The "Old French" era covers the period from the year 842 (date of the "Serments de Strasbourg", the earliest known document written in the emerging vernacular) until about the fourteenth century. It was in this period when the 'two-case' system, which distinguished Old French from its modern, uninflected forms, were fast disappearing from the written language.
The term "Old French" normally refers to variety of related dialects that developed in the North of France - collectively called Langue d'Oïl . The different dialects of Old French all had minor differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and to some extent, grammar. Similarly, they also had their own spelling conventions, but before long, there began to emerge a common written variety. This common written variety -- which was named Francien in the 19th century -- was based on the language of the region of Île-de-France and the area around Paris. While this written form of Old French began to spread to other areas of the d'Oïl territory, it would be incorrect to assume that the spoken language of Île-de-France and Paris was spreading to other dialectal regions as well. This would only occur in the 19th and 20th centuries. At the very least, however, we can observe that the language of Île-de-France and Paris had a particular prestige, even from a very early period.
In the South of France, there existed a related language - called Langue d'Oc. Langue D'Oc, which still exists today in a number of varieties collectively known as Occitan, must be considered, too; its linguistic, historical, literary and cultural importance is inestimable.
Although both Langue D'Oc and Langue D'Oïl came directly from Latin, the differences between between these two are largely due to historical factors, especially the massive invasion of Germanic tribes (the Franks) in the 5th and 6th centuries into the Langue D'Oïl territory. The language of the Franks and related Germanic tribes had a profound impact on the language of Langue D'Oïl.
Similarly, a knowledge of the history and development of Vulgar Latin and of the other Romance languages - Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and their many dialects - contributes greatly to our knowledge of Old French.
Since much of what we know about the development of Old French and the early romance languages is based on written texts, a knowledge of these texts is indispensible to understanding the language itself.
Therefore, numerous links to Old French and other related topics have been provided here.
Feel free to use this site as a link, but please let me know if you do. Contact me at the address below should you have any questions, comments or contributions (e.g., information, links).
Old French Language
Old French Literature
Related Dialect and Language Links (e.g., Occitan)
Old French and Medieval Links
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