|Français de Belgique|
|Native to||Belgium, northern France|
|Native speakers||4.3 million French speakers in Belgium (2007)|
|Official language in||Belgium|
Linguistic map of Belgium. Officially Francophone areas in red.
Belgian French (French: français de Belgique) is the variety of French spoken mainly in the French Community of Belgium, alongside related minority regional languages such as Walloon, Picard, Champenois and Lorrain (Gaumais).
Belgian French and the French of northern France are almost identical, but there are a few distinct phonological and lexical differences.
French was historically widely spoken in the region of Flanders, especially by its Francophone upper classes, but its use decreased, primarily because of the efforts of the Flemish Movement, as well as by the rise of English as a popular alternative. The role of French in Flemish society remains a controversial topic, especially concerning the municipalities with language facilities. French is nonetheless a commonly known second language in Flanders today.
Historically, French-speaking Belgium was never a single political entity until being unified under French rule during the French Revolution and Napoleonic rule. Prior to that, the region had never belonged to France. It was composed of the County of Hainaut (half of which was annexed by France under Louis XIV), the County of Namur, the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy, the southern part of the Duchy of Brabant and the western part of the Duchy of Luxembourg.
Clovis's capital, Tournai (in modern Wallonia), was a Roman-founded city, and Latin was thus spoken there more than in other parts of the Low Countries. Two centuries later, the Carolingian dynasty progressively took over the power from the Merovingian kings. They were based in Aachen near Liege, at the opposite end of Wallonia. Tournai and Liège still mark the western and eastern limits of French-speaking Belgium. French is not an official language north of the notional geographic line above these two cities, though there are many Francophone families in Flanders, especially Gent, Antwerp and Kortrijk.
The Merovingian and Carolingian courts thus had a vital importance in spreading Latin to the otherwise Germanic Low Countries. Latin evolved into the Oïl dialects, and thence into modern French (and Walloon, in Wallonia) over the centuries, even though these territories historically had never belonged to France.
The proximity with northern France, the numerous intermarriages (as attested by the presence of surnames of both origins on either side of the border), the close economic relations, the French occupation between 1792 and 1815, the standarisation of French in education, as well as modern media, have all contributed in making modern Belgian French almost identical to its Gallic counterpart. In fact, the French spoken in the southern half of France is more different from standard French in both accent and usage than that which is spoken in current-day Belgium.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, most residents of what is now Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium in the south of the country, spoke Walloon. Many speakers were bilingual in both French and Walloon; Walloon thus had a large influence on the development of Belgian French.
The proximity of Dutch-speaking Flanders and the Netherlands has led to a sizable lexical contribution from various Dutch dialects. To a lesser extent, the proximity of Germany and the inclusion of German speaking communities within Belgium's borders since World War I have led to some borrowings from German.
There are a few consistent phonological differences between the French spoken in France and Belgian French, but usually no more than the differences between regional dialects within France. Not everybody speaks with the same accent in French-speaking Belgium. Regional accents can vary from city to city (e.g. the famous Liège accent), but on the whole they vary more according to one's social class and education. Stronger accents are more typical of working-class people.
Major phonological differences include:
- Lack of the approximant /ɥ/: The combination /ɥi/ is replaced by /wi/, and in other situations /ɥ/ becomes a full vowel /y/. Thus for most Belgian speakers, the words enfuir (to run away) and enfouir (to bury) are homophones.
- The nasal vowels are pronounced like in French of France. /ɑ̃/ → [ɒ̃], /ɛ̃/ → [æ̃], /ɔ̃/ → [õ]. The distinction between the nasal vowels /ɛ̃/ and /œ̃/ is upheld in Belgian French, whereas in many regions of France, these two sounds have merged. Thus, although in Parisian French, brin (stalk) and brun (brown) are pronounced as the same way, but not in Belgian French.
- The distinction between the vowels /ɛ/ and /ɛː/ is upheld, whereas in France, these two sounds have merged. The words mettre (put) and maître (master) are pronounced differently in Belgian French.
- The distinction between the vowels /o/ and /ɔ/ is upheld in final open syllables, the words peau (skin) and pot (jar) are pronounced differently, but they are pronounced the same way in French of France and in Quebec French.
- A stronger distinction exists between long and short vowels.
- While long vowels are constrained to closed syllables in French of France, Belgian French also has them in absolute final position: <ée#>, <aie#> [eː], <ue#> [yː], <ie#> [iː], <oue#> [uː] and <eue#> [øː]. As a result, almost all feminine adjectives are phonetically distinct from their masculine counterparts for Belgians.
- The marginal phoneme /ɑ/ is most of the time rendered as a lengthened version of /a/: [aː].
- The letter "w" is almost always pronounced /w/, the same as in English, which also approximates Flemish "w". In France, it is often pronounced /v/ as in German. For example, the word wagon (train car) is pronounced /vaɡɔ̃/ in Standard French, but /waɡɔ̃/ in Belgian French.
- For some speakers, final stops are devoiced, i.e., "d" becomes "t", "b" becomes "p", and "g" becomes "k". Combined with the dropping of consonants in final consonant clusters, this leads to pronunciations like [ɡʁɒ̃ːt] instead of [ɡʁɒ̃ːd] ("grande") and [taːp] instead of /tabl/ ("table").
Certain accents, such as certain urban accents (notably those of Brussels and Liège), as well as the accents of older speakers, display greater deviation from Standard French pronunciation. For example, in the dialect spoken in and around Liège, particularly among older speakers, the letter "h" is pronounced in certain positions, whereas it is never pronounced in Standard French. That dialect is also known for its slow, slightly singing intonation, a feature that is even stronger further east in the Verviers area.
Words which are unique to Belgian French are called "Belgicisms" (French: belgicismes). This term is also used for Dutch words used in Belgium and not in the Netherlands. As expressed in the article related to phonological differences, upper-middle-class or well-educated Belgian Francophones can understand the meaning and use of words in standard French, but can also use standard French when speaking with a speaker using standard French, as hinted by his or her accent). Overall, lexical differences between standard French and Belgian French are minor (akin to the differences that might exist between a Canadian English and British English speaker, for instance). Even so, there are too many to try to form any complete list in this article. Some of the better-known usages include:
- The use of septante for "seventy" and nonante for "ninety", in contrast to Standard French soixante-dix (literally "sixty-ten") and quatre-vingt-dix ("four-twenty-ten"). These words are also used in Swiss French. Unlike the Swiss, however, Belgians never use huitante in the place of quatre-vingts ("four twenties"). Although considered a Belgicism/Helveticism, septante and nonante were common in France as well until around the 16th century, when the composite forms began to dominate.
- The words for meals vary, as described in the table below. The usage in Belgian, Swiss, and Canadian French accords with the etymology—déjeuner comes from a verb meaning "to break the fast". In Standard French, however, breakfast is rendered by petit déjeuner. Souper is instead used in France to refer to a meal taken around midnight, after going to the opera, the theatre, or a similar night-time event.
English Belgian, Swiss, and Canadian French Standard French breakfast déjeuner petit déjeuner lunch/dinner dîner/diner déjeuner dinner/supper souper dîner/diner late-evening meal/supper N/A souper
- Many Walloon words and expressions have crept into Belgian French, especially in eastern regions of Wallonia. Examples include Qu'à torate (similar to à bientôt, "see you soon"), pèkèt ("jenever"), barakî (similar to the word chav in British English).
- Germanic influences are also visible:
- Crolle ("curl") reflects the Brabantic pronunciation of the Dutch word krul.
- S'il vous plait is used to mean "here" (when handing someone something) as well as "please", whereas in France the meaning is limited to "please" - and "voilà" is used for "here". This is comparable to the use of alstublieft in Dutch.
- Sûr (from Dutch zuur) means "sour", while in France, the word acide is used.
- Dringuelle, standard French "pourboire", "tip", from the Dutch word drinkgeld. Although this is less commonly used in Brussels.
- Kot (student room in a dormitory) from Dutch "kot".
- Ring (ring road) from Dutch "ring". In Standard French: "une ceinture périphérique".
- Savoir (to know) is often used in the place of pouvoir (to be able [to]). This was quite common, however, in older forms of French.
- Blinquer (to blink), instead of briller, has a German origin, through walloon.
- Germanic influences are also visible:
- Ça me goûte, standard French "ça me plait", "I like it" (only for food), is a calque of Dutch Dat smaakt. Cf Spanish 'me gusta'
- Tu viens avec ?, standard French "Tu m'accompagnes ?", literally "Are you coming with?" (meaning "Are you coming with me?"), is a calque of Dutch Kom je mee?
- Ça tire ici (mainly said in Brussels), compared to standard French "Il y a un courant d'air", "there is a draught", is a calque of the Belgian Dutch Het trekt hier.
- Phrases such as pour + V ; ex : "Passe-moi un bic, pour écrire", standard French "Donne-moi un stylo, afin que je puisse écrire", "Give me a pen, so that I may write / for me to write", is a grammatical structure found in Dutch ("om te +V").
- "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça pour un animal ?", standard French "Quelle sorte d'animal est-ce là ?", English "What kind of animal is this?" (literally "What is that for an animal?"), Dutch "Wat is dat voor een dier?"
- Usage of une fois ("once") in mid-sentence, especially in Brussels, is a direct translation from the Dutch "eens". French people who want to imitate the Belgian accent often use a lot of "une fois" at the end of the sentences, which is often wrong. Example: "Viens une fois ici" - literally : "Come once here". "Une fois" cannot really be translated in other languages; its function is to soften the meaning of the sentence. The English equivalent would be "Could you come here?" or "Why don't you come here?".
- Jouer poker, should be "Jouer au poker" in standard French. Inspired by the Dutch Poker spelen.
- Belgian Dutch, one of the major spoken languages in Belgium, and one of three official languages, along with French and German.
- Walloon, a separate Romance language, similar to French, spoken in Belgium
|Look up Category:Belgian French in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- (French) Dictionnaire des belgicismes: a dictionary of Belgicisms.