Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present): - French -
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Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present)

Articles from Juliana de Luna and Lillia de Vaux

- French -

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October 2011 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter

This month, we're going to turn our attention to the continent and French names. By about 1000 AD, there were two distinct kinds of languages spoken in what we call France today: the langue d'oïl (from which modern French descends) and the langue d'oc (from which modern Provencal/Occitan descends). These two types of languages have significantly different naming pools and grammar, and must be treated differently. Additionally, a Germanic language, Frankish, had fallen out of use, but had left its imprint on French names (like Girard and Arnoult). We'll talk about names in the langue d'oc next month.

The langue d'oïl refers to a group of dialects that would become modern French. Regional differences remain today; they were more significant in the Middle Ages. Therefore, if you're aiming for a particular location, you want to stick to data from that location. However, Laurel treats these dialects as a single language. Brittany is perhaps the most variant of them, as another language related to Cornish and Welsh, is spoken there in addition to French.

The data from Paris are quite rich: census records began to be kept in 1292. I tend to start with Colm Dubh's "An Index to the Given Names in the 1292 Census of Paris" (http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/names/paris.html) and then move to Aryanhwy merch Catmael's "French Names from Paris, 1421, 1423, & 1438" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/french/paris1423.html).

A variety of articles describe names in the provinces. They can be found at http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/french.shtml. New names appear in the sixteenth century; a great source for them is Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada's "Names Found in Ambleny Registers 1578-1616" (http://medievalscotland.org/kmo/Ambleny/).

There are good books dealing with French names and problematic books. Among the best is Marie Therese Morlet's Étude d'anthroponymie picarde : les noms de personne en Haute Picardie aux XIIIe, XIVe, XVe siècles (often called Morlet Picardie for short; it deals with the 13th to 15th century). Morlet has written other works as well. Les noms de personne sur le territoire de l'ancienne Gaule du VIe au XIIe siècle is a three volume work dealing with names from the 12th century and before. Unfortunately, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de famille (etymological dictionary of family names) has very few dates. It is a great treatment of modern family names, but rarely allows us to determine anything about the use of these names before 1600. Therefore, it's not a good place to look for documentation; use one of her books that gives explicit dates for names. There are also two good books on French place names: Albert Dauzat and Charles Rostaing's Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de lieux en France and Ernest Nègre's Toponymie générale de la France : étymologie de 35000 noms de lieux. I often find myself searching Nègre in Google Books. Other books, like Dauzat and Rostaing or Morlet Picardie, are visible in snippet view, which can often be sufficient for documentation purposes.

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