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Norman or Norman French (Normaund, French: Normand, Guernésiais: Normand, Jèrriais: Nouormand) is, depending on classification, either a French dialect or a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Oïl languages along with French, Picard and Walloon. The name "Norman French" is sometimes used to describe not only the Norman language, but also the administrative languages of Anglo-Norman and Law French used in England. For the most part, the written forms of Norman and modern French are mutually intelligible. This intelligibility was largely caused by the Norman language's planned adaptation to French orthography (writing).


When Norse Vikings from modern day Scandinavia arrived in the then-province of Neustria and settled the land that became known as Normandy, these Germanic-speaking people came to live among a local Romance-speaking population.[2] In time, the communities converged, so that Normandy continued to form the name of the region while the original Normans became assimilated by the Gallo-Romance people, adopting their speech. Later, when conquering England, the Norman rulers in England would eventually assimilate, thereby adopting the speech of the local English. However, in both cases, the élites contributed elements of their own language to the newly enriched languages that developed in the territories.

In Normandy, the Norman language inherited only some 150 words from Old Norse.[3] The influence on phonology is disputed, although it is argued that the retention of aspirated /h/ and /k/ in Norman is due to Norse influence.[citation needed]

Geographical distribution[edit]

Norman is spoken in mainland Normandy in France, where it has no official status, but is classed as a regional language. It is taught in a few colleges near Cherbourg-Octeville.

In the Channel Islands, the Norman language has developed separately, but not in isolation, to form:

The British and Irish governments recognize Jèrriais and Guernésiais as regional languages within the framework of the British-Irish Council. Sercquiais is in fact a descendant of the 16th-century Jèrriais used by the original colonists from Jersey who settled the then uninhabited island.

The last first-language speakers of Auregnais, the dialect of Norman spoken on Alderney, died during the 20th century, although some rememberers are still alive. The dialect of Herm also lapsed at an unknown date; the patois spoken there was likely Guernésiais (Herm was not inhabited all year round in the Norman culture's heyday).

An isogloss termed the "Joret line" (ligne Joret) separates the northern and southern dialects of the Norman language (the line runs from Granville, Manche to the French-speaking Belgian border in the province of Hainaut and Thiérache). Dialectal differences also distinguish western and eastern dialects.[citation needed]

Three different standardized spellings are used: continental Norman, Jèrriais, and Dgèrnésiais. These represent the different developments and particular literary histories of the varieties of Norman. Norman may therefore be described as a pluricentric language.

The Anglo-Norman dialect of Norman served as a language of administration in England following the Norman conquest of England in 1066. This left a legacy of Law French in the language of English courts (though it was also influenced by Parisian French). In Ireland, Norman remained strongest in the area of south-east Ireland, where the Hiberno-Normans invaded in 1169. Norman remains in (limited) use for some very formal legal purposes in the UK, such as when the monarch gives royal assent to an Act of Parliament using the phrase, "La Reyne (le Roy) le veult" ("The Queen (the King) wills it").

The Norman conquest of southern Italy in the 11th and 12th centuries brought the language to Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula, where it may have left a few words in the Sicilian language. See: Norman and French influence on Sicilian.

Literature in Norman ranges from early Anglo-Norman literature through the 19th-century Norman literary renaissance to modern writers (see list of Norman-language writers).

As of 2017 the Norman language remains strongest in the less accessible areas of the former Duchy of Normandy: the Channel Islands and the Cotentin Peninsula (Cotentinais) in the west, and the Pays de Caux (Cauchois dialect) in the east. Ease of access from Paris and the popularity of the coastal resorts of central Normandy, such as Deauville, in the 19th century led to a significant loss of distinctive Norman culture in the central low-lying areas of Normandy.

Old French influences[edit]

Norman French preserves a number of Old French words which have been lost in Modern French. Examples of Norman French words of Old French origin:

Norman French Old French French Meaning alosier alosier se vanter, de targuer to brag, to pride oneself on ardre ardre, ardeir brûler to burn caeir caeir, caïr «choir», tomber to drop, to fall over calengier calungier, chalongier (became challenge in English) négocier, débattre to negotiate, to argue d'ot od, ot avec with de l'hierre (f.)

de l'hierru (m.) de l'iere du lierre of ivy déhait dehait chagrin, malheur grief, hardship ébauber, ébaubir esbaubir étonner to surprise éclairgir esclargier éclaircir to lighten écourre escurre, escudre secouer to shake, to mix essourdre essurdre, exsurdre élever to raise, to lift haingre (adj.) haingre maigre thin, skinny haingue (f.) haenge haine hatred haiset (m.) haise barrière or clôture de jardin faites de branches garden fence herdre erdre adhérer, être adhérant, coller to adhere, to stick hourder order souiller to make sth. dirty iloc (with a silent c) iloc, iluec là there itel / intel itel semblable similar liement liement, liéement tranquillement quietly, peacefully maishî maishui, meshui maintenant, désormais now, from now on manuyaunce manuiance avoir la jouissance, la possession to have enjoyment marcaundier marcandier rôdeur, vagabond prowler, walker marcauntier marcantier mouchard, colporteur canary marganer marganer moquer to make fun of, to mock marganier marganier moqueur, quelqu'un qui se moque mocking, teasing méhain meshaing, mehain mauvaise disposition, malaise loss of consciousness, feeling of faintness méhaignié meshaignié malade, blessé sick, injured méselle mesele lèpre leprosy mésiau or mésel mesel lépreux leper moûtrer mustrer montrer to show muchier mucier cacher to conceal / to hide nartre (m.) nastre traître traitor nâtre (adj.) nastre méchant, cruel mean, nasty nienterie (f.) nienterie niaiserie nonsense, insanity orde ort sale dirty ordir ordir salir to get sth. dirty paumpe (f.) pampe en normand: tige

en anc. fr.: pétale

petal souleir soleir «souloir», avoir l'habitude de to have habit of / to get used to targier or tergier targier tarder to be late / slow tître tistre tisser to weave tolir tolir priver, enlever to remove, to deprive sb. with sth. trétous trestuz tous, absolument tous all, absolutely every

Examples of Norman French words with -ei instead of -oi in Standard French words

Norman French Standard French Meaning la feire la foire fair (trade show) la feis la fois time la peire la poire pear le deigt le doigt finger le dreit le droit right (law) le peivre le poivre pepper aveir (final r is silent) avoir to have beire boire to drink creire croire to believe neir (final r is silent) noir black veir (final r is silent) voir to see

Examples of Norman French words with c- / qu- and g- instead of ch- and j in Standard French

Norman French Standard French Meaning la cauche la chausse, la chaussure shoes la cose la chose thing la gaumbe la jambe leg la quièvre la chèvre goat la vaque la vache cow le cat le chat cat le câtel (final l is silent) le château castle le quien le chien dog cachier chasser to chase / to hunt catouiller chatouiller to tickle caud chaud hot

Norse influences[edit]

Examples of Norman words of Norse origin:

English Norman French Old Norse Scandinavian reflexes French bait baite, bète, abète beita beita (Icelandic), beite (Norw.), bete (Swed.) appât; boëtte (from Breton; maybe ultimately from Norman) beach grass, dune grass milgreu, melgreu *melgrös, pl. of *melgras melgrös, pl. of melgras (Icelandic) oyat (black) currant gade, gadelle, gradelle, gradille gaddʀ (-) cassis, groseille damp (cf. muggy), humid mucre mykr (cf. English muck) myk (Norw.) humide down (feather) dun, dum, dumet, deumet dúnn dúnn (Icelandic), dun (Dan., Norw., Swed.) duvet (from Norman) dune, sandy land mielle, mièle melʀ melur (Icelandic), mile (Dan.), mjele (Norw.), mjälla (Swed.) dune, terrain sableux earthnut, groundnut, pignut, peanut génotte, gernotte, jarnotte *jarðhnot jarðhneta (Icelandic), jordnød (Dan.), jordnöt (Swed.), jordnøtt (Norw.) terre-noix islet hommet/houmet hólmʀ hólmur (Icelandic), holm (Dan., Norw.), holme (Swed.) îlot, rocher en mer mound (cf. howe, high) hougue haugʀ haugur (Icelandic), haug (Norw.), hög (Swe.), høj (Dan.) monticule ness (headland or cliff, cf. Sheerness, etc.) nez nes nes (Icelandic, Norw.), næs (Dan.), näs (Swed.) cap, pointe de côte seagull mauve, mave, maôve mávaʀ (pl.) mávar (pl.) (Icelandic), måge (Dan.), måke/måse (Norw.), mås (Swed.) mouette, goëland slide, slip griller, égriller, écriller *skriðla overskride (Norw.), skrilla (Old Swed.), skriða (Icelandic), skride (Dan.) glisser wicket (borrowed from Norman) viquet, (-vic, -vy, -vouy in place-names) vík vík (Icelandic), vig (Dan.), vik (Norw., Swed.) guichet (borrowed from Norman)

In some cases, Norse words adopted in Norman have been borrowed into French - and more recently some of the English words used in French can be traced back to Norman origins.

English influences[edit]

Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Norman and other languages and dialects spoken by the new rulers of England were used during several hundred years, developing into the unique insular dialect now known as Anglo-Norman French, and leaving traces of specifically Norman words that can be distinguished from the equivalent lexical items in French:

English Norman French French cabbage < caboche = chou (cf. caboche) castle < castel (borrowed from Occitan) = château-fort, castelet catch < cachier (now cachi)[4] = chasser cater < acater = acheter cauldron < caudron = chaudron causeway < caucie (now cauchie)[5] = chaussée cherry (ies) < cherise (chrise, chise ) = cerise fashion < faichon = façon mug < mogue/moque[6] = mug, boc poor < paur = pauvre wait < waitier (Old Norman) = gaitier (mod. guetter ) war < werre (Old Norman) = guerre warrior < werreur (Old Norman) = guerrier wicket < viquet = guichet (cf. piquet)

Other borrowings, such as canvas, captain, cattle and kennel, exemplify how Norman retained Latin /k/ that was not retained in French.

In the United Kingdom, Acts of Parliament are confirmed with the words "La Reyne le veult" ("The Queen wishes it"), or "Le Roy le veult ("The King wishes it") and other Norman phrases are used on formal occasions as legislation progresses.[7]

Norman immigration[edit]

Norman immigrants to North America also introduced some "Normanisms" to Quebec French and the French language in Canada generally. Joual, a working class sociolect of Quebec, in particular exhibits a Norman influence.[according to whom?]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "BBC - Voices - Multilingual Nation".
  2. ^ "Norman". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 July 2020. Norman, member of those Vikings, or Norsemen, who settled in northern France...The Normans (from Nortmanni: "Northmen") were originally pagan barbarian pirates from Denmark, Norway, and Iceland
  3. ^ Elisabeth Ridel (2010). Les Vikings et les mots. Editions Errance.
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Catch"
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Causeway"
  6. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary. entry on "Mug¹" states that the origin of this word is uncertain—it may have been a borrowing from Norman, or it may have come from another source, and been reinforced through Norman.
  7. ^ "La Reyne le veult - why are Acts of Parliament confirmed in Norman French rather than English? - Royal Central". Retrieved 2017-05-08.


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