Use of french in History/geography

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by killerbee256, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    I've noticed for a while that English place in names in Italy always seem to derive from the french forms of the name. Like wise the many famous Romans are known in English by the French version of their names. Which would seem to show that French was once the medium used in these subjects. The Norman conquest would seem to the start of this period, but when did it end?
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    For example?
  3. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    Mark Antony, Pompey, Vespasian, Domitian, Trajan and Hadrian to name a few. And for a few examples of place names Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples. Granted in the case of Northern Italy the local "dialects" are closer to French then standard Italian, thus the native name of the cities will be similar to french.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
  4. learnerr Senior Member

    Looks like in the twentieth century? As we know, in the XIX century French was the international lingua franca for political, cultural and social questions.
  5. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    As you can tell from all the -y endings in names like Antony (French Antoine), Pompey (French Pompée) Sicily (French Sicile), the origin is Anglo-French and not (standard) French. Anglo-French was the language of the aristocracy and educated people (apart from Latin, of course) until about 1300 when English slowly became acceptable in high society and Anglo-French started its long decline. By 1450, English became standardized as the language of royal administration ("Chancery English"). Anglo-French remained the language of the higher judiciary until the second half of the 16th century. By 1600 it was extinct. Its closest living (well, sort of "living"; most French regional languages aren't doing very well) relatives are the Norman dialect in France and the Picard dialect in France and Belgium.
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    "Always"? Here are the 15 largest cities in Italy, according to Wikipedia, along with their French and English names:

    Italian French English
    Roma Rome Rome :tick:
    Milano Milan Milan :tick:
    Napoli Naples Naples :tick:
    Torino Turin Turin :tick:
    Palermo Palerme Palermo no
    Genova Gênes Genoa no
    Bologna Bologne Bologna no
    Firenze Florence Florence :tick:
    Bari Bari Bari
    Catania Catane Catania no
    Venezia Venise Venice :tick:
    Verona Vérone Verona no
    Messina Messine Messina no
    Padova Padoue Padua no
    Trieste Trieste Trieste :tick:

    I put ":tick:" in the cases where the English name is more similar to the French name than to the Italian name. As you can see, this is only true about half of the time. Which is still a lot, but not particularly surprising given the general influence of (Anglo-)French on English vocabulary that berndf described. The same goes for the names of famous Romans: some of them come into English through a French "filter", but many do not. Consider the Julio-Claudian clan:

    Latin French English
    Julius Caesar Jules César Julius Caesar no
    Augustus Auguste Augustus no
    Tiberius Tibère Tiberius no
    Caligula Caligula Caligula
    Claudius Claude Claudius no
    Nero Néron Nero no

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