Old Frankish Explained

Old Frankish
States:formerly the Netherlands, Belgium, Northern France, Western Germany
Extinct:Evolved into Old Low Franconian by the 6th century
Fam3:West Germanic

Old Frankish was the language of the Franks and it is classified as a West Germanic language. Once it was spoken in areas covering modern Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and adjacent parts of France and Germany.

The Franks are descended from Germanic tribes from the Nordic countries that settled parts of the Netherlands and western Germany during the early Iron Age. From the 4th century they are attested as moving from the Roman Empire into what is now the southern Netherlands and northern Belgium. In the 5th and 6th century they expanded their realm and dominated Roman Gaul completely as well as client states such as Bavaria and Thuringen.

Old Frankish has introduced the modern French word for the nation, France, to mean "land of the Franks". By the year 900 Frankish had evolved into Old Low Franconian (including Old Dutch) in the area that was originally held by Franks of the 4th century, while in Valois and Île-de-France (Paris) it was replaced by Old French as the dominating language.

Old Frankish has also left many etymons in the Walloon language, even more than in French, and not always the same ones. [1]

The language of the Franks managed to survive as Old Low Franconian in the north but it was superseded by French in the south. It had some impact on Old French. Old Frankish is almost entirely reconstructed from loanwords in Old French, and from Old Dutch, but in 1996 an intriguing find was made of what appears to be a Frankian inscription.

The sword sheath of Bergakker

It is known from Roman sources that the Franks settled the region between the large rivers in the Netherlands known as the Betuwe. After many attempts to drive them off the Roman general (later emperor) Julianus "Apostata" granted them this territory together with the Scheldt valley in 355. However, there are precious few remains to attest to their presence in the Betuwe. In 1996 a leather sword sheath was found near the town of Bergakker, near Tiel, with a rune inscription. Such writing was known from the Frisian neighbors but it was not known that the Franks had used it as well. The find sparked a lot of discussion and some of the runes are hard to read. However, there is consensus that the find dates from the period 425-450 and that the inscription is most likely Frankian.

Bernard Mees[2] interprets the runes als haþuþȳwas ann kusjam logūns, mean "Haþuþȳw's. I(he?) grant(s) a brand (sword) to the chosen". The author also argues that the words show characteristics that correpond to the ones claimed for the later Old Low Frankonian or its western branch Old Dutch. If this interpretation holds this inscription could be viewed as the oldest phrase in (Old) Dutch.

The impact of Old Frankish on modern French

Most French words of Germanic origin came from Frankish (most of the others are English loanwords, see Franglais), often replacing the Latin word which would have been used. This can be shown with the examples in the table below.

FrenchOld Low FranconianDutch or Other Germanic CognatesLatin/Romance
alène "awl" (Sp alesna, It lesina)
  • alisna
MDu elsene, else, Du elsL sūbula
alise "whitebeam berry" (OFr alis, alie "whitebeam")
  • alísō "alder"[3]
MDu else, Du els, elzeboom "alder", OHG elira, erila, G Erle "alder"non-native to the Mediterranean
  • baro "freeman"
Du bar "serious", OHG baro "freeman", OE beorn "noble"Germanic cultural import
bâtard "bastard" (FrProv bâsco)
  • bāst "marriage"[4]
OFris bost "marriage", WFris boaste, boask "marriage"L nothus
bâtir "to build" (OFr bastir "to baste, tie together")
  • bastian "to bind with bast string"
OHG bestan "to mend, patch"L construere (It costruire)
bleu "blue" (OFr blou, bleve)
  • blao
MDu blā, blau, blaeuw, Du blauwL caeruleus "light blue", lividus "dark blue"
bois "wood; woods"
  • busk "bush; underbrush"
MDu bosch, busch, Du bos "bush"L silva "forest" (OFr selve), L lignum "wood" (OFr lein)
broder "to embroider" (OFr brosder, broisder)
  • brosdōn, blend of *borst "bristle" and *brordōn "to embroider"
G Borste "bristle", Du borstel; OS brordōn "to embroider, decorate", brord "needle"L pingere "to paint; embroider" (Fr peindre "to paint")
broyer "to grind, crush" (OFr brier)
  • brekan "to break"
Du breken "to break"LL tritāre (Occ trissar "to grind", but Fr trier "to sort"), LL pistāre (It pestare "to pound, crush", OFr pester), L machīnare (Dalm maknur "to grind", Rom măcina, It macinare)
choisir "to choose"
  • kiosan "to taste, feel"
Du kiezen "to choose", OS/OHG kiosanL eligēre (Fr élire "to elect"), VL exeligēre (cf. It scegliere), excolligere (Cat escollir, Sp escoger, Pg escolher)
chouette "barn owl" (OFr çuete, dim. of choë, choue "jackdaw")
  • kōwa, kāwa "chough, jackdaw"
MDu couwe "rook", Du kauw, kaauw "chough"not distinguished in Latin: L būbō "horned owl", ōtus "id", ulula "screech owl", ulucus (cf. Sp loco "crazy"), noctua
cresson "watercress"
  • kresso
MDu kersse, korsse, Du kers, dial. korsL nasturtium, LL berula (but Fr berle "water parsnip")
danser "to dance" (OFr dancier) OHG dansōn "to drag along, trail"; further to MDu densen, deinsen "to shrink back", Du deinzen "to stir; move away, back up", OHG dinsan "to pull, stretch"LL ballare (OFr baller, It ballare, Pg bailar)
déchirer "to rip, tear" (OFr escirer)
  • skerian "to cut, shear"
MDu scēren, Du scheurenVL extracticāre (Prov estraçar, It stracciare), VL exquartiare "to rip into fours" (It squarciare, but Fr écarter "to move apart, distance"), exquintiare "to rip into five" (Cat/Occ esquinçar)
dérober "to steal, reave" (OFr rober)
  • rōbon "to steal"
MDu rōven, Du roven "to steal"L subtrahere "to remove" (It sottrarre "to steal")
écang "scutcher, swingle"
  • swank "bat, rod"
MDu swanc "wand, rod", Du (dial. Holland) zwang "rod"; further to MDu swinghel, swenghel "swingle", Du zwengel, zwingelL pistillum (Fr dial. pesselle "scutcher, swingle')
écran "screen" (OFr escran) OHG scrank "barrier", G Schrank "cupboard", Schranke "fence"L obex
écrevisse "shrimp, crayfish" (OFr crevice)
  • krebit
Du kreeft "crab", G Krebs "crab"L cammārus "crayfish" (cf. Occ chambre, It gambero, Pg camarão)
éperon "spur" (OFr esporon)
  • sporo
MDu spōre, Du spoorL calcar
étrier "stirrup" (OFr estrieu, estrief)
  • stīgarēp
MDu steegereep, Du (dial. West Flemish) steegreepLL stapia (later ML stapēs), ML saltatorium (cf. MFr saultoir)
flèche "arrow"
  • fliukka
MDu vliecke, OS fliuca, MLG fliecke "long arrow"L sagitta (OFr saete, Pg seta)
franc "free, exempt; straightforward, without hassle" (LL francus "freeborn, freedman")
  • frank "freeborn; unsubjugated, answering to no one", nasalized variant of *frāki "rash, untamed, impudent"
Du (dial. Flemish) vrank "carefree, brazen", OHG franko "free man"; MDu vrec, Du vrek "insolent"L ingenuus "freeborn"
frapper "to hit, strike"
  • hrappan "to jerk, snatch"[7]
MDu reppen "to move", Du reppen "to hurry", OHG hraffōn "to snatch", G raffen "to grab"L ferire (OFr ferir)
frelon "hornet" (OFr furlone, ML fursleone)
  • hurslo
MDu horsel, Du horzelL crābrō (cf. It calabrone)
freux "rook" (OFr frox, fru)
  • hrōk
MDu roec, Du roeknot distinguished in Latin
garder "to guard"
  • wardōn
MDu waerden, OS wardōnL cavere, servare
givre "frost (substance)"
  • gibara "slobber"
LG Geiber, G Geifer "drool, slobber"L gelū (cf. Fr gel "frost (event); freezing")
grappe "bunch (of grapes)" (OFr crape, grape "hook, grape stalk")
  • krāppa "hook"
MDu crappe "hook", Du (dial. Holland) krap "krank", G Krapfe "hook", (dial. Franconian) Krape "torture clamp, vice"L racemus (Fr raisin "grape", Prov rasim "bunch", Cat raïm, Sp racimo)
guérir "to heal, cure" (OFr garir "to defend")
  • warian "to protect, defend"
MDu weeren, Du werenL sānāre (Sard sanare, Sp/Pg sanar), medicāre (Dalm medcuar "to heal")
guigne "heart cherry" (OFr guisne) G Weichsel "sour cherry", (dial. Rhine Franconian) Waingsl, (dial. East Franconian) Wassen, Wachsennon-native to the Mediterranean
hanneton "cockchafer"
  • hāno "rooster" + -eto (diminutive suffix) with sense of "beetle, weevil"
Du haan "rooster", leliehaantje "lily beetle", bladhaantje "leaf beetle", G Hahn "rooster", (dial. Rhine Franconian) Hahn "sloe bug, shield bug", Lilienhähnchen "lily beetle"LL bruchus "chafer" (cf. Fr dial. brgue, beùrgne, brégue), cossus (cf. SwRom coss, OFr cosson "weevil")
héron "heron"
  • haigro, variant of *hraigro
Du reiger "heron", OHG heigaro "heron", G Häher "jackdaw", ON hegri "heron"L ardea
houx "holly"
  • hulis
MDu huls, Du hulstL aquifolium (Sp acebo), later VL acrifolium (Occ grefuèlh, agreu, Cat grèvol, It agrifoglio)
jardin "garden" (VL hortus gardinus "enclosed garden")
  • gardo
Du gaard "garden", OS gardo "garden"L hortus
lécher "to lick" (OFr lechier "to live in debauchery")OLFrk leccōn "to lick"MDu lecken, Du likken, OHG leckōnL lingere (Sard línghere), lambere (Sp lamer, Pg lamber)
maçon "bricklayer" (OFr masson, machun)
  • mattio "mason"[9]
OHG mezzo "stonemason", meizan "to beat, cut", G Metz, Steinmetz "mason", Du metselaar "mason"VL murator (Occ murador, Sard muradore, It muratóre)
marais "marsh, swamp"
  • marisk "marsh"
MDu marasch, meresch, maersc, Du moerasL paludem (Occ palun, It palude)
osier "osier (basket willow); withy" (OFr osière, ML auseria) LG dial. Halster, Hilster "bay willow"L vīmen "withy" (It vimine "withy", Sp mimbre, vimbre "osier", Pg vimeiro, Cat vímet "withy"), vinculum (It vinco "osier", dial. vinchio, Friul venc)
patte "paw"
  • patta "foot sole"
obs. Du (dial. Flemish) pad, patte, LG Pad "sole of the foot"[11] ; further to G Patsche "instrument for striking the hand", Patschfuss "web foot", patschen "to dabble", (dial. Bavarian) patzen "to blot, pat, stain"[12] LL branca "paw" (Sard brànca, Rom brîncă, but Fr branche "treelimb")
poche "pocket"
  • poka "pouch"
MDu poke, G dial. Pfoch "pouch, change purse"L bulga "leather bag" (Fr bouge "bulge"), LL bursa "coin purse" (Fr bourse "money pouch, purse", It bórsa, Sp/Pg bolsa)
sale "dirty"
  • salo "pale, sallow"
MDu salu, saluwe "discolored, dirty", obs. Du zaluwL succidus (cf. It sucido, Sp sucio, Pg sujo, Ladin scich, Friul soç)
saule "willow"
  • salha "sallow, pussy willow"
OHG salaha, G Salweide "pussy willow", OE sealhL salix "willow" (OFr sauz, sausse)
saisir "to seize, snatch" (ML sacīre "to lay claim to, appropriate")
  • sakan "to take legal action"[13]
OS sakan "to accuse", OHG sahhan "to strive, quarrel, rebuke", OE sacan "to quarrel, claim by law, accuse"VL aderigere (OFr aerdre "to seize")
tamis "sieve" (It tamigio)
  • tamisa
MDu temse, teemse, obs. Du teems "sifter"L crībrum (Fr crible "riddle, sift")
tomber "to fall" (OFr tumer "to somersault")
  • tūmon "to tumble"
OS/OHG tūmōn "to tumble", Du tuimelen "to tumble"L cædere (obsolete Fr cheoir)
troène "privet" (dialectal truèle, ML trūlla)
  • trugil "hard wood; small trough"
OHG trugilboum, harttrugil "dogwood; privet", G Hartriegel "dogwood", dialectally "privet", (dial. Eastern) Trögel, archaic (dial. Swabian) Trügel "small trough, trunk, basin"L ligustrum
tuyau "pipe; hose" (OFr tuiel, tuel)
  • þūta
MDu tūte "nipple; pipe", Du tuit "spout, nozzle"L canna "reed; pipe" (It/SwRom/FrProv cana "pipe")

Frankish also had an influence on Latin itself; Latin words with Frankish roots include sacire, meaning "seize" (from Frankish sekjan, related to English "seek").

English also has many words with Frankish roots, usually through Old French eg. random (via Old French randon, from rant "a running"), scabbard (via Anglo-French *escauberc, from *skar-berg), grape, stale, march (via Old French marche, from *marka) among others.

Most Germanic words (especially ones from Frankish) with the phoneme w, changed it to gu when entering French and other Romance languages. Perhaps the best known example is the Frankish werra (compare English "war"), which entered modern French as guerre and guerra in Italian, Occitan, Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese.

There were five primary sources for Germanic borrowings in French:

See also

Notes and References

  1. [:wa:Etimolodjeye francike#Djivêye di mots walons d' etimolodjeye francike|See a list of walloon names derived from old frankish]
  2. Amsterdamer beitrage zur Alteren Germanistik: Band 56- 2002edited by Erika Langbroek, Annelies Roeleveld, Paula Vermeyden, Arend QuakPublished by Rodopi, 2002ISBN 9042015799, 9789042015791
  3. Because the expected outcome of *aliso is *ause, this word is sometimes erroneously attributed to a Celtic cognate, despite the fact that the outcome would have been similar. However, while a cognate is seen in Gaulish Alisanos "alder god", a comparison with the treatment of alis- in alène above and -isa in tamis below should show that the expected form is not realistic. Furthermore, the form is likely to have originally been dialectal, hence regional forms like allie, allouche, alosse, Berrichon aluge, Wall al'hî, some of which clearly point to variants like Gmc *alūsó which gave MHG alze (G Else "whitebeam").
  4. Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. "bastard" (NY: Gramercy Books, 1996), 175: "[...] perhaps from Ingvaeonic *bāst-, presumed variant of *bōst- marriage + OF[r] -ard, taken as signifying the offspring of a polygonous marriage to a woman of lower status, a pagan tradition not sanctioned by the church; cf. OFris bost marriage [...]". Further, MDu had a related expression basture "whore, prostitute". However, the mainstream view sees this word as a formation built off of OFr fils de bast "bastard, lit. son conceived on a packsaddle", very much like OFr coitart "conceived on a blanket", G Bankert, Bänkling "bench child", LG Mantelkind "mantle child", and ON hrísungr "conceived in the brushwood". Bât is itself sometimes misidentified as deriving from a reflex of Germanic *banstis "barn"; cf. Goth bansts, MDu banste, LG dial. Banse "byre", (Jutland) Bende "stall in a cow shed", ON báss "cow stall", OE bōsig "feed crib", E boose "cattle shed", and OFris bōs- (and its loans: MLG bos, Du boes "cow stall", dial. (Zeeland) boest "barn"); yet, this connection is false.
  5. Rev. Walter W. Skeat, The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, s.v. "dance" (NY: Harper, 1898), 108. A number of other fanciful origins are sometimes erroneously attributed to this word, such as VL *deantiare or the clumsy phonetic match OLFrk *dintjan "to stir up" (cf. Fris dintje "to quiver", Icel dynta "to convulse").
  6. Webster's Encyclopedic, s.v. "screen", 1721. This term is often attached to *skermo (cf. Du scherm "screen"), but neither the vowel nor the m and vowel/r order match. Compare OFr eskirmir "to fence" from *skirmjan (cf. OLFrk bescirman "to protect").
  7. Le Maxidico : dictionnaire encyclopédique de la langue française, s.v. "frapper" (Paris: La Connaissance, 1996), 498. This is worth noting since most dictionaries continue to list this word's etymology as "obscure".
  8. Gran Diccionari de la llengua catalana, s.v. "guinda", http://ec.grec.net/lexicx.jsp?GECART=0072144.
  9. C.T. Onions, ed., Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, s.v. "mason" (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 559. This word is often erroneously attributed to *makjo "maker", based on Isidore of Seville's rendering machio (c. 7th c.), while ignoring the Reichenau Glosses citing matio (c. 8th c.). This confusion is likely due to hesitation on how to represent what must have been the palitalized sound [ts].
  10. Jean Dubois, Henri Mitterand, and Albert Dauzat, Dictionnaire étymologique et historique du français, s.v. "osier" (Paris: Larousse, 2007).
  11. Ibid., s.v. "pad", 640.
  12. Skeat, op. cit., s.v. "patois", 335.
  13. Onions, op. cit., s.v. "seize", 807.