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Did you know this about the French language?
- French is the 6th most widely spoken language in the world and the 2nd most spoken mother tongue in Europe. It is an official language in 29 countries, ranking 2nd after English.
- The French language is of Latin origin, which (despite the French name) was little influenced by the language of the Germanic Franks. French evolved from a local variety of Latin adopted from the Romans in what is now northern France in the former Roman Empire. During its development, it was influenced (mainly phonetically) by the Celtic language of the indigenous peoples and, after the fall of the empire, by the language of the Frankish conquerors of Germanic origin. French is closely related to Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian, which are also descendants of Latin.
- The first written record of the French language is the Oath of Strasbourg (Les Serments de Strasbourg), written in Old French in 842, but it was even more similar to Latin than to the French we know today. The first reference to the existence of the language was made at the Council of Tours in 813. The first French-language literary work, La Séquence de Sainte Eulalie, was written between 880 and 890, although this text is more in the Picard than in French.
- Around 13% of the language's basic vocabulary of roughly 35 000 words is foreign. 1,054 words are from English, 707 from Italian, 550 from Germanic, 481 from Gallic, 215 from Arabic, 164 from German, 160 from Ocelot, 159 from Spanish, 153 from Dutch, 112 from Persian or Sanskrit, 101 from Indian, while 89 words are of some Asian origin, 56 from African origin, 55 from Slavic, and 144 from other places. The richness of the French vocabulary owes much to the use of foreign words from different languages, but French has also influenced the vocabulary of many languages.
- Find out more about the history of French here.