A History of the French Language

By Urban T. Holmes Jr.; Alexander H. Schutz | Go to book overview

A History of the French Language

I
INTRODUCTION

1. LANGUAGE

Many thinkers have reached the conclusion that language and reason in man are one and the same thing. That is, without language man's thoughts would be reduced to the simplest expression of emotion and desire by bodliy signs; he would be but little better than a dog or other higher animal. If this be true, in the study of language lies a key for the solution of evolution, psychology, and many other ologies about mankind which have beset the scientists for ages. The natural sciences -- chemistry, physics, and biology -- still contain many mysteries, but their devotees stand on far firmer ground than the philosopher, the psychologist, and the anthropologist. Man is still the great mystery, and it is not too vain to hope that some day language students may be able to offer a beginning to a solution of the mystery.1

Various theories have been offered to explain, not the efficient cause necessarily, but the first manifestations of human language. There is the so-called "bow-wow" theory, held by the ancient Epicurean philosophers, and by the modern Jean-Jacques Rousseau: that the first intelligible sounds were interjections and that these developed fixed associations from frequent repetition. There is the "ding-dong" theory, which was believed by the ancient Stoïcs and by the German poet and philosopher Herder: that first words were onomatopoetic, that they sought to imitate sounds heard. Far more understandable is the belief now commonly held: that the tongue and lip muscles being naturally mobile, primitive man soon found that air pressure, released through them under emotional stress, produced tones varying in quality. As a result the intoning of meaningless and even indistinct sounds became a habit with him

____________________
1
Bloomfield in Studies in Philology, XXVII, 553 ff.

-1-

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A History of the French Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents vii
  • A History of the French Language 1
  • II - Latin and Vulgar Latin 12
  • III - Low Romance (or Pre-Literary French) (700-1000 A.D.) 26
  • IV - Old French (1000-1300) 41
  • V - The Middle French Period (1300-1515) 53
  • VI - The Humanistic Renaissance (1494-1610) 61
  • VII - The Seventeenth Century 79
  • VIII - The Eighteenth Century 101
  • IX - The Nineteenth Century 114
  • X - The Present Day 129
  • Appendix I 143
  • Appendix II 161
  • Index 177
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