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28 October 2014

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Guernsey French

You are in: Guernsey > People > Guernsey French > History of Guernsey French

Books held at the Priaulx Library

Guernsey French books.

History of Guernsey French

Guernsey French is a branch of the Norman language which evolved from Latin.

Norman French was spoken in the vast domains of the Dukes of Normandy and in the English court, both before and after the Norman Conquest.

Many Norman characteristics such as the hard 'c' sound where modern French has a 'ch' sound (e.g. le cat/le chat, la vacque/la vache) and the 'eh' sound where modern French has a 'wa' sound (e.g. fred/froid, fè/foi) are to be found in Guernsey French.

Geographical and political isolation from mainland Normandy meant that the linguistic development in the island differed significantly from that of the continent.

Many old forms which have now disappeared from modern French are retained in Guernsey French. Verbs like 'choir' - to fall and 'devaler' to go down, have not been supplanted by 'tomber' and 'descendre'.

Although Guernsey French shares its ancestry with Jersey Norman French and the Norman dialects, which persist in the Cotentin Peninsula, certain features set it apart.hese include the reduced number of nasal sounds and, above all, the extensive use of diphthongs - for example the closed 'e' sounds which one encounters in Modern French verb endings such as '-er, -é, -ez' are rendered by
'-aï' (ah-ee).


The first Patois dictionary.

For the most part, Guernsey French was an oral tradition and has remained so until the present.

It is true that the first dictionary was produced in the 19th century, along with a limited amount of literature.

But no universally accepted spelling system has evolved, and those attempting to write in the language today tend to hesitate between forms found in the dictionary and semi-phonetic renderings.

It could be said that Guernsey French lacks a certain degree of stability which can be backed up by the lack of a recognised written form.

To the outsider it is perhaps surprising that within such a small island geographical variations in the language occur.

The Guernsey French spoken in the western parts of the island differs from that of the north.

The differences, which include variations in vocabulary and pronunciation, do not impede communication between the various speakers, but perhaps indicate the static nature of the Guernsey population in the past.

last updated: 02/05/2008 at 11:54
created: 08/07/2004

You are in: Guernsey > People > Guernsey French > History of Guernsey French

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