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THE MORPHO-SYNTAX OF LATINT AND OLD FRENCH:
THE LOSS OF A CASE SYSTEM
KRISTINT PRISCILLA HODGE
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Kristin Priscilla Hodge
To my mother, who has always been there for me
First and foremost, I thank my parents for always being so supportive in my studies. I
thank Marie Virginia Fisher for inspiring me to both learn and further my studies of the French
language. I would like to especially thank Dr. Mario Aldana for inspiring me to teach the
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............. ...............4.....
LIST OF TABLES .........__.. ..... .__. ...............6....
FIGURE ........._.___..... .__ ...............8.....
AB S TRAC T ......_ ................. ............_........9
1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............10.......... ......
2 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND .............. ...............12....
3 GRAMMATICAL EXPLANATION ................. ...............24........... ....
M orpho- Syntax ................. ...............24.................
Latin Case System .............. ...............24....
Old French Case System............... ...............33.
Comparison of the Two Case Systems ................ ...............40...............
4 CONCLU SION................ ..............4
LIST OF REFERENCES ................. ...............45........... ....
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............46....
LIST OF TABLES
3-1 First declension noun endings............... ...............27
3-2 First declension noun femina, -ae .............. ...............27....
3-3 Second declension noun endings .............. ...............28....
3-4 Second declension noun amnicus, -a. ............ ....._.. ...............28.
3-5 Second declension neuter noun endings .............. ...............28....
3-6 Second declension neuter noun templum, -a declination ....._____ ........___ ..............28
3-7 Third declension noun endings .............. ...............29....
3-8 Third declension -i stem noun endings .............. ...............29....
3-9 Third declension noun urbs, urbis .............. ...............29....
3-10 Third declension neuter noun mare, -is .............. ...............29....
3-11 Fourth declension noun endings .............. ...............30....
3-12 Fourth declension neuter noun endings .............. ...............30....
3-13 Fourth declension noun fr~uctus, -us ............___.......... ...............30..
3-14 Fourth declension neuter noun cornu,- iis ................. ............_._....30.........
3-15 Fifth declension noun endings ....._._ ................ .........._. .......3
3-16 Fifth declension noun dies, dief ........._.___..... .__. ...............3 1..
3-17 First and second declension adj ective endings ................. ...............32..............
3-18 First/second declension adj ective clarus, clara, clarum ................. .......__. ........._.32
3-19 Type 1 and type 2 Old French masculine nouns, cas suj et and cas regime ................... ....34
3-20 Type 1 and type 2 Old French feminine nouns, cas suj et and cas regime ................... ......34
3-21 Old French masculine adj ective buens ................. ...............36........... ..
3 -22 Old French feminine adj ective buene .............. ...............36............. ..
3-23 Case endings of Old French type 1 adj ectives ................ ...............36.............
3 -24 Old French masculine adj ective grans ........._._. .. ..... ...............37
3-25 Old French feminine adj ective grans ........._._. .. ..... ...............37.
3-26 Case endings of Old French type 2 adj ectives ................ ...............37.............
2-1 Map of the expansion of Roman power in Europe (Lodge, 1997, p. 50) ................... .......23
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
THE MORPHO-SYNTAX OF LATINT AND OLD FRENCH: THE LOSS OF A CASE
Kristin Priscilla Hodge
Chair: William Calin
Major Department: French
This research deals with the morpho-syntactic features of both Latin and Old French. An
examination of the noun and adj ective case systems for both languages is given. First, a
historical background shows why Latin is related to French. Then, a grammatical examination of
the declension systems of both Latin and Old French is provided. Finally, a comparison of the
two languages is given.
When one studies a language, it is important that all aspects of the language are examined.
Culture, grammar, phonetics, and vocabulary are but a few of the most common aspects of
language that one generally thinks about studying, but one can also go much deeper into the
linguistic aspects of the language. One area of these linguistic aspects is the history of the
language's development. Historical linguistics centers on the changes that occur throughout the
life of a language. Studying the origin and the way that a language once worked is one way to
better understand the way that it works in its modern form. Understanding why specific words
are spelled one way as opposed to another or why the subj ect is always placed in a specific place
can help make the language clearer and more interesting to the one studying it.
Languages do not appear overnight. French, like any language, took centuries to develop.
Instead of instantly appearing, it went through many stages of transformation. The French
language, along with all of the Romance Languages, comes from Latin origins. From its Latin
roots, it was influenced by Germanic tribes and formed into what is known as Old French. From
there, it transformed even more. The 17th century brought about the Classical Age of the French
language, which was followed by the modern French that is spoken today in France.
When studying a language in detail, it is important to understand from where it comes.
Just as the history of a country or a continent is important to the historian or the politician, the
history of a language is essential to the linguist. Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to understand
why one says something the way one does today. It is important to those who study the modern
language of French in detail to understand why an 'e' is used to make the feminine in most
adj ectives or why an 's' is used to mark the plural. Likewise, it would help the French linguist to
study Latin, since French developed out of Latin. Understanding how much larger of a case
system Latin has and how it gradually became reduced in size can help one who studies Old
French better understand why the case system of Old French is so truncated in comparison.
The fact that Latin' s six cases are reduced to two in Old French and then to none in modern
French is a phenomenon that one who studies French should understand, because without this
knowledge one could mistakenly think that the French language begins with Old French.
Knowing the language's origin and understanding its language of origin helps the Old French
scholar better understand as a whole the entire evolution of the French language. The fact that
Latin evolved in a similar way, using fewer and fewer of its cases, is also important. The fact
that Old French reduced the case system to two cases can help explain why later on it was
reduced to none.
This thesis will deal first with the historical background behind Old French. Why it comes
from Latin and why Latin was spoken in Gaul in the first place are but two of the topics
addressed in the historical background. Variations in the dialects spoken throughout Gaul are
also examined. The grammar section takes an in-depth look at the Latin case system of nouns
and adjectives. It also looks at the case system of nouns and adjectives of Old French. Finally,
the grammar segment makes a comparison of the Latin and Old French case systems.
Latin and French have a relationship which has lasted more than a millennium. French
Einds its roots with the Latin language, even despite its many changes through the centuries. In
order to examine these changes, it is necessary to begin with a study of Old French because it is
the version of French through all of the centuries that is closest to Latin. There are many
phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexical changes from Latin to Old French. This
study will examine the morpho-syntactical differences between the language of origin, Latin, and
the new language, Old French. In other words, one will study the eventual loss of the case
system in Old French. In order to fully understand the grammatical changes of the morpho-
syntax from Latin to Old French, one must understand first and foremost why Latin is pertinent
to Old French and why one spoke Latin in the region of Gaul before one spoke French. The
question of non-roman influences on the origin of Old French is also important.
Before the Romans entered Gaul, Galois (Gaulish) was spoken in the region that is now
France. Gaulish was a Celtic language. When the Gauls entered the region of Gaul, there were
other populations living there already, mainly the Ligurians, the Iberians, and the Aquitainians.
The languages that these peoples spoke were not of Indo-European origin. It is difficult to
determine where the languages of the Ligurians and the Iberians came from, since they no longer
exi st. The language of the Aquitains is known only through the Basque language which exists
today and has its origins in the language of the Aquitains. As to the language of the Gauls
themselves, modern linguists know little about it since there are few written records of the
language. The Druids refused to write any of their beliefs, so the traditional transmission of
writing through the clergy is non-existent for this society. The Gaulish records that do exist are
items such as calendars, which do not tell modern linguists much about the structure of the
While Gaulish did not have a large influence on Old French, it did still have some
influence. In modern French, there are a total of around 200 words of Gaulish origin. Most of
these terms, such as valet, vassal, and cheval, deal with the rural aspects of life. Since these
words still exist today, once can logically deduce that Gaulish had some influence.
Perhaps the most likely influence Gaulish had on Old French is its nasality. Both French
and Portuguese were influenced by Celtic Languages, and both languages gained more nasal
sounds as a result. In Middle French, vowels which were followed by a nasal consonant became
nasalized. This particular nasalization is still in place today in modern French; however, the loss
of the final nasal consonant took place well after the time frame of Old French.
So why was Latin spoken in Gaul? "Nee dans l'lle de France, region dont le 'patois' n'a
jamais ete que la variante populaire du frangais, notre langue est avant tout l'heritiere directed du
latin imported en Gaule par les conquerants remains" (Allieres, 1982, p. 5). One can easily say
that Latin entered into Gaul because of Julius Cesar. Perhaps the best-known and the most
powerful leader of the Roman Republic, he reunited all of Gaul under Roman power. In the first
century B.C., the Roman Republic contained a large portion of Europe as well as several other
Mediterranean territories. Figure 2-1 shows the extensiveness Rome's power throughout
Europe, both as the Roman Republic and as the Roman Empire.
When this new government appeared in Gaul, it brought with it its language. As the
language of civilization and the language of government, Latin easily found its place in Gaul:
Les Romains n'ont eu recours a aucun moyen tyrannique pour imposer leur
langue. Mais le latin etait la langue officielle du gouvernement et il representait
la civilisation. C'etait deux raisons qui lui assuraient une superiorite ecrasante.
(Wartburg, 1962, p. 22)
Another reason that Latin took such a large hold in the civilization of Gaul was due to its
schools. At the beginning of the Roman civilization, the education of the children was the
responsibility of the parents. The sons went with their fathers to the fields, and the daughters
stayed with their mothers in the home. Little by little, they adopted the education system of the
Greeks. When Cesar took his soldiers into Gaul and conquered it, he also took with him the
Roman culture and the education system which was popular at the time. Because the Gauls did
not have a school system, they sent their sons to the new Roman schools in order to educate
Les Gaulois n'avaient aucune institution de ce genre. Celui qui aspirait, pour lui
ou pour ses enfants, a un degree de civilisation plus avance se voyait dans la
necessity de recourir a l'instruction que l'on donnait dans les ecoles remains. ..
c' est surtout par l'ecole que le Gaulois est devenu Romain. (Wartburg, 1962, pp.
These young boys learned Latin in school, and little by little this language became even
more important than Gaulish, the indigenous language of Gaul. It is because Latin was the
language of Rome, which was synonymous with culture and political power, that there was a
need in the homes of the elite families of Gaul to learn Latin.
It is obvious then that Latin held an important seat in Gaul at that time, but it is also
important to note that there was a situation of diglossia in Gaul when it was under Rome' s rule,
probably due to the distance between Rome and Gaul. Lodge (1997) says
Plus loin de Rome, certaines communautes comme celles de la Gaule connurent
longtemps une situation de diglossie, le latin jouant le r81e de langue officielle
tandis que les nombreux vernaculaires locaux subsistaient pour les besoins des
populations du cru. (p. 52)
Even though the school had an important role in the spread of Latin in Gaul, it was
probably the case that the diffusion of Latin was the result of the spoken language and not the
written language. The Latin that was spoken in Gaul at that time is traditionally called Vulgar
Latin. This title comes from the Latin noun vulgus which means "the people." Vulgar Latin
therefore means "the Latin of the people," and not the so-called Classical Latin of the traditional
Latin literature of authors such as Cesar, Cicero, and Virgil. Wartburg (1962) cites Meillet,
Le latin vulgaire est devenu quelque chose que les hommes les plus varies et les
moins cultives pouvaient manier, un outil commode, bon pour toutes mains. (p.
Before passing straight from Latin to Old French, there was a period of dialectization of le
gallo-roman in Gaul. In the fifth century A.D., there were many Germanic invasions which
menaced and in effect diminished the power of the Romans in Gaul. There was therefore at this
time a refragmentation of Gaul. The centrality that the Roman Empire had brought to Gaul
disappeared, and the spoken language became different in different regions. In the north, there
was what was called la langue d'od' (today, French) and in the south what was called la langue
d'oc (today, Occitan). The principal difference between these two gallo-romance dialects is "le
resultat de l'adoption des formes linguistiques nouvelles a des rythmes differents" (Lodge, 1997,
p. 81). In the north, there was a tendency to adopt new forms, while in the south there was a
tendency to conserve the old forms.
The fragmentation of the Roman Empire was one of the causes of the dialectization of
Vulgar Latin. Cerquiglini (1993) says
Rome et sa langue percent du prestige, au profit des varietes regionales et
provinciales, au travers desquelles une appartenance nouvelle se fait jour. Et la
disparition des ecoles publiques, au plus tard a la fin du Ve siecle, contribua sans
aucun doute a la perte de prestige dont souffrit rapidement le latin et la culture
romaine. (p. 30)
The schools which had disseminated the Latin language disappeared. Since the civilization
that was thought of as the best civilization in the world was no longer present, its prestige would
also no longer be present.
It is therefore evident that Latin had a large influence on the origins of French, but Latin
also had influence on the origins of many European languages. But these other languages are
much closer in linguistic terms to Latin than is French. If Gaul was closer to Italy than Spain, for
example, why then is French so much further linguistically from Latin?
There are two relatively simple answers to this question. First of all, there is the time
period when France became a Roman province. Rome had already gained the Iberian Peninsula
as a province. They were looking for a sort of bridge between Italy and Spain that their
merchants and their soldiers could use to travel between the two regions. Because Gaul found
itself to be situated between these two regions, it rapidly became this terrestrial bridge. Because
the Romans did not come to Gaul until a period much later than they came to other areas of
Europe, Latin was not present in Gaul when it was already in use in these other regions. Latin
evolved as all human languages do, and the Latin that the Romans introduced into Spain was
more like Classical Latin. The Latin that they introduced into Gaul was more evolved and had
different characteristics. The Latin language that was introduced there was therefore further
evolved when it first appeared in Gaul.
Another reason that French is different from the other Romance Languages is the fact that
there were many barbaric invasions in Gaul. These invasions contributed to the fall of the
Roman Empire. The term barbaric itself means foreign. These barbaric invasions did not begin
and end quickly. Instead, they were prolonged over a time span of many years. These
migrations helped contribute to the fall of the last emperor in the Orient in 476. These Germanic
invaders were not well organized, and so the Romans often used one group against another.
When the Empire began to distinguish itself, the Vulgar Latin spoken in each province of
the Empire evolved in different ways because of the different influences in each location. The
process of this disintegration was slow, but the results were the many different Romance
Languages, several of which still exist today. After the fall of Rome, these regions were isolated.
Cerquiglini (1993) says
Ce qui distingue le frangais des autres langues romanes, et qui a sans doute
distingue tres tit le latin dont il est issu, est le contact avec le celte d'une part,
avec la langue germanique d'autre part. (p. 31-32)
It was during this era that the proto-language d 'od' and the proto-language d 'oc appeared.
There was therefore a unique situation in the region which is today France which produced these
dialects that later became French.
These barbaric invasions of the Germanic peoples started in the fourth century, but it was
not until the fall of Rome that they had a great influence on the language spoken in Gaul. The
invasions continued for centuries.
The three principal groups who established themselves in Gaul were the Franks, the
Visigoths, and the Burgundians. All of these three peoples were Germanic, but they all spoke
different Germanic dialects. There were also other non-Germanic groups who had important
influences on the French language. The main non-Germanic influence came from the Bretons
during this time period. Because all of these different groups of people spoke different
languages and had different customs, it is necessary to study them region by region.
The region that is located in the north of Gaul was the region affected the most by the
invasions. The main invasion in this area was that of the Franks. It is easy to see even today that
the Franks had a large influence on the French language, just by looking at the modern-day name
of the region of Gaul: France. When they invaded, the Franks were looking for neither political
nor military power. They were farmers above all else. In reality, they did not even truly invade
Gaul; they simply began migrating toward the south of Gaul. The Franks were divided into
many smaller groups which were not very well organized until the unification of Clovis. The
Franks did not force their language on the Gauls:
Comme les Gaulois avant eux, les Francs ressentirent la culture latine comme a
bien des egards superieure a la leur. Mais dans les domaines de la vie ou cela ne
leur paraissent pas 6tre le cas, ils introduisirent un grand nombre de mots
empruntes au francique. (Lodge, 1997, p. 93)
Lodge shows in this citation that the Franks adopted the language of the people who were
already present in Gaul; but the language became more decentralized once they arrived into
In terms of vocabulary, the Franks contributed many military terms to Old French. They
also gave French some political terminology such as baron. There are also a large number of
names of plants that are of Frankish origin. Some examples include le houx and le cresson.
Clothing articles were also among the vocabulary terms contributed by the Franks: le ganzt and la
poche for example. In total, the Franks gave the French language over 200 terms. The Franks
also used to decline their proper names, which is one reason why the tradition of declining
proper names continued into Old French. Many suffixes in French are also of Frankish origin: -
ard and -aud for example.
The Visigoths used their military superiority in order to establish a kingdom which was
semi-independent and which had its capital in Toulouse. This kingdom was allied with Rome.
The more heavily populated concentrations of the Visigoths were noticeably around Toulouse.
The Visigoths, like the Franks, had an influence of decentralization on the language, but "la
contribution directed des Wisigoths a l'evolution linguistique de l'Aquitaine semble avoir ete
pratiquement nulle" (Lodge, 1997, p. 95). Because this region had a sort of independence from
the kingdom of the Franks, it was isolated to a greater degree from the rest of Gaul. The Latin
language had therefore evolved at a slower rate in this area than in the north. The Visigoths also
did not impose their language on the people of this region. The fact that the region remained
relatively stable and continued its traditional social structures left Latin to be the main language
here for much longer than in other regions of what is today France. Overall, this Visigoths had
little influence on the Old French language.
The region between le Jura and the Mediterranean Sea was located much closer to the
Germanic world. It was filled with invasions even before the fall of Rome because of its
location. This region kept its customs and habits for nearly three centuries after the fall of Rome.
It is because of this fact that the Latin that was spoken in this region was not very different from
the Latin spoken in what is today Italy.
The Burgundians invaded the region between Lyon and Geneva. This Germanic people
stayed allied with the Romans throughout the entire duration of the Roman Empire. They
adopted the legal system of Rome; however, in the end the Franks annexed the region in 536.
During the time of the Burgundians, the region retained many of its traditional habits. The
Burgundians themselves adapted to the Roman culture that was present in the region. Lodge
(1997) says that a bilingualism of Burgundian and Latin was present in the region among the
elite population of both Burgundian and Latin origin. Eventually, the Burgundians adapted
completely to the Roman culture that was present, and their language intermingled with it as
The Bretons came from Great Britain in the fifth century, but as a result of the invasion of
their own territory by the Saxons. This people had a large influence on the spoken language in
the region which is today Brittany. The Bretons spoke a Celtic language which was similar to
the Gaulish that was spoken in Gaul before the influence of the Roman Empire. The region of
Brittany contained four dialects: "le cornouaillais", "le leonais", "le tregorrois", and "le
vannetais". Their languages remained important for a long time yet did not strongly influence
the development of French. They spoke their own language for many years and did not adapt to
the French language for many years. Their language can still be found in Brittany today;
however, it has never greatly influenced the French language in any significant way.
Eventually, the Franks gained more and more power and became the most important of all
of these barbaric groups. Several linguists, like Lodge (1997) and Wartburg (1962), say that the
Franks exercised the determining influence on the Latin that was spoken in their region to the
north of the Loire Valley.
Along with all of this defragmentation of Gaul, there were also many different dialects.
This study has already noted two languages, la langue d'oi'l and la langue d'oc, but within these
two languages of Old French and Old Occitan there were also many dialects at the local level.
Little by little, the franks won over more power in Gaul under their most well-known king,
Charlemagne. After his death, the Carolingian Empire was divided into three sections, one
section for each of Charlemagne' s three sons: Charles, Louis, and Lothaire. Les Serments de
Stra~sbourg was the first document that has survived which had any part of it written in French.
Until this point, Latin was the only written language. The document itself was a contract
between two of the sons, Charles and Louis. These two brothers j oined with each other against
the other brother, Lothaire. There is only a small section of the Serments de Stra~sbourg which is
written in French. The rest of the document is written in Latin. Louis and Charles both read the
contract aloud in the language of the other brother so that the soldiers of the other brother were
able to understand it. It is at this moment, in the year 842, that one can definitively say for the
first time that there was a French language. One theory holds that this text was in the French of
the Ile de France which became the principal dialect because of the region' s strong relationship
with the king. Another theory states that the oaths were written in a koine, which incorporated
features from several regions.
One must also look at how the language became an institution. Since there were so many
dialects in Gaul, there was much confusion when laws and ordinances needed to be made. When
this occurred, administrators had to either translate the legislation into each dialect or run the risk
of not having everyone understand.
The rulers believed that if the country spoke one language, then the country would be more
unified and would have more of a national identity. In the effort to unify the country through a
common language, several ordinances were passed. In 1490, the Ordinance of Moulins
suggested that all legal interrogations and verbal proceedings be in French or in the maternal
language. The purpose of this ordinance was to help eliminate Latin as the official language.
Another ordinance passed to help rectify this situation was declared by Frangois I in 1539,
the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterits. Before this date, it was common for official documents to be
written in Latin or the local dialect of French or Occitan. Many times, there were situations
where the language of the ordinance was not understood by some. One can see by the date of the
Ordinance that this situation of miscomprehension existed for some time in Gaul. This edict
stated that all official documents had to be in French:
Et pour ce que telles choses sont souvent advenues sur l'intelligence des mots
latins contenus esdits arrests, nous voulons d'oresnavant que tous arrests,
ensemble toutes autres procedures, soient de nos course souveraines et autres
subalternes et inferieures, soient de registres, enquestes, contracts, commissions,
sentences, testaments, et autres quelconques, actes et exploicts de justice, ou qui
en dependent, soient prononces, enregistres et delivres aux parties en language
maternel frangois et non autrement. (Frangois I, Article 111)
There is a proverb that the speakers of many languages have adapted to their own culture.
In French, one says "Paris ne s'est pas fait en un jour," but each language tends to use a different
important city. In English and in Italian, the city of Rome is used in this phrase, "Rome was not
built in a day." This proverb represents quite well the birth of French. French, like Rome, was
not created in a day. A language, like a city, is not something which can simply appear
overnight. It takes many centuries of evolution for it to develop.
All French linguists say that French descended from Latin. But if a language does come
from another language, when can it be said that the first language is finished and the second
language has begun? This question is as relevant to French as much as it is to all of the Romance
Languages. There are linguists who say that Latin is still spoken today, that the modern
Romance Languages are but dialects of Latin. We will see in the next chapter that French is a
language separate from Latin. Its morpho-syntax became so different through its evolution that a
speaker of French could not easily understand a speaker of Latin.
~ Ir~nallr;?pn~~ll; L'r rlu rn I)j,, 1 ~~
Figure 2-1. Map of the expansion of Roman power in Europe (Lodge, 1997, p. 50)
Because Old French evolved first into Middle French, then into Classic French, and Einally
into modern French, much time has gone by since it was spoken. Therefore, there are no native
speakers of Old French that can tell linguists how the language was pronounced. The technology
linguists use today to record native speakers was not anywhere near development in the age of
Old French, so recordings are also not an option. For this reason, this paper centers mostly on
the written aspects of the language, since those are the ones for which linguists know the patterns
of morphology and syntax. It is much easier to study the pronunciation of Classical Latin since
there were Classical Latin scholars who wrote about the language itself from a linguistic
standpoint, however, it would be much more difficult to study the pronunciation of the Vulgar
Latin that spread into Gaul in the first place, since the scholars who studied those aspects of the
language were most likely residing in Rome.
Now that the historical background has been explained, one can move on to the more
technical grammatical comparison of the language. The case systems of Latin and Old French is
just one aspect of the grammars of these two languages. There are other areas, such as phonetics
and semantics that can also be explored. The examination of the case systems dealt with in this
paper pertains to one of the morpho-syntactical aspects of the language. First the morpho-syntax
of Latin will be dealt with, then the morpho-syntax of Old French. Finally, a comparison will be
made between the two languages and their morpho-syntax.
Latin Case System
The term case system can be defined as a system of declensions. A declension is an
alternation in a noun or adj ective that indicates its grammatical role in the sentence. Janson
(2004) says that in Latin "each noun consists of a stem and an ending, and the ending shows the
role of the word in the sentence" (p. 183). Each noun belongs to what is known as a declension.
In Latin there are five different declensions to which a noun can belong. Each declension
contains six different cases which have both singular and plural endings. So, in total a noun can
have as many as twelve endings. The ending, or case, that is used is determined by the purpose
of the noun in the sentence; for example, a noun can be the subj ect or the obj ect of a verb.
The nominative case is used when the noun is the subj ect of a verb. For example, in the
sentence the man 's wife walks the dog in the park for her daughter, the wife (uxor) is the subj ect
of the verb to walk. Uxor would then be in the nominative case. The accusative case is used
when the noun is the object of a verb; for example, in the sentence the man 's wife walks the dog
in the park for her daughter, the dog (canis) is the obj ect of the verb to walk, and canis would be
in the accusative case. The ablative case is often used if the noun is the obj ect of the preposition
from, by, or in. For example, in our example sentence, the park (hortus) would be in the ablative
case because it is the obj ect of the preposition in. The dative case is often used to indicate the
indirect obj ect of the sentence. If we take the sentence the man 's wife walks the dog in the park
for her daughter as a sample sentence, her daughter (filia is the indirect obj ect and would
therefore be in the dative case in Latin. The genitive case is used to indicate possession. In our
example sentence, man (vir) would be in the genitive case to show that is it his wife that is doing
the action. The final case is the vocative case. This case is used when speaking directly to
someone. For example, if our example sentence was addressed to someone named Cesar
(Cesar), the sentence would become the man 's wife walks the dog in the park for her daughter,
Cesar. Cesar would then be in the vocative case. The man 's wife walk the dog in the park for
her daughter, Cesar can now be translated into Latin since all of the parts and cases have been
explained. Combining the Latin words in parentheses stated above and the verb to walk
(amnbulaFre), one can form the Latin sentence uxor viri canem filiae horto amnbulat.
There are five different declensions within the Latin case system, referred to as the first
through the fifth declensions. The easiest way to discover which declension a noun belongs to is
to look at the genitive singular ending of the noun. For this reason, many Latin dictionaries give
both the nominative and genitive singular forms for each noun entry, for example femina, -ae.
The first declension contains nouns that end in -a in their nominative singular form, such
as femina, -ae (woman); puella, -ae (girl); and via, -ae (road). Most of the nouns in the first
declension are feminine; however, there are a few masculine nouns found within it as well, such
as poeta, -ae (poet) and agricola, -ae (farmer).
The second declension contains nouns that end in -us in their nominative singular form.
All of the nouns in this declension that end in -us are masculine and include nouns such as
servus, -i (slave) and hortus, i (garden). There are also a few nouns in this declension which
end in -er or -r in the nominative singular form, which are masculine. Two examples of these
second declension nouns are puer, -i (boy) and ager, agri (Hield). There are also a few neuter
nouns in this declension which end in -um, such as the noun bellum, -um (war).
The third declension contains masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns. This is the largest
declension of nouns, and it can be broken up into two main groups. The first group contains
nouns whose stems end in a consonant in the nominative singular form, such as consul, -is
(consul); miles, militis (soldier); and flamen, -inis (river). The other group contains nouns
whose stems end in -i. This group contains nouns such as civis, -is (citizen); mare, -is (sea); and
animal, -is (animal). The stems of these nouns would then be civi-, mari-, and animali-.
The fourth declension contains nouns that end in -us in the nominative singular form. It
should be noted that the nominative singular forms of both second and fourth declension nouns
end in -us; however, ones belonging to the fourth declension decline differently than the second
declension -us nouns. Some nouns included in this declension are exercitus, -us (army) and
casus, us (chance). There also exist a few fouth declension nouns which end in -u. These
words are all neuter and include nouns such as genus, -us (knee).
The fifth and final declension contains only a few nouns, all of which end in -es in the
nominative singular case. Most of them are feminine, such as res, rei (thing); however, this
declension also contains several masculine nouns such as dies, dieTe (day) and meridies, meridier
The nouns of each of these declensions decline in a different fashion. First declension
nouns, such as femina, -ae, have the following endings:
Table 3-1. First declension noun endings
Nominative -a -ae
Genitive -ae -arum
Dative -ae -Is
Accusative -am -as
Ablative -a -Is
Vocative -a -ae
The noun femina, -ae would then decline as follows:
Table 3-2. First declension noun femina, -ae
Nominative femina feminae
Genitive feminae feminkrum
Dative feminae feminist
Accusative feminam feminks
Ablative femina feminist
Vocative femina feminae
The second declension nouns have the following case endings:
Table 3-3. Second declension noun endings
Nominative -us -i
Genitive -I -orum
Dative -o -Is
Accusative -um -os
Ablative -o -Is
Vocative -e -i
The second declension noun amicus, a would then decline as follows:
Table 3-4. Second declension noun amnicus, -i
Nominative amicus amici
Genitive amicI amicormm
Dative amico amicls
Accusative amicum amicos
Ablative amico amicls
Vocative amice amici
Second declension neuter nouns decline in a different manner:
Table 3-5. Second declension neuter noun endings
Nominative -um -a
Genitive -I orum
Dative -o -Is
Accusative -um -a
Ablative 5 -Is
Vocative -um -a
An example of such a noun is the word templum, -a:
Table 3-6. Second declension neuter noun templum, -a declination
Nominative templum templa
Genitive temple templormm
Dative temple temples
Accusative templum templa
Ablative temple temples
Vocative templum templa
Table 3-7. Third declension noun endings
Nominative -O -es
Genitive -is -um
Dative -i -ibus
Accusative -em -es
Ablative -e -ibus
Vocative -O -es
I-stem nouns of the third declension, such as mare, -is decline with the following endings:
Table 3-8. Third declension -i stem noun endings
Nominative -O -a
Genitive -is -um
Dative -i -ibus
Accusative -O -a
Ablative -e -ibus
Vocative -O -a
The third declension nouns urbs, urbis and mare, -is then decline as follows:
Table 3-9. Third declension noun urbs, urbis
Nominative urbs urbes
Genitive urbis urbum
Dative urbi urbibus
Accusative urbem urbes
Ablative urbe urbibus
Vocative urbs urbes
Table 3-10. Third declension neuter noun mare, -is
Nominative mare maria
Genitive maris marium
Dative marl maribus
Accusative mare maria
Ablative marl maribus
Vocative mare maria
The third declension nouns decline in different ways depending on the gender, just as with
the second declension nouns. The first type of third declension noun, such as urbs, urbis
declines in the following manner:
The fourth declension also contains more than one group of endings. The endings are as
Table 3-11. Fourth declension noun endings
Nominative -us -us
Genitive -us -uum
Dative -ul -ibus
Accusative -um -us
Ablative -u -ibus
Vocative -us -us
Table 3-12. Fourth declension neuter noun endings
Nominative -u -ua
Genitive -us -uum
Dative -u -ibus
Accusative -u -ua
Ablative -u -ibus
Vocative -u -ua
Two examples of fourth declension nouns are fr~uctus, -us and cornit,-us:
Table 3-13. Fourth declension noun fr~uctus, -us
Nominative fructus fructus
Genitive fructus fructuum
Dative fructul fructibus
Accusative fructum fructfis
Ablative fructu fructibus
Vocative fructus fructus
Table 3-14. Fourth declension neuter noun corn#,- iis
Nominative comnu comua
Genitive comIus comuum
Dative comu comibus
Accusative comnu comua
Ablative comu comibus
Vocative comfx comua
The fifth declension contains only one group of nouns, which is a relatively small group of
nouns. The noun endings as well as the declination of an example noun, dies, dici follow.
Table 3-15. Fifth declension noun endings
Nominative -es -es
Genitive -el -erum
Dative -el -ebus
Accusative -em -es
Ablative -e -ebus
Vocative -es -es
Table 3-16. Fifth declension noun dies, diei
Nominative dies dies
Genitive diel diermm
Dative diel diebus
Accusative diem dies
Ablative die diebus
Vocative dies dies
Adj ectives decline in a way similar to the declination of nouns. The adj ective must agree
with the noun it modifies in three ways: gender, number, and case. So if one had the genitive
feminine singular noun feminae (woman) and one wanted to modify it with the adj ective clarus
(famous), the adj ective would have to be changed so that it is also in the genitive feminine
singular form: clarae; therefore we would have the phrase feminae clarae (of the famous
First and second declension adj ectives decline almost exactly like first and second
declension nouns. Table 3-17 shows the case endings for first and second declension adjectives
in the feminine, masculine, and neuter forms. Table 3-18 shows the declination of the adjective
clarus, clara, clarum in all three genders.
The fact that a specific word order is not mandatory in Latin allows much freedom in the
language's syntax. Many of the famous authors of Classical Latin used this variable syntax to
better express themselves. It also created a sort of game for the reader to Eigure out what role
each word holds and which adj ectives belong with which nouns. The example below is from the
work De Amicitia by Cicero (44 BC). It shows the flexibility of syntax that is possible in Latin:
Table 3-17. First and second declension adj ective endings
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative Singular -us -a -um
Genitive Singular -i -ae -i
Dative Singular -o -ae -o
Accusative Singular -um -am -um
Ablative Singular -o -a -o
Vocative Singular -us -a -um
Nominative Plural -i -ae -a
Genitive Plural -orum -arum -orum
Dative Plural -is -is -is
Accusative Plural -os -as -a
Ablative Plural -is -is -is
Vocative Plural -i -ae -a
Table 3-18. First/second declension adjective clarus, clara, clarum
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative Singular clarus clara clarum
Genitive Singular clari clarae clari
Dative Singular claro clarae claro
Accusative Singular clarum claram clarum
Ablative Singular claro clara claro
Vocative Singular clarus clara clarum
Nominative Plural clari clarae clara
Genitive Plural clarorum clararum clarorum
Dative Plural claris claris claris
Accusative Plural claros claras clara
Ablative Plural claris claris claris
Vocative Plural clari clarae clara
Q. Mucius augur multa narrare de C. Laelio socero suo memoriter et iucunde
solebat nec dubitare illum in omni sermone appellare sapientem; ego autem a
patre ita eram deductus ad Scaevolam sumpta virili toga, ut, quoad possem et
liceret, a senis later numquam discederem; itaque nulta ab co prudenter
disputata, multa etiam breviter et commode dicta memorial mandabam fierique
studebam eius prudentia doctor. Quo mortuo me ad pontificem Scaevolam
contuli, quem unum nostrae civitatis et ingenio et iustitia praestantissimum audeo
dicere. Sed de hoc alias; nunc redeo ad augurem. (Chapter 1, paragraph 1)
This paragraph would be translated to English as
Quintus Mucius Scaevola, the Augur, used to relate many a tale about Gaius
Laelius, his father-in-law, with perfect memory and in a pleasant style, nor did he
hesitate whenever he spoke to call him Wise. Now I, on assuming the dress of
manhood, had been introduced to Scaevola by my father with the idea that, so far
as I could and it was permitted me, I should never quit the old man's side. And so
I used to commit to memory many able arguments, and many terse and pointed
sayings of his, and I was all on fire to become, by his skill, more learned in the
law. And when he died, I betook myself to Scaevola the Pontifex, who I venture
to say was beyond doubt the man in our state most distinguished for ability and
justice. But I will speak of him another time; I now resume my remarks about the
Augur. (Cicero, 44 BC, Chapter 1, paragraph 1)
The works of Cicero are well known today by anyone who studies Latin as somewhat
difficult to read. One can see from this translation, that the word order in Latin is nothing like
that of modem-day English or French. The mere length of his sentences makes it difficult for
modern-day Romance Language speakers to comprehend, since sentences are not usually this
long in the modem Romance Languages. This difficulty also stems from the fact that Cicero
used the full extent of Latin' s syntax to better express himself and to say more within each
Old French Case System
The Old French that appeared in Gaul is not the French that one can find in modern-day
France. It is also far from the Latin that was once spoken in the region. Old French conserves
parts of the case system of Latin, but not the entire system. It also only uses its case system in
There are two main word orders found in Old French non-interrogative sentences: subject-
verb-obj ect and obj ect-verb-subj ect. The only two cases that exist in Old French are the "cas
sujet" (nominative case) and the "cas regime" (accusative case). Instead of the six cases of
Latin, Old French only has two types of nouns. More often than not, feminine nouns do not have
any differences in the cas sujet and in the cas regime. Masculine nouns, on the other hand, do
have changes between the two cases. An example of a Type One masculine noun is murs and an
example of a Type Two masculine noun is ber (Table 3-19). In the feminine, it is clear that there
is often no difference between cas suj et and cas regime, especially in Type One feminine nouns.
Type Two feminine nouns often do show changes (Table 3-20).
Table 3-19. Type 1 and type 2 Old French masculine nouns, cas sujet and cas regime
Type 1 Type 2 Type 1 Type 2
cas sujet (li) murs ber (li) mur baron
cas regime (le) mur baron (les) murs barons
Table 3-20. Type 1 and type 2 Old French feminine nouns, cas sujet and cas regime
Type 1 Type 2 Type 1 Type 2
cas sujet (la) dame suer (les) dames (les) serors
cas regime dame seror dames serors
Whether or not all of these declinations were respected often depended on the copyist,
since most of the documents in Old French that exist today are copies, and not the originals.
These copies were hand-written, so variations occur from one copy to another.
These Old French noun types can be related to their corresponding Latin noun declensions.
The feminine Old French type one nouns come almost exclusively from first declension Latin
nouns. The Old French type one masculine nouns come mostly from the group of Latin second
declension nouns; however, there are many which come from the third declension of Latin
nouns. The type two Old French feminine nouns also often come from the third declension of
Latin nouns. The Old French type two masculine nouns which have alternating radicals often
come from a variety of Latin declensions, but especially from the Latin third declension;
however, formal names in this type are often from a Germanic source (Gui, Guion; Hugues,
Hugon; Athes, Athon).
Whereas in Latin, each case has one specific use, the cas suj et and the cas regime of Old
French each have several different uses. The cas sujet most often served as the case for the
subj ect of the verb in the personal modes: for example, Li rois avoit of' consonner que messires
Gauvains en avoit ocis pluseurs (Moignet, 1984, p. 88). The subject of the verb in the
impersonal modes can be in cas sujet or cas regime. The cas sujet is almost exclusively used for
the noun following the verb atre. The cas sujet is equally used after the phrase il vient. The cas
sujet is also used for all nouns referring to the grammatical subj ect: for example, Jofr~ois de
Vilhardoin li mareschaus de Campaigne moustra la parole (Moignet, 1984, p. 89).
The cas regime contains many different grammatical functions of the noun, as it
corresponds to four of the Latin cases genitivee, accusative, dative, and ablative). The cas
regime is used for obj ects of transitive verbs and for the obj ects of locutions which present
things, such as voi ci, vez ci, ez, ez vos, etc. The cas regime is also used for nouns referring to the
obj ect: for example, et apris l envoia un suen chardonal, maistre Perron de Chappes, coise
(Moignet, 1984, p. 91). Cas regime is also used for determinative complements of the
substantive, in the sense of belonging: for example, et neporquant as paroles que la reine i aprist
conut ele veraiement qu 'il estoit filz Lancelot et qu 'il avoit estd engendrez en la fille le roi Pelles
(Moignet, 1984, p. 92). The cas regime can also be found as the complement of time: for
example, Erec dormi po cele nuit (Moignet, 1984, p. 95). Complements of manner, attitude,
measure, accompaniment, topic, and simultaneous circumstance are often found in cas regime
along with a participle, an adj ective, or another type of determinant: M~out tost se rest mis a la
voie, le col baissie, que nus nel voie (Moignet, 1984, p. 97). The cas regime is also used for the
predicate nominative of the verb as well as for some subj ects when they are after the verb or not
close to the verb in the sentence: et fu pris un parlement l 'endemain (Moignet, 1984, p. 98).
Finally, the cas regime is also used as for the obj ect of a preposition.
When it comes to adj ectives, these too decline with different forms, depending on the case,
gender, and number of the noun they modify. There are two kinds of adj ectives in Old French.
The first kind includes masculine adj ectives which decline in the same way as the noun murs.
An example of this type of adj ective is buens, which would decline as follows:
Table 3-21. Old French masculine adj ective buens
cas sujet buens buen
cas regime buen buens
This group also includes feminine adj ectives which end in -e. These feminine adj ectives
do not decline. The feminine equivalent of the example buens would be buene, which would not
vary from cas sujet to cas regime. This adjective would, however, have a marked plural, buenes:
Table 3-22. Old French feminine adj ective buene
cas sujet buene buenes
cas regime buene buenes
The adj ective endings for this group would then be as follows:
Table 3-23. Case endings of Old French type 1 adj ectives
masculine cas sujet -s -O
masculine cas regime -0 -s
feminine cas sujet -e -es
feminine cas regime -e -es
The second group contains adjectives which do not have marked gender. An example of
this type of adj ective is grans. This lack of gender marking is most notably seen by the fact that
the feminine forms do not have the -e ending to mark their gender. These adj ectives do not
reflect gender because they represent an extension of certain Latin adjectives, such as grandis,
that also do not reflect gender. The masculine form of grans would decline as in Table 3-24. The
feminine form of this adj ective keeps the masculine characteristics, but there is more variety in
the singular cas suj et form (Table 3-25).
Table 3-24. Old French masculine adj ective grans
cas sujet grans grant
cas regime grant grans
Table 3-25. Old French feminine adj ective grans
cas sujet grans OR grant
cas regime grant
The endings for the masculine and feminine type two adj ective then are as follows:
Table 3-26. Case endings of Old French type 2 adj ectives
masculine cas sujet -s -O
masculine cas regime -0 -s
feminine cas sujet -s OR -O
feminine cas regime -0
In comparison to the case system of Latin, it is easy to see that Old French only keeps a
small portion of the extensive Latin system. It is important to note that the formal Latin case
system became simplified over time in the spoken Latin of day-to-day activities. This
simplification could then be one reason why Old French conserves only two of the original six
Latin cases. Lodge (1997) says that the system became so simplified in spoken Latin that the
nominative (cas suj et in Old French) and accusative (cas regime in Old French) cases were the
only two cases that were absolute necessities to carry out day-to-day conversations in Rome.
Instead of using cases such as the dative and genitive, prepositions followed by the accusative
were often inserted into the sentence. For example, instead of using the genitive amnici, one
might say de amnico (of my friend); instead of amnico, one might say ad amnicum (to my friend).
Toward the later Middle Ages in France, the case system of Old French and its case system
became more and more rare. Instead of the noun ending telling the listener or reader which noun
was the subj ect and which noun was the obj ect, the word order became increasingly important.
The noun preceding the verb became the subj ect (Old French cas suj et), and the noun following
the verb became the obj ect (Old French cas regime). One might say that this pre-determined
word order left little need for the case system, as its presence would have simply been repetitive
in the syntax of the new type of sentences. Because there was no need for case endings, the 's'
that would have normally marked the difference between cas suj et and cas regime became a
marker of plurality. Both the word order and the plural 's' of the French of the Middle Ages
have stayed constant through modern-day French. One could also say that the lack of
pronunciation of the noun endings led to the loss of the case system and therefore to the
importance of the word order. There is no real way to know which occurred first, because there
are no native speakers of Old French left today. It may have even been the case that the two
processes occurred at the same time. Linguists can only speculate at issues such as this one,
since there is no living proof to definitively prove one theory over the other.
An interesting point on the conservation of cases involves people's first names. In the case
of most nouns, the cas regime was retained as the language evolved, while the cas suj et slowly
disappeared. This evolutionary format was not, however, the case for first names. In many
cases, the cas suj et was kept. This preservation is most likely because of the fact that things are
not done to names; however, in the cases where both the cas suj et and the cas regime still exist,
it is a result of the fact that names often are the ones performing the action. It is for this reason
that today one can find two similar forms of a name. For example, the names Alice and Alison
are the evolved cas sujet and the cas regime forms (respectively) of the same name. Hugues and
Huon have evolved similarly from the cas sujet and cas regime forms of the same name.
Old French syntax could contain a great amount of flexibility. While the maj ority of the
written texts in Old French that survive use either subj ect-verb-obj ect or obj ect-verb-subj ect as
their word order, several other possibilities existed. In total, there were six possible word orders:
subject-verb-object, subject-object-verb, verb-object-subject, verb-subject-object, object-verb-
subj ect, and obj ect-subj ect-verb. Subj ect-verb-obj ect and obj ect-verb-subj ect became the most
common word orders because of the Germanic influences on the language.
The Germanic Languages most likely had a large influence in the loss of the case system in
Old French. The stress pattern of the Germanic Languages is the primary reason for this
influence. It is most likely that this influence caused the noun endings to no longer be
pronounced. This pronunciation difference could be one reason for the drastic reduction of the
case system from Latin to Old French; however, it could have also contributed to the loss of the
case system within Old French, especially in the spoken language. If the endings were no longer
pronounced, they were no longer detected by those who only spoke the language, which would
have been the majority of the population who spoke it. Further influence of the Germanic
Languages could have led to the complete loss of the case system over time.
Another influence of the Germanic Languages was the word ordering. As stated above,
Old French had six different possibilities for its word order; however, only two of these word
orders became dominant, subject-verb-object and object-verb-subject. These two options have
one thing in common: the verb is always at the center. The centrality of the verb is common in
Germanic Languages. Even in modern German, the verb must always be at the center, between
the subj ect and the obj ect; however, it does not matter whether the subj ect or the obj ect comes
first. Because these Germanic word orders are so similar to the dominant ones of Old French, it
is clear that the Germanic Languages had an influence on the syntax of Old French.
Comparison of the Two Case Systems
Even from a quick glance, it is easy to see that the Latin case system is much more in-
depth than that of Old French. Every noun and every adj ective have to have an ending which
indicates the role of the word in the sentence at hand. By the time that Latin is no longer
common in Gaul and Old French is the most common language in the area, two-thirds of this
system has been reduced and is no longer present. It is natural that a language evolves, and it is
not uncommon that new languages spring out of other languages. Whenever languages come
into contact and a new language emerges, certain aspects of each language are retained. In
general, some vocabulary and very basic grammatical structures are kept. Then, the language
recomplexifies in its own manner.
The fact that the Latin spoken in Gaul just before the birth of French was so different from
the classical Latin that was once spoken in Rome shows an evolutionary trend in language. It is
only natural, then, that Old French have such great differences from Latin, because it not only
has a different pronunciation from Latin, but also because it has a different syntactical system.
Since Old French came from Latin and lost such a great part of the case system in its birth,
it is not surprising that as the French language evolved further it lost even more of the small case
system that Old French conserved from Latin.
While Old French did have much possible variety in its syntax, it usually did Eind itself
restrained to two possible word orders. Latin, on the other hand, did not restrain itself as much.
While there is a more extensive richness of syntax in Latin that in Old French, it should also be
noted that Old French also had a much richer syntax than modern French has today. Modern
French Einds itself restricted almost exclusively to a subj ect-verb-obj ect word order.
While Latin and Old French did have a more flexible syntax, this fact does not make them
any better of a language. French has taken a natural course in its evolution. Most Indo-
European Languages tend to move from the synthetic the analytic. In a truly synthetic language,
such as Finnish, Korean, or Japanese, the language evolves from a synthetic form to an even
more synthetic form. In these languages, more and more grammatical information becomes
included within each word. In the case of the evolution of French, the language moves from the
more synthetic to the more analytic. When it comes to the evolution of French, Latin is the
strongest synthetic language. Old French loses some of the synthetic aspects, but it still retains a
large amount (its limited case system). As the language evolves further, it loses even more of its
synthetic qualities. In the evolution of Old French, one could then say that a loss in synthetic
qualities occurred at the same time that the case system became reduced in size. While modern
French is not completely analytic, it is much less synthetic than it has ever been. An example of
this synthetic to analytic evolution can be seen with the Latin verb cantaFre. If one wanted to say
"I will sing" in Classical Latin, one would say cantaFbo. As the Latin language evolved, one
would say habeo cantaFre. This second form is less synthetic, and therefore more analytic, in
form. In French, it became chanterai. Then the same evolution has occurred. Traditionally, "I
will sing" is said as je chanterai in French; however, it is becoming more and more common to
hear je vais chanter. This change is just as the Latin change, in that it moves from a more
synthetic form to a more analytic form. Both languages show a move from the more complex
form to an infinitive with an auxiliary.
There are, however, examples of the move from the analytic to the synthetic in modern
French. One example is that of the current usage of clitic pronouns in the spoken language. A
clitic pronoun is a pronoun that is closely related in pronunciation or form to a preceding or
following word that can usually not stand alone. Along with the closely related word with which
it functions, the two words form a single accentual unit. The use of clitic pronouns in modern
French os becoming more and more common, almost becoming common place, if not required in
the spoken French of some groups. Instead of just hearing je to start a sentence, one will often
hear moi, je .
Today, Latin is no longer spoken except by the Catholic Church and by scholars. This is
one of the reasons that many people call Latin a dead language. Because it is no longer spoken
or written by the public, it has stopped evolving. When a language stops evolving and remains
stagnant, it is no longer alive. This fact is another reason why Latin is often referred to as a dead
language. French, on the other hand, is alive and thriving. It continues to evolve, as is
exemplified by the example of the movement from the more traditional synthetic form of the
future simple (je chanterai) to more analytical form of the future proche (je vais chanter). French
has already seen a change similar to this one with its past tenses. Instead of commonly using the
passe simple Oye chantai), the passe compose O'ai chanted) is commonly used today to talk about
actions completed in the past. The passe simple is still in use, but mainly only in newspapers and
literature. It is rarely ever spoken by the people themselves. Because the language is alive, it is
only natural that it continue to evolve from its more synthetic forms to the more analytical ones
already present in the language.
In conclusion, it is easy to see that French has its roots in the Latin Language. Old French
still carries many of the grammatical aspects that Latin has, such as the case system. Once that
case system disappeared during the Middle Ages, it is much more difficult to see the
grammatical roots that French has in Latin. Because word order is so important to modern
French, it is often difficult to understand why a language such as Latin has a case system which
is relevant to the study of French. Knowing the history of the French language and
understanding why French originally had a case system and how that case system worked is
essential when coming to logical conclusions in this subject area. Without this knowledge, the
study of historical French linguistics is nearly impossible to understand. This knowledge is even
more important when it comes to a detailed analysis of the Old French grammatical system and
the evolution of Old French as a language.
This type of study can further all types of French linguistic study. Sociolinguistics can be
furthered by the fact that language evolves differently in different places. Knowing where
French comes from and at what stage it was introduced to new areas ties into the study of
sociolinguistics. It helps to explain the reasons behind the current language practices in those
more newly introduced areas. Studying the case system of Old French and it loss as French
evolved can help form a better comprehension of the modern morphology and syntax of French.
The orthography of Old French helps the phonetician understand how the language used to be
pronounced and why the spelling of modern French often does not match up with modern
As one can see, historical linguistics is important to all aspects of linguistics. This study
has examined one aspect of the morpho-syntax of Old French, but the morphology and syntax of
the French of the Middle Ages and the French up to modern French is also important to study. If
one only studies these aspects of Old French and of modern French, then there will be a gap in
one' s knowledge. It is important to understand the entire history of the language, not just certain
sections of it. In addition, studying the phonetics and semantics of all of these periods is also
important. Studying the phonology of Old French helps one to understand the modern
orthography of French. All of these areas of study are also important in achieving a more
complete comprehension of French linguistics.
Yet another topic of interest, and perhaps the most closely related to this study would be
the study of the verb conjugation systems of Latin and Old French. When a verb is conjugated in
Latin, the verb itself tells the listener or reader who the subj ect is because of its personal ending.
Subj ect pronouns were rarely used in Latin. Seeing that French often has the same personal
endings for different subj ect pronouns (for example, the j e and il forms of regular -er verbs), the
subject pronouns are always necessary in the absence of a noun subj ect. It is interesting and
relevant to the study of historical linguistics to understand when these subj ect pronouns became a
required element to the French sentence. Countless other possibilities exist in the study of the
similarities of Latin and Old French and in the evolution of the language from Old French to the
French spoken today. This study has examined but one of these endless topics.
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Moignet, G. (1984). Gramnmaire de l'ancien frangais: morphologie syntaxe. (2nd ed.). Paris:
Walter, H. (1988). Le frangais dansddddd~~~~~~~dddddd tous les sens. Paris: R. Laffont.
Wartburg, W. (1962). Evolution et structure de la langue frnangaise (6th ed.). Berne: Editions
A. Francke S.A.
Kristin Hodge began her studies of French at the age of eleven at St. Johns Country Day
School. She continued studying French every year through her graduation at St. Johns Country
Day School in 2000. Upon entering Stetson University, she began studying French and soon
declared it her major. She minored in Communications. It is at this point, she decided she
wanted to teach French. In her senior year at Stetson University, she did a senior research
proj ect on the representation of Jeanne d'Arc in both American and French cinema. She
obtained her B.A. in French language and literature at Stetson University in May of 2004. Soon
afterwards, she began her M.A. studies in French linguistics at the University of Florida. She has
taught seven beginning French courses at the University of Florida. This thesis is the mark of
completion of her M.A. degree at the University of Florida.