The origin of the French [y, ø]

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Encolpius, May 25, 2013.

  1. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Hello, Germanic languages are abundant in ü and ö [e.g.: German Tür, für, über, schön, hören, etc] while Romance language lack it. Exception is French. Do you think those sounds are of Germanic origin in French? Do you know anything about their history? There are the Northern Italian dialects where those vowels [is there a name for them?] appear, but I think they can be of French origin, too...
     
  2. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Hello. There is one origin of /y/ for two others for /ø/ and /œ/. All occurred naturally in the evolutionary process that turned western vulgar latin into French. 1) All "u" from Latin evolved early into /y/ and is very cut and dry in French. The other two are more complicated. 2) Latin open /ɔ/ diphthonged into /ue/ in open syllables then flattened into /ø/ and /œ/: focus > feu, corem > coeur. 3) Latin closed /o/ diphthonged to /ou/ in open syllables and later evolved into /ø/: nodus > noeud. Read about all the vowels here. These changes were very regular in development so I doubt they occurred out of foreign influence.
     
  3. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The fact that changes are “very regular” does not rule out that “they occurred out of foreign influence”. The view that the front rounded vowels in French developed under the influence of the Frankish adstratum is a respectable academic hypothesis. Not everyone agrees with it, but it is certainly worthy of consideration.
     
  4. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    I hope you took note of the term "front rounded vowels" in fdb's posting, above.
    "Front" because of the relative position of the body of the tongue; "rounded" because of the shape of the lips.
     
  5. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    A minor correction here: only long ū was regularly fronted to [y], while short ŭ merged with ō in Vulgar Latin. And it should be noted that the developments you describe are observed primarily in stressed syllables.
     
  6. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Yes, I should have repeated "vulgar" a second time. Latin short ŭ would have become /o/ and then made its way to /u/ in closed syllables and /ø/ in open syllables as described in 3) above.
    So then what would latin "u" (long or short) have become in unstressed syllables?
     
  7. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    In unstressed initial syllables, for example, original long ū became [y] (as in stressed syllables), while original unstressed short ŭ and ō mostly became (in both open and closed syllables).
     
  8. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Some ū didn't turn into [y], like lūpus ~ loup, maybe under the influence of the labial ?
     
  9. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    My Latin dictionary doesn't have a long sign on lupus. And Spanish "lo​bo" suggests a short "u". Are there other examples?
     
  10. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    You must be right... I also completely forget "leu", Old French for "loup", so it's definitely a short u, my bad..
    edit: TLF says that loup later replaced leu, by some dialect influence.
     
  11. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spain / incorrect Spanish
    According to the "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language", first edition, the presence of front rounded vowels forms a continuous area in Europe, including all of Scandinavia (with Finland), Benelux, France, Germany save the southeasternmost part, western Switzerland, and even a small area in northwestern Italy.
     

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