Wiktionary talk:About Old French

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How many languages?[edit]

The first part is somewhat ambiguous. It should specifically state how many languages Old French is on Wiktionary. It's fine to say that it was a diverse language, or even that it was a number of languages, but we need to nail down how many 'Old French's we're going to have and what they are. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 11:31, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Point taken. It's always treated as one language by dictionaries, but almost all the sources I've read (including the Larousse Old French dictionary) say that in reality it's multiple languages as people who traveled from one region of France to another couldn't understand each other. I think Old French on Wikipedia might clear this up, but yes a re-wording is very welcome. Mglovesfun (talk) 11:37, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
The correct term seems to be dialect continuum according to Wikipedia. Mglovesfun (talk) 11:39, 3 September 2009 (UTC)


Unfortunately I'm a bit on my own here, but with dead languages modernising them to adapt to unicode is a bit of a problem. For example, I don't think the 'j' was actually used until a lot later, but we have entries like joster.

Not according to William W. Kibler, An Introduction to Old French. He states (p.18) that "the semivowel, semiconsonant i is transcribed j in many Old French texts when it functions as a true consonant." --EncycloPetey 18:10, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes transcribed. You could say the same for Latin, the Latin script was do different back then that there's no way to really tell the difference between a j and an i. Mglovesfun (talk) 07:48, 5 January 2010 (UTC)


See also Category talk:Anglo-Norman language

Do we, or does anyone have a way to distinguish between Old French and Anglo-Norman? Presumably Old French didn't turn overnight into Anglo-Norman, so it's probably a question of dates. fr: considers Old French to be from 842-1400, that's a starting point. Mglovesfun (talk)

Wiktionary:Tea room[edit]

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aprés#Old French[edit]

Can anyone arbitrate this dispute? User:Actarus Prince d'Euphor claims based on the French Wikipedia that acute accents weren't used in Old French. However acute accents are used in actual Old French texts. I consider rfv'ing but it would be silly to rfv something I know I can cite. The dispute goes a little further than that - that Modern transcriptions use acute accents where the original texts don't. Problem is, original texts are in university libraries such as Oxford University, so I can't exactly just 'pop in' and check. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:30, 30 October 2010 (UTC)

Have emailed Widsith on the matter. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:41, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
Are the editions that you would use for attestation of the accented character from the period of Old or Middle French or facsimile editions thereof? When are the first instances of accented characters (or similar effort to distinguish pronunciations)? When did accented characters become widespread?
If the citations can only be found in subsequent editions, than it seems like a matter for a vote of the parties interested in Old French and Middle French. Ease of citation using readily available scholarly editions would seem to be a relevant consideration. The accented-character version could be treated as a transcription in the inflection line. DCDuring TALK 12:36, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
They're all type up versions, 'unicode' versions as I liked to call them. Not sure if there are any online sources for scans of the original texts. Like you, it had occurred to me to use the head= parameter in {{infl}} and {{fro-noun}} if necessary. I've been trying Wikimedia Commons so far. Mglovesfun (talk) 15:28, 30 October 2010 (UTC)

Well, it's all quite confusing. I do see it in some texts:

  • Aprés ad s'amie espusee (Afterwards he married his friend) — from "Fresne" by Marie de France (technically, this is in Anglo-Norman)
  • Et que est ce, ici aprés, / fait Davïez, en ceste engarde? (And what is it that David did just afterwards, in such an elevated place?) — from "La Damoisele qui ne pooit oïr parler de foutre"

...however, it's not entirely clear exactly how accurately these printings reproduce the manuscripts. I had thought accents were not really used until the 16th century, but apparently they were occasionally used in Old French. (Rickard 1974-1989, pp. 93-6 summarises the situation well, although annoyingly he doesn't talk about grave accents, only acutes and cedillas.) If I understand the sound changes properly, popular Latin adpressum should give [aˈprɛs] in Old French, meaning that <é> stands for a mid vowel, which seems very strange to us. In conclusion, I'm not sure what the accent means or who put it there, but it seems attestable, at least in modern editions of OF texts. Ƿidsiþ 10:36, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

PS. I do have one facsimile kicking around, of the Holkham Bible. This includes such lines transliterated as Aprés que deux out adam fet ("After God had made Adam..."); however, although it's in the transliteration (described as a "diplomatic transliteration"), I can't see any trace of the accent in the actual manuscript facsimile. Ƿidsiþ 11:10, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

I've emailed my former tutor on the matter. She teaches this sort of thing up to PhD level, so that's undeniably the best source I have. Mglovesfun (talk) 11:37, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

"Hi Martin,

Most medieval manuscripts don’t have accents on them as modern punctuation tends to have been added by the editors. So “ele ont trove” would be written without the accent. You do sometimes find tremas ie umlauts but not often. Acute and grave accents are modern additions.

Hope this helps.


[Name removed]"
So, what do people think? I'm happy to move to all accentless Old French and Anglo-Norman. Mglovesfun (talk) 16:59, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Go for it. Such entries might need a usage note so that future editors don't try to add the accents back. SemperBlotto 17:03, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I totally agree. Mglovesfun (talk) 17:28, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
That's kind of bizarre. She's saying that modern editors add their own acute accents to Old French works in places where Old French had [ɛ] and Modern French uses grave accents? I don't understand that at all! But anyway, Ƿidsiþ raises a good point. This is a bit tricky. If almost everyone who reads Old French reads it in editions that include the accents, then in a very real sense, the accents are used in Old French, even though the people who spoke (and wrote) Old French didn't use them. —RuakhTALK 17:31, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the accented forms can still be attestable, such as 'used in a well-known work' where the well known work was written in 'Unicode' in the 19th or 20th Century, but you can hardly consider them Modern French either. In a word, damn, this is tricky. Mglovesfun (talk) 17:34, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Why not attest the forms that people are going to look up? The number of people who are reading manuscripts and trying to look up words is dwarfed by the number of people who are reading modern editions and are trying to look up words in Wiktionary.--Prosfilaes 18:01, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Yes, I think we will have to include them, but maybe as some kind of soft redirect. ("Alternative form of"? With some sort of usage note?) Like Ruakh, I am confused about why modern editors are putting them in at all, especially when it's only sometimes. Ƿidsiþ 19:16, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
It seems like a back-dated spelling reform. I admit I've seen supporting evidence before, that accents only appeared in Middle French - according to the French Wikipedia, something like 1550, so not even in early Middle French. That said, this seems comparable to macrons in Old English, Latin (etc.). But as Prosfilaes says, how many people will get to read the original manuscripts? It does seem odd to 'lemmatize' a form that less of 1% of Old French readers will ever see. Mglovesfun (talk) 19:41, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but why an acute accent when it's pronounced as grave? Seems bizarre. As for lemma forms, I know it's a bit weird, but printing conventions change whereas manuscripts don't. Old English long vowels always used to be shown with acute accents, now the fashion is for macrons. French editorial fashions probably change too. Ƿidsiþ 10:18, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Paper dictionaries can easily get around this issue as French dictionaries ignore diacritics, punctuation and capitalization with respect to alphabetical order. So marier and marïer appear in the same place alphabetically, under the entry 'marier'. Marïer should be deleted, IMO. BTW, w:fr:Cédille says that the ç has been used in French since the 9th Century. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:20, 3 November 2010 (UTC)


@Benwing2, @Widsith (and anyone else who has an opinion) how should we handle diaereses? I notice the entry for deu is at deü I think that we should not exclude deü, oïr (et al.) but rather always use alternative form and point to the diaeresis-less form. The rationale is that diaereses are used by some scholars and not others in facsimiles of manuscripts. For example the Godefroy and the Anglo-Norman On-Line Hub don't use them at all, while books like {{R:fro:Einhorn}} do. Renard Migrant (talk) 17:06, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

I agree. Benwing2 (talk) 17:14, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
So do I. Ƿidsiþ 08:45, 3 March 2016 (UTC)