When did the Frankish royalty start speaking French?

Oct 2015
1,156
California
#1
So I was watching the TV series "Vikings." In season three Ragnar Lothbrok and Hrolf begin their raid on Paris. Anyway in their opening lines, the Franks are speaking what sounded like an early form of French, (probably one based on the Oath of Strassbourg written in old French) Those of you who watch this series would know what I'm talking about.

I guess my question is, would old French have been spoken regularly in the Carolingian court, or did the Frankish language continue to be spoken by the time of the Viking raids?
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,654
#2
I would imagine what they spoke was in transition. I've seen two or three theories on what Carolingnans would have spoken but keep in mind that there were still several language groups in France that were sharing some Latin influences and had some words in common but few would be fluently understood outside their own region.

Latin was still the language of the elite but some mixture of primarily Romance with lots of Frankish words was probably spoken in the military though the vulgar Latin of local regions with many Frankish words in northern France would have began to differentiate into Old Dutch and Old French at the end of the Carolingian period.
 
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kazeuma

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,366
#3
I would say after the Treaty of Verdun in August 843. It one of the first known document that has French and German in it - the treaty created the borders of what we know as France and Germany.
 
Oct 2015
1,156
California
#4
I would imagine what they spoke was in transition. I've seen two or three theories on what Carolingnans would have spoken but keep in mind that there were still several language groups in France that were sharing some Latin influences and had some words in common but few would be fluently understood outside their own region.

Latin was still the language of the elite but some mixture of primarily Romance with lots of Frankish words was probably spoken in the military though the vulgar Latin of local regions with many Frankish words in northern France would have began to differentiate into Old Dutch and Old French at the end of the Carolingian period.
Well according Urban T. Holmes, Jr. cited in wikipedia about the history of the French language. Frankish was spoken as a second language by "public officials in western Austrasia and Neustria as late as the 850s and that it completely disappeared as a spoken language from these regions only during the 10th century." So I guess the western Franks must have spoken a mish mash of Frankish, old French, vulgar Latin. By the time of the Viking raids Frankish officials must have switched to Frankish to communicate with the Vikings as I'm sure some of it would have been mutually intelligible somewhat.

I once read that most Frankish loan words in French are of military origin.
 
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Jun 2015
5,730
UK
#5
The Franks had been there for centuries. the Carolingians were an offshoot of the Merovingians, so surely by the 9th century (four hundred years after the establishment of the Frankish kingdom by Clovis) this is enough time to merge into the Gallo-Roman dialects.

Just as there was Old English in existence, this was the period of Old French too.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,260
Dispargum
#6
I would imagine what they spoke was in transition. I've seen two or three theories on what Carolingnans would have spoken but keep in mind that there were still several language groups in France that were sharing some Latin influences and had some words in common but few would be fluently understood outside their own region.

Latin was still the language of the elite but some mixture of primarily Romance with lots of Frankish words was probably spoken in the military though the vulgar Latin of local regions with many Frankish words in northern France would have began to differentiate into Old Dutch and Old French at the end of the Carolingian period.
I agree with this use of the word 'transition.' It's probably not helpful to draw sharp lines between when Latin, German, and French were spoken. It's only modern convenience that distinctly divides languages. Most people living at the time spoke the language of their friends and family. They did not think about what that language was called.

Most scholars date the birth of the French language to the 842 Treaty of Strasbourg, but French is almost unique in having such a specific date for its birth. It's a matter of French pride that they can date their language so exactly, but to some extent, it's an artificial construct. Languages don't spring into existence from nothingness. They slowly evolve out of whatever came before. The transition is so slow that it goes unnoticed at the time. We can still understand the King James Bible after 400 years even if it does say things like "Whither thou goest..."

Frankish is itself a transitional term. The fifth century Clovis spoke a Germanic language. By the seventh century, we see puns crossing the language barrier. A famous example was the Germanic name Merovech being assigned the Latin definition of 'son of the sea' because Mer is the Latin word for sea. Mer in Old or Proto- German meant famous, and Merovech's parents had no intention of calling him 'son of the sea.' That was a later pun made at his expense. The eighth century Charlemagne spoke a language that had completed 90% of its transition into French, but modern scholars don't call it French because Charlemagne died 30 years before the Treaty of Strasbourg. They can't say that Charlemagne spoke German, so they call it Frankish. People who lived in Viking times probably would not recognize the difference between West Frankish and French. When Holmes claims that Frankish continued to be spoken into the tenth century, he's merely testifying to how slowly languages evolve and how difficult it is to draw a line between when one language dies out and its successor takes its place. The Vikings would have more easily understood East Frankish (German) than West Frankish or French. The Treaty of Strasbourg proves that by 842 there were already significant differences between East and West Frankish.
 
Oct 2015
1,156
California
#7
I agree with this use of the word 'transition.' It's probably not helpful to draw sharp lines between when Latin, German, and French were spoken. It's only modern convenience that distinctly divides languages. Most people living at the time spoke the language of their friends and family. They did not think about what that language was called.

Most scholars date the birth of the French language to the 842 Treaty of Strasbourg, but French is almost unique in having such a specific date for its birth. It's a matter of French pride that they can date their language so exactly, but to some extent, it's an artificial construct. Languages don't spring into existence from nothingness. They slowly evolve out of whatever came before. The transition is so slow that it goes unnoticed at the time. We can still understand the King James Bible after 400 years even if it does say things like "Whither thou goest..."

Frankish is itself a transitional term. The fifth century Clovis spoke a Germanic language. By the seventh century, we see puns crossing the language barrier. A famous example was the Germanic name Merovech being assigned the Latin definition of 'son of the sea' because Mer is the Latin word for sea. Mer in Old or Proto- German meant famous, and Merovech's parents had no intention of calling him 'son of the sea.' That was a later pun made at his expense. The eighth century Charlemagne spoke a language that had completed 90% of its transition into French, but modern scholars don't call it French because Charlemagne died 30 years before the Treaty of Strasbourg. They can't say that Charlemagne spoke German, so they call it Frankish. People who lived in Viking times probably would not recognize the difference between West Frankish and French. When Holmes claims that Frankish continued to be spoken into the tenth century, he's merely testifying to how slowly languages evolve and how difficult it is to draw a line between when one language dies out and its successor takes its place. The Vikings would have more easily understood East Frankish (German) than West Frankish or French. The Treaty of Strasbourg proves that by 842 there were already significant differences between East and West Frankish.
Speaking of mutually intelligible languages, I would venture a guess that 6th century Frankish would have been mutually intelligible with Anglo-Saxon. Frankish princess Bertha of Kent who married pagan Aehtleberht of Kent probably must have understood each other. (West Germanic language connection).

Anyway you're right, East Frankish would have probably been understood better by Vikings than West Frankish. On that note


A sample of the Oath of Strasbourg:

Old French or West Frankish: “Pro Deo amur et pro christian poblo et nostro commun saluament, d'ist di in auant, in quant Deus sauir et podir me dunat, si saluarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in adiudha et in cadhuna cosa si cum om per dreit son fradra saluar dift, in o quid il mi altresi fazet. Et ab Ludher nul plaid nunquam prindrai qui meon uol cist meon fradre Karle in damno sit.”

Old High German: ( East Frankish): “In godes minna ind in thes christiānes folches ind unsēr bēdhero gehaltnissī, fon thesemo dage frammordes, sō fram sō mir got gewizci indi mahd furgibit, sō haldih thesan mīnan bruodher, sōso man mit rehtu sīnan bruodher scal, in thiu thaz er mig sō sama duo, indi mit Ludheren in nohheiniu thing ne gegango, the mīnan willon imo ce scadhen werdhēn.”
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,815
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#8
Which French?

There were two French languages actually, the langue d'oc and the langue d'oil.

The root of modern French is the langue d'oil [and there is who suspects that this differentiation came from Italian sources like Dante and his buddies].

The langue d'oc [linguadoca] still exists [also in a part of Italian Calabria], it's the "occitano" [Occitan].
 
Nov 2010
7,666
Cornwall
#9
Not sure if it's relevant but Esparza, in his trilogy of the Reconquista, has a chapter on the evolution of what became Castellano and Catalan. Obviously from a mix of the ruins of vulgar latin, a little germanic and a fair bit of arabic in this case. This recognisable formation seems to be sometime around the milennium. Is it possible to suggest something similar in 'France'?

Must admit I didn't pay too much attention to that chapter as it was a bit of a side-issue to the main theme and doesn't really float my boat!
 

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