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Modern French vs Medieval French

french language lingustics

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#1 larathelark

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 07:20 PM

In my time travel novel, modern-English-speaking characters have some difficulty understanding Middle English, but after a while start to understand most of it.

 

I'm wondering if a modern French speaker would be able to understand langues d'oïl, or Old French. I only know a handful of modern French words, so I'm looking for someone who can speak French.

Here's a video with some old French, with the lyrics in the information:
 

Is it pretty easy to understand?



#2 AZ blue

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 11:30 PM

What's the century they travel to?



#3 Jemi

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 10:52 AM

My French is mediocre at best, and I understood about half before checking out the translation. I would assume your modern speakers would be pretty much okay with it :)



#4 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

    In October 2019 my next novel--another group project co-written with 5 other amazing, multi-published historical novelists--"Ribbons of Scarlet" will be released by William Morrow. A novel of the French Revolution's Women, Ribbons of Scarlet is a timely story of the power of women to start a revolution—and change the world.

Posted 20 July 2014 - 03:23 PM

Remember hearing it would be different than reading it. Also remember that in that period many parts of what are now France were not and many dialects were spoken. For example the sisters in my book were daughters of the Count of Provence (not even a fief of the French King but rather owing fealty to the Holy Roman Emperor) and the language native to Provence in that period was Occitan. The good news is that whichever way you chose to go, most readers probably will go along with you.  Oh and depending on the year and the class of people you are dealing with in England (because you mention English speakers) you may have a different problem--the royal court in England spoke French for much of medieval period.


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#5 AZ blue

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 08:44 PM

If your characters are traveling to the 11-1400s, then they can understand them a little better than if they were traveling to the 5 or 600s. Either way, they'd still have difficulty in conversation and would need a dictionary to communicate effectively.



#6 K.J. Harrowick

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 03:38 PM

If your characters are traveling to the 11-1400s, then they can understand them a little better than if they were traveling to the 5 or 600s. Either way, they'd still have difficulty in conversation and would need a dictionary to communicate effectively.

 

^This.  :smile:

 

For the sake of accuracy, your character could probably stumble around some of the words and get the 'gist' of what the French are saying, but maybe not understand explicitly.

 

When it comes to pulling the reader along though, it may come down to a stylistic decision.  Case-in-point, the movie Timeline.  In the story, English-speaking archaeologists travel back in time to 1357 Castleguard, France where there's a huge war between the French and the English.  For the movie, they used modern French, so it was easy to pick up what was being said without reading the subtitles.  I'm not sure how it was handled in the book since I never read it, but the author is usually picky about his stories being accurate with the modern data of that time.

 

Cheers!


 

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#7 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

    In October 2019 my next novel--another group project co-written with 5 other amazing, multi-published historical novelists--"Ribbons of Scarlet" will be released by William Morrow. A novel of the French Revolution's Women, Ribbons of Scarlet is a timely story of the power of women to start a revolution—and change the world.

Posted 21 July 2014 - 03:52 PM

Actually your publisher will generally tell you to limit the use of foreign words or phrase to the minimum possible to give readers the flavor. And, in my experience, they tend to like you to pick words and phrases that--if left out or not understood--will not deprive the reader of the sense of the scene or meaning.


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#8 larathelark

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 04:59 PM

Thanks everyone! I should clarify.

Teenage American goes back in time to 1175 England. She starts to get hold of the Middle English, but she recognizes that someone (a noble) is speaking langues d'oïl. She took some French classes in High School. I'm trying to figure out how easily she'd be able to understand Old French, and possibly if the people of court would understand her Modern French.

If I include any French at all, it might be a single line. I include two lines of Middle English, mention that it's Middle English, and then carry on the dialogue in modern English (but only using words that have Saxon origins). I want the text to be as readable AND as authentic as possible, recognizing that readability is more important.



#9 larathelark

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 05:05 PM

My French is mediocre at best, and I understood about half before checking out the translation. I would assume your modern speakers would be pretty much okay with it :)

That is certainly reassuring. Thank you for your personal input!

 

Remember hearing it would be different than reading it. Also remember that in that period many parts of what are now France were not and many dialects were spoken. For example the sisters in my book were daughters of the Count of Provence (not even a fief of the French King but rather owing fealty to the Holy Roman Emperor) and the language native to Provence in that period was Occitan. The good news is that whichever way you chose to go, most readers probably will go along with you.  Oh and depending on the year and the class of people you are dealing with in England (because you mention English speakers) you may have a different problem--the royal court in England spoke French for much of medieval period.

It's court French, spoke in England. I should have clarified. Thank you!

 

If your characters are traveling to the 11-1400s, then they can understand them a little better than if they were traveling to the 5 or 600s. Either way, they'd still have difficulty in conversation and would need a dictionary to communicate effectively.

Perfect. Thankfully, since this is Fantasy, there's a bit of magic that will come to her aid :)



#10 arcangie

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Posted 05 January 2015 - 08:40 AM

French is very different than what it was.  The langage was mondernized to help unify the country a little over one hundred years ago. 



#11 ah_522

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 09:32 PM

Something else you might also want to consider is Latin. Medieval French is vastly different than modern French like LitGal said, and there was heavy influences of vulgar (common) Latin used. If it is a courtly setting, most people will also know Latin too, even if it's classical for reading/writing. 







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