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The Story of French by Jean-Benoit Nadeau
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The Story of French

by Jean-Benoit Nadeau, Julie Barlow

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Hard to believe now, when French has virtually been reduced to a boutique language for those who love French cinema, Edith Piaf, and being seen in fashionable Paris cafes, that it was once the Western world's no. 1 language. From the 16th to 19th centuries, anyone who had cultural or societal pretensions simply had to be conversant in French. Only the French themselves now regard their native tongue as a serious international language, although it is still ranked No. 5 in the world, after Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic. This book details how French gained its lofty position, and then lost it under a ferocious assault from that most unglamorous of languages, English, against which it is still fighting a desperate, but failing rearguard action, and does it in a most entertaining manner. A thoroughly enjoyable read. ( )
  drmaf | Sep 12, 2013 |
This book has a lot in it that is interesting and informative, but not as much as I had hoped. The first part of the book, on the history and development of the language in France, is useful if somewhat superficial -- and it does drive home the critical point that it was only after the mid-19th century that most French people could truly be said to speak French (for an exhaustive if exhausting discussion of the "Frenchification" of France, see Robb's "The Discovery of France"). The sections on the role of the Academy, and on the symbolism of the language as essential to France, were particularly interesting. The later part of the book, on the use of French outside of France, struck me as discursive and repetitive. Still, I learned a good deal from the book, and would recommend it to those who want an overall view of the language. ( )
  annbury | Jul 25, 2013 |
  lrc.valpo | Apr 12, 2012 |
I learned more than I expected about France, Canada, Senegal, Viet Nam and other parts of the world from this book. Barlow and Nadeau explain colonialism and a host of other topics in the process of covering the history of the French language. It is complete if you want to read it in full, and well organized if you want to find only the topics that interest you. Be warned, though, that you will be surprised at the topics the authors can make fascinating. ( )
  mykl-s | Dec 21, 2010 |
A superbly written exploration of the origins and evolution of a language. Written by a couple who have a passion for exploring the living usage, this book is an engaging read and highly recommended. ( )
1 vote shawnday | Nov 3, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean-Benoit Nadeauprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barlow, Juliemain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312341830, Hardcover)

Why does everything sound better if it's said in French? That fascination is at the heart of The Story of French, the first history of one of the most beautiful languages in the world that was, at one time, the pre-eminent language of literature, science and diplomacy.  Nadeau and Barlow chart the history of a language spoken as a native tongue by 130 million people around the globe. The first document written in the French was signed by the sons of Charlemagne in 832. After this, Latin was purged from the courts of France by Francois 1st, giving root to French speakers' 21st century obsession with language protection. The obsession progressed as Cardinal Richelieu established the French Academy, a group entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the language pure and eloquent. As French circled the globe, the international cast of characters included Montaigne, Catherine the Great, Frederic II of Prussia, the guides of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Jules Verne, and others. Let Nadeau and Barlow guide you through the story of a language used to write some of the world's great masterpieces of literature, construct some of the most important documents of diplomacy, bedevil millions with its vagaries of pronunciation and beguile everyone with its beauty.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:40 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Provides a fascinating history of the origins and evolution of the French language, from the first extant document written in French in the mid-ninth century and the purging of Latin from the French courts to the obsession of French speakers to preserve and protect the purity of the language and its role as the pre-eminent language of literature, science, and diplomacy.… (more)

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