The Story of French


484 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-676-97734-0
DDC 440.9




Reviewed by Ronald R. Henry

Ronald R. Henry is director of the School of Translators and
Interpreters at Laurentian University.


French is alive and well and heard around the world, although not in the
mythical Parisian French long venerated by snobs. French art, cuisine,
literature, and philosophy are being discussed, and if French is no
longer the only language of diplomacy, it is one of the working
languages of the United Nations everywhere. Also, as the mother tongue
or second language of citizens of countries ranging from Vietnam to
Canada, it is universally useful.

The Story of French is grounded not in linguistics, but in
sociolinguistics: it relates how, when, where, and why French as an
instrument of human communication developed in its social context. In
clear and concise English, the authors survey the development of French
from Gallo-Roman and myriad dialects including Norman, which was made
the language of England and the English Crown by William the Conqueror
through colonization. Naturally, the English acquired a repulsion for
French, although they did borrow a considerable vocabulary. Now French,
too, because of its proximity and peculiar relationship with England,
borrows from English as well as from languages as diverse as Arabic and

The Story of French is a brilliant testament to the individuality and
resilience of the French language.


Nadeau, Jean-Benoît, and Julie Barlow., “The Story of French,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,