1902 Encyclopedia > France > French Language - Geography

(Part 22)



French is the general name of the north-north-western group of Romantic dialects, the modern Latin of northern Gaul (carried by emigration to some places – as Lower Canada – out of France). In a restricted sense it is that variety of the Parisian dialect which is spoken by the educated, and is the general literary language of France. The region in which the native language is termed French consists of the northern half of France (including Lorraine) and parts of Belgium and Switzerland; its boundaries on the west are the Atlantic Ocean and the Celtic dialects of Brittany; on the north-west and north, the English Channel; on the north-east and east the Teutonic dialects of Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. In the south-east and south the boundary is to a great extent conventional and ill-defined, there being originally no linguistic break between the southern French dialects and then northern Provencal dialects of southern France, north-western Italy, and south-western Switzerland. It is formed partly by spaces of intermediate dialects (some of whose features are French, others Provencal), partly, by space of mixed dialects resulting from the invasion of the space by more northern and more southern settlers, partly by lines where the intermediate dialects have been suppressed by more northern (French) and more southern (Provencal) dialects without these having mixed. Starting in the west at the mouth of the Gironde, the boundary runs nearly north soon after passing Bordeaux; a little north of Angouleme it turns to the east, and runs in this direction into Switzerland to the north of Geneva.

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