth century. Colonialism, migrations, invasions, geographical location social, and ideological systems leave their imprint on the language. By the end of the course students will be able to read aloud and translate selected passages of Old French. Through the language, they will also have an historical and linguistic understanding of why France's cultural identity today is predominantly "Latin." Some acquaintance with Latin is desirable but not essential. Cross-listed with Linguistics. This course fulfills the linguistics requirement and the post-advanced language requirement for the French major, and satisfies one semester of the College's social science general education requirement. (Not offered 2004-05)
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Spring '12: Dover, C (file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.
FREN-492-01 History of the French Language I
Spring for 2011-2012
This course is both a language and a linguistics course. It traces the evolution of the French language from its Latin origins to the end of the 13th century, when French had become a fully functioning vehicle for literary expression. You will use the tools of linguistics to trace the development of the language (phonology, morphology, syntax) from Latin to medieval French. To achieve this goal, you begin with phonetics as the means to master the sound system of modern French. Then you will apply this knowledge and go back in time to account for the early spoken forms. In the process, you will discover why much of modern French grammar, spellings, and pronunciation are as they are today. But language does not change in a vacuum. While Linguistics can account systematically for changes in language forms and use, the linguistic developments are propelled by political, geographical, social, and cultural forces (invasions, immigration, political decisions, religion, social structures), both internal and external. This historical background will be easily accessed and discussed through informational readings. By the end of the course, you will be well-equipped to comprehend, read aloud, and translate short French texts from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. To bring your skills into contact with the language as an enduring medieval artifact, the class will make a special visit to the Manuscripts Room of the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, for a hands-on session about medieval manuscripts and how/why they were made. The visit includes the Walters’ digitization room, where you can see up-close some of the medieval manuscripts being photographed to make them available online.
This course is taught in French and readings are in French. It fulfills the French department’s Linguistics requirement as well as the second half of the College’s Social Science requirement. Knowledge of Latin is helpful but it is not required. The course is cross-listed with Medieval Studies.
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: