Take our survey

Old French Online

Series Introduction

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

Like the other Romance languages, French is a daughter-language of Latin. Its standard variety traces back to one of the dialects of Old French, that is, the dialect spoken in the Ile de France, which has been for centuries the geographical and political center of what is France today.

Old French is one of the earliest attested Romance languages and offers a fascinating field for research in historical linguistics: not only are many of its changes attested in texts, but its linguistic ancestor, Latin, is richly documented as well.

1. Emergence of a New Language

When Rome expanded under Caesar and the Roman emperors, Latin became the dominant language in much of the Roman Empire. In many of the occupied territories Latin eventually ousted the vernacular languages, but ultimately split up in what are the Romance languages today. The Romance languages include Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, French, Sardinian, Rhaeto-Romance, Rumanian, and Romance Creoles.

Among these, (Old) French is the result of language contact between several languages representing different language groups: Celtic (Gaulish), Italic (Latin), and Germanic (e.g. Frankish, the language of the Franks).

Julius Caesar conquered Gaul between 58 and 51 B.C., but the southern parts of the country had already been occupied by the Romans since 121 B.C. and therefore had already been colonized and Romanized. After Caesar's conquest, the Gauls -- speaking a variety of Gaulish dialects -- came in touch with Latin through contact with colonists, the military, tradesmen, and administrators. Even before the Roman conquest, Gaul had towns and a well-developed road system; its Romanization resulted in Latin becoming the predominant language -- a process that took several centuries.

Without going too much into detail, we mention here two aspects of the process of Romanization that were very important for the spread of Latin: education, and administration. State officials were sent to Gaul to take care of various administrative tasks, among them the tax system. At first these state officials came from Rome and therefore spoke Latin: Latin became the official language of administration. Soon however it became possible for the indigenous population to make a career in Roman administration as well, provided they spoke Latin. Latin therefore became an important means to achieve socio-economic success. In addition, because of the Roman school system, young generations of Gauls acquired a systematic knowledge of Latin. Moreover Latin had its own writing system, a rich written tradition, and represented a civilization that was politically, militarily, culturally, admininstratively, and economically the most advanced of its time. The socio-economic advantages Latin offered to those who knew it, and the fundamental willingness of the Gauls to accept it, explain why not only the Romanization but also the Latinization of Gaul was a success.

As noted, Latin gradually ousted Gaulish, which in fact left relatively few traces in the new language, mainly lexical: approximately seventy or so Gaulish words survive in French today, among them lieue 'mile', chemin 'road', charrue 'plow', mouton 'sheep', and others. Most of these words refer to agriculture and everyday life.

The invasion of the Germanic tribes in the 5th century A.D. marks the end of the Roman Empire in Western Europe and the beginning of the Frankish rule in the northern part of Gaul (up to the Loire). Although the Franks were in power, their language did not oust Gallo-Romance. The Franks did, however, leave a few traces in French, such as words starting with h-aspiré, as in haricot 'bean', which traces back to a Germanic word. Compare the h-muet in homme 'man'. Homme goes back to Latin hominem, which lost its initial h sound before the Frankish tribes occupied Gaul. Another Germanic feature is the existence and predominance of place names in northern regions France of the type Neuville, Neufchateau, Francheville, and others. In these formations the adjective precedes the noun, as they do in Germanic today. These structures are not attested in the south, where place names are found with the reverse order, noun + adjective: Villeneuve, Chateauneuf, Villefranche, and others.

The Frankish kings made important contributions to the development of France: with the conversion of Clovis to the Church of Rome (ca. 496 A.D.), the Church became important. The countryside was christianized; monasteries were founded, and soon became centers of activity and education. In the 8th century, Charlemagne wanted to re-create the Roman Empire, but in a Christian version. His reign marks a Renaissance: the civilization of Antiquity and its language were ideals one set out to realize. It is in the early 9th century that two events mark an important linguistic phenomenon. In 813 it was decided at the Concily of Tours that sermons would no longer be delivered in Latin, but rather in the vernacular language. Then in 842 two of Charlemagne's grandsons, Louis le Germanique and Charles le Chauve, took an oath in French and German, respectively, in front of their troops in Strassbourg; this proclamation of mutual support resulted in a written agreement, Les Serments de Strassbourg. These two events reflect the awareness of the speakers of the day that (1) the Gallo-Romance they spoke was a language separate and different from Latin, and (2) Gallo-Romance was a language different from German. The earliest text in French, therefore, is the Serments de Strassbourg; it marks, in fact, the political disintegration of centralized power that started at Charlemagne's death.

During the early Middle Ages, contacts among people were rather local in nature and therefore "vertical": most people lived and died in the region where they were born, and communicated with others living in the same region independently of their social background. The seigneur, for example, would communicate with his farmers and soldiers, and so forth. This phenomenon contributed greatly to the emergence of dialects.

Only later -- starting in the 12th century -- when pilgrimages, crusades, and universities came up and towns became more important, did contacts become "horizontal," cutting through geographical boundaries rather than social classes. Gradually the king once again became a central power. At that point one sees that the dialect of the Ile de France, where the kings established a fixed court, became increasingly important and in fact started the journey that eventually would lead to its standardisation. The historical background accounts for the fact that Old French had many local dialects.

2. Dialects

Although this course in Old French is too short to make dialect variation a topic of special interest, students should know that "Old French" in fact refers to a collection of dialects. Since some of these dialects share more characteristics than others, it is possible to divide them in two groups: the dialects spoken in the northern parts of France, to which one refers as language d'oïl and those spoken in the Southern parts, referred to as langue d'oc. Oc and oïl were markers of affirmation ('yes') in the respective dialect groups.

La language d'oïl includes the following dialects: the dialects of Picardie (le Picard), Normandy (le Normand), Ile de France (le Francien), Lorraine (le Lorrain), Anjou (l'Angevin), Poitou (le Poitevin), Bourgundy (le Bourguignon), and Berry (le Berrichon).

La langue d'oc includes the dialects of the following regions: Provence (le provenc/al), Auvergne (l'auvergnat), Gascony (le gascon), and Languedoc (le languedocien).

The differences between the dialects are primarily phonological. Lexical differences are also found, some of which may have grammatical effects. In Old French, negation is expressed with the negating particle ne, which may be reinforced by an element of nominal origin. The modern French ne ... pas negation traces back to this situation. Yet in Old French there were many other elements used as reinforcer in this context, for example mie 'crumb', point 'dot', goutte 'drop', and many others. In some regions pas predominated, in others e.g. mie. Eventually pas supplanted all other varieties and became the unique non-emphatic negating marker.

3. Grammatical Characteristics of Old French

Linguistically, Old French represents an intermediate stage between Latin and the modern language. A case in point is the case system: whereas Latin had a full-fledged case system with six cases, and modern French has none (except on pronouns), Old French had two cases, a subject and an oblique case.

Similarly, in the history of word order, an important change occurred in the transition from Latin to French: Latin was a verb-final language (Subject-Object-Verb, henceforth SOV); in French the verb from the earliest documents precedes the object (SVO). Old French therefore is an SVO language but its subordinate clauses are often still verb-final. In addition, word order in Old French allows for more variation and it is only later that sequences such as Complement + Verb + Subject disappear. The word order patterns observed in Old French remind us of those in today's German or Dutch. These languages, as well, are shifting from an earlier SOV to an SVO system.

As noted, Old French had a system of two cases: a subject case (nominative), and an object case (oblique). Yet the case distinction in nouns is formally marked in masculine nouns only. Case is more manifest in pronouns where, for the third person singular for example, there is a distinction between the direct object le/la and the indirect object li.

With a few exceptions, all nouns have number marking (singular vs. plural); and they are either masculine or feminine.

Case, number, and gender are also manifest in adjectival elements, such as adjectives and participles. The adjective, for example, agrees with the noun in case, number, and gender.

Another important characteristic of Old French, and an innovation with respect to Latin, is the use of definite articles. Old French definite articles trace back to Latin demonstratives, which in the history of Latin became more and more frequent and gradually lost their demonstrative value. The definite article in Old French primarily had a defining function. In contrast to modern uses, the definite article in Old French is not automatic. Like other nominal elements, definite articles are marked for gender, case, and number.

When the demonstratives lost their demonstrative value, new demonstratives developed: an element ecce 'behold' was added to the old demonstrative forms, iste and ille. As a result, Old French had two demonstratives (instead of three in Latin):

    cist   < ecce + iste   'this'
    cil   < ecce + ille   'that'

Most morphological processes are attested in the verb, which is marked for person, tense, mood, voice, and aspect:

Person:   1st sg.   2nd sg.   3rd sg.    
    1st pl.   2nd pl.   3rd pl.    
                 
Tense:   Present            
    Preterite   Imperfect        
    Future            
                 
Mood:   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative   Conditional
                 
Voice:   Active   Passive        
                 
Aspect:   Imperfective   Perfective        

Some of the forms mentioned in this table are analytic (including an auxiliary and a main verb), while others are "synthetic." In synthetic forms, one verb form embodies the lexical element and all grammatical categories; cf.:

Analytic:   ai chanté   'I have sung'
Synthetic:   chantai   'I sang'

An important difference between Old French and later varieties is that the subject pronoun is not yet compulsory. In fact, it is rather infrequent.

In syntax, word order is predominantly SVO. Other sequences are motivated: SOV, for example, is typically attested in subordinate clauses; in commands, the imperative verb comes first.

Subject inversion is very common in Old French: it is triggered when a complement (direct, indirect, adverbial) is in clause-initial position, creating sequences such as Complement + Verb + Subject or Complement + Verb + Subject + Object.

In line with the predominance of SVO, other elements follow specific patterns as well: the genitive, for example, typically follows the head noun, with or without preposition, cf. e.g.

    l'ost des Franceis
    'the army of the French'
     
    la fille le roi
    'the daughter of the king'

Negation in Old French was characterized by one negating element ne, which precedes the verb. In addition there are many attestations of so-called "double" negation, as in:

    autrement ne m'amerat il mie
    'otherwise he will not love me'

In this example, negation includes an element ne and an element mie. In this construction the part ne + verb has been inherited from Latin. Adding a second element (mie) was a later development and not yet compulsory in Old French.

Compared to the modern language, nominal forms of the Old French verb played an important role: infinitive, participles, and gerunds. Yet, compared to Latin, these elements just play a minor role. In Old French, absolute constructions -- widespread in Latin -- are limited to specific verbs and typically specify the circumstances in which the action of the main verb is carried out, cf.:

    juntes ses mains est alet a sa fin
    'his hands joined he went to his death'

The infinitive in Old French may be nominalized, in which case a definite article generally is added; it may function as subject or complement, for example cf.:

    li porters dou rainsel
    'the fact of carrying the small branch'
     
    tens est del hebergier
    'it is time to encamp'

The use of an infinitive as complement of a finite verb is less strongly developed than in the modern language. In modern French the infinitive is automatically used when the subject of the finite verb and the infinitive are identical. In Old French this is not yet the case. Often a subjunctive, for example, is used instead, cf.:

    Modern French:
    je ne sais quoi faire
    'I do not know what to do'
     
    Old French:
    ne sai que face [very common]
    'I do not know what to do' (with subjunctive)
     
    ne sai que faire [very rare]
    'I do not know what to do'
4. Documents

A rich literature in Old French, along with many other documents, provide a wealth of texts covering the period from the 9th century until the end of the 13th century. From the end of the 13th century on, the case system disappears and the dialect of the Ile de France becomes increasingly important. That is why one no longer speaks of Old French, but rather of Middle French. Consequently the language of the 14th and 15th centuries is typically referred to as Middle French.

The texts selected for this course represent the various genres: the Chansons de geste, relating the exploits of Charlemagne and his nephew Roland; a hagiography, presenting the life of St. Alexis; a hymn written to praise the virtues of St. Eulalie; two examples of (early) littérature courtoise, Tristan and Yvain; an historical account of the Fourth Crusade; two texts representing the littérature bourgeoise, a fable and part of a play; and finally a translation of the well-known Latin text about St. Brendan, who set out to discover what may have been North America.

A striking characteristic of Old French texts is their international, European character. Some texts are based on foreign or international traditions or are translations or revisions of foreign texts. Moreover, the veneration of some saints is an international phenomenon, and the component of Irish culture, for example, is strong.

5. Abbreviations

In the Grammar points, several abbreviations have been used; these refer to the following grammatical concepts:

    abl. = ablative   acc. = accusative   adj. = adjective   art. = article
    comp. = comparative   dir. = direct   fem. = feminine   gen. = genitive
    impf. = imperfective   indef. = indefinite   indir. = indirect   inf. = infinitive
    masc. = masculine   nom. = nominative   obj. = object   obl. = oblique
    part. = participle   pers. = person   pf. = perfective   pl. = plural
    pres. = present   pret. = preterite   sg. = singular   subj. = subject
    subju. = subjunctive   La(t). = Latin   OF = Old French    

Related Language Courses at UT

Most but not all language courses taught at The University of Texas concern modern languages; sometimes courses are offered in ancient languages, though more often at the graduate level. French language courses are taught in the Department of French & Italian (link opens in a new browser window). Other online language courses for college credit are offered through the University Extension (new window).

Italic Resources Elsewhere

Our Web Links page includes pointers to Italic resources elsewhere.

Old French Online

Lesson 1

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) is a so-called Chanson de Geste, one of the major genres of French medieval literature in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the Chansons de Geste the deeds (Latin gesta) of the great heroes of Christian lineage are described. As the oldest Chanson de Geste, the Chanson de Roland is generally dated in the early 12th century (ca. 1100-1120) and traces back to an historical event.

In 778, when Charlemagne crossed the Pyrenees returning from a campaign in Spain, the rearguard of his army was attacked and massacred by the local population. Toward the end of the 11th century, leading up to the First Crusade (1096-1099), this event developed legendary characteristics and the historical figures were interpreted as Christian heroes whose faith, loyalty, and courage in the battle against the pagan Saracens is continually praised, as in the Chanson de Roland.

In this epic two characters stand out: Charlemagne, king of the Franks, and Roland, his nephew and most prominent adviser and knight, who is the epitome of Christian heroism and sacrifice and who accepts martyrdom on the battlefield against the enemies of Christianity. The poem relates the events that lead to the betrayal and massacre as well as the battle itself; it describes not only the battle, in great detail, but also the deliberations that precede the decisions made by the main characters.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The text is divided into laisses, stanzas of varying length. For this lesson two laisses have been selected, numbers I (lines 1-9) and VIII (lines 96-121), which present Charlemagne as one of the main characters of the work and show his military strength.

Carles li reis, nostre emperere magnes
set anz tuz pleins ad estet en Espaigne:
Tresqu'en la mer cunquist la tere altaigne.
  • Carles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • nostre -- possessive; first person plural nominative singular masculine <nostre> our -- our
  • emperere -- noun; nominative singular <empereor> emperor -- emperor
  • magnes -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <magne> great -- great
  • set -- numeral; <set> seven -- seven
  • anz -- noun; oblique plural <an> year -- years
  • tuz -- adjective; oblique plural masculine <tot> all, every, completely -- ...
  • pleins -- adjective; oblique plural masculine <plein, plain> full -- full
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • estet -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <ester> stand, remain, be -- been
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • Espaigne -- proper name; oblique singular <Espaigne> Spain -- Spain
  • tresqu'en -- preposition; <tresqu', trusqu'> up to, until + preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- up to
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • mer -- noun; oblique singular <mer> sea -- sea
  • cunquist -- verb; third person singular preterite <conquerre, cunquerre> conquer, capture -- he conquered
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • tere -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- land
  • altaigne -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <altain> high, deep -- high

N'i ad castel ki devant lui remaigne;
Mur ne citet n'i est remés a fraindre
Fors Saraguce, ki est en une muntaigne.
  • n'i -- negation; <ne, nen> not + particle; <i> there -- there... no
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • castel -- noun; oblique singular <chastel, castel> castle -- castle
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> that -- that
  • devant -- preposition; <devant> before, in front of, in the presence of -- ...
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • remaigne -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <remanoir> stay, remain, resist -- resists
  • mur -- noun; nominative singular <mur> wall -- wall
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- or
  • citet -- noun; nominative singular <cit, citet> city, town -- town
  • n'i -- negation; <ne, nen> not + particle; <i> there -- no... there
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- is
  • remés -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <remanoir> stay, remain, resist -- left
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • fraindre -- verb; infinitive <freindre, fraindre> break -- conquer
  • fors -- preposition; <fors> except -- except
  • Saraguce -- proper name; oblique singular <Saraguce> Saragossa -- Saragossa
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> that -- which
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- is located
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- on top of
  • une -- indefinite article; oblique singular feminine <un> a -- a
  • muntaigne -- noun; oblique singular <montaigne> mountain -- mountain

Li reis Marsilie la tient, ki Deu nen amet,
Mahumet sert e Apollin recleimet:
Nes poet guarder que mals ne l'i ateignet. AOI.
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- ...
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • Marsilie -- proper name; nominative singular <Marsilie> Marsilie -- Marsilie
  • la -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object feminine <il> he -- it
  • tient -- verb; third person singular present <tenir> hold, keep, seize, consider -- holds
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- he who
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • nen -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • amet -- verb; third person singular present <amer> love -- does... love
  • Mahumet -- proper name; oblique singular <Mahumez, Mahun> Mahomet -- Mahomet
  • sert -- verb; third person singular present <servir> serve -- serves
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • Apollin -- proper name; oblique singular <Apollin> Apollo, Satan -- Satan
  • recleimet -- verb; third person singular present <reclamer> call upon, invoke, beg -- invokes
  • nes -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • poet -- verb; third person singular present <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- can
  • guarder -- verb; infinitive <garder> watch over, guard -- prevent
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • mals -- noun; nominative singular <mal> evil, disaster, illness -- disaster
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- ...
  • l'i -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object singular masculine <il> he + particle; <i> there -- him...there
  • ateignet -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <ataindre> reach, regain, catch -- reaches
  • AOI -- interjection; <AOI> ... -- ... # unknown element, possibly a war cry, typical of the Chanson de Roland

Li empereres se fait e balz e liez:
Cordres ad prise e les murs peceiez,
Od ses cadables les turs en abatied;
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • empereres -- noun; nominative singular <empereor> emperor -- emperor
  • se fait -- verb; third person singular present <se faire> be -- is
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- ...
  • balz -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <balt> happy, full of fervor -- ebullient
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- as well as
  • liez -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <lié, liet> happy, joyful -- joyful
  • Cordres -- proper name; oblique singular <Cordres> Cordres -- Cordres
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he has
  • prise -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular feminine <prendre> take, take hold of, seize -- taken
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • les -- definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • murs -- noun; oblique plural <mur> wall -- walls
  • peceiez -- verb; perfective participle oblique plural masculine <pecier> smash to pieces -- smashed to pieces
  • od -- preposition; <ot, od, of, o> with -- with
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular oblique plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • cadables -- noun; oblique plural <cadable> catapult -- catapults
  • les -- definite article; oblique plural feminine <li> the -- ...
  • turs -- noun; oblique plural <tor> tower -- towers
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- its
  • abatied -- verb; third person singular preterite <abatre> knock down, destroy -- he destroyed

Mult grant eschech en unt si chevaler
D'or e d'argent e de guarnemenz chers.
  • mult -- adverb, adjective; <molt, mult, mout> many, much, very -- ...
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <grant> great, large, tall -- ...
  • eschech -- noun; oblique singular <eschec> booty, loot -- booty
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- its
  • unt -- verb; third person plural present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- are laden with
  • si -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • chevaler -- noun; nominative plural <chevalier> knight -- knights
  • d'or -- preposition; <de> of, from + noun; oblique singular <or> gold -- gold
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • d'argent -- preposition; <de> of, from + noun; oblique singular <argent> silver, money, riches -- silver
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- ...
  • guarnemenz -- noun; oblique plural <garnement> decorative object -- objects
  • chers -- adjective; oblique plural masculine <cher> beloved, expensive -- precious

En la citet nen ad remés paien
Ne seit ocis u devient chrestien.
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • citet -- noun; nominative singular <cit, citet> city, town -- town
  • nen -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- no
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • remés -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <remanoir> stay, remain, resist -- left
  • paien -- noun; oblique singular <paien, pagien> pagan, heathen -- pagan
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • seit -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- has been
  • ocis -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <ocire> kill -- killed
  • u -- conjunction; <o, u> or -- or
  • devient -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <devenir> become -- become
  • chrestien -- noun; nominative singular <chrestien> christian -- christian

Li empereres est en un grant verger,
Ensembl'od lui Rollant e Oliver,
Sansun li dux e Anseis li fiers,
Gefreid d'Anjou, le rei gunfanuner,
E si i furent e Gerin e Gerers;
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • empereres -- noun; nominative singular <empereor> emperor -- emperor
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- is
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <grant> great, large, tall -- large
  • verger -- noun; oblique singular <vergier> orchard, garden -- orchard
  • ensembl'od -- preposition; <ensemble od> together with -- together with... (are)
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • Oliver -- proper name; nominative singular <Oliver> Oliver -- Oliver
  • Sansun -- proper name; nominative singular <Sansun> Sansun -- Sansun
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • dux -- noun; nominative singular <duc> duke -- duke
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • Anseis -- proper name; nominative singular <Anseis> Anseis -- Anseis
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • fiers -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <fier> fierce, strong, proud -- proud one
  • Gefreid -- proper name; nominative singular <Gefreid> Gefreid -- Gefreid
  • d'Anjou -- preposition; <de> of, from + proper name; oblique singular <Anjou> Anjou -- of Anjou
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • rei -- noun; oblique singular <roi> king -- king
  • gunfanuner -- noun; nominative singular <gunfanuner> standard bearer -- standard bearer
  • e si -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and + particle; <si> so, and moreover -- and also
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • furent -- verb; third person plural preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- were
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- ...
  • Gerin -- proper name; nominative singular <Gerin> Gerin -- Gerin
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- as well as
  • Gerers -- proper name; nominative singular <Gerer> Gerer -- Gerer

La u cist furent, des altres i out bien:
De dulce France i ad quinze milliers.
  • la -- adverb; <la> there -- ...
  • u -- relative pronoun; <ou, u> where -- where
  • cist -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative plural masculine <cest, cist> this -- these
  • furent -- verb; third person plural preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- were
  • des -- preposition; <de> of, from + definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- ...
  • altres -- indefinite adjective; oblique plural masculine <altre> other -- others
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • out -- verb; third person singular preterite <avoir, aveir> have, be -- were
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- many
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- from
  • dulce -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <dolz, dous> sweet, gentle -- our beloved
  • France -- proper name; oblique singular <France> France -- France
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- are
  • quinze -- numeral; <quinze> fifteen -- fifteen
  • milliers -- numeral; oblique plural <millier> thousand -- thousand men

Sur palies blancs siedent cil cevaler,
As tables juent pur els esbaneier
E as eschecs li plus saive e li veill,
E escremissent cil bacheler leger.
  • sur -- preposition; <seur, soure, sur, sor> on, over, to, above -- on
  • palies -- noun; oblique plural <paile> precious cloth -- precious clothes
  • blancs -- adjective; oblique plural masculine <blanc> white -- white
  • siedent -- verb; third person plural present <seoir> sit, be seated -- are seated
  • cil -- demonstrative; nominative plural masculine <cil> that -- the
  • cevaler -- noun; nominative plural <chevalier> knight -- knights
  • as -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on + definite article; oblique plural feminine <li> the -- ...
  • tables -- noun; oblique plural <table> game -- games
  • juent -- verb; third person plural present <joer> play -- play
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- to
  • els -- personal pronoun; third person plural direct object masculine <il> they -- themselves
  • esbaneier -- verb; infinitive <esbanir> amuse -- amuse
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • as -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on + definite article; oblique plural feminine <li> the -- ...
  • eschecs -- noun; oblique plural <eschecs> chess -- chess
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • plus -- adverb; <plus> more -- most
  • saive -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <saige, saive> clever, educated -- clever men
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • veill -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <vieil, veil> old -- old men
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • escremissent -- verb; third person plural present <escremir, escrimer> fence -- are fencing
  • cil -- demonstrative; nominative plural masculine <cil> that -- the
  • bacheler -- noun; nominative plural <bacheler, bachelor> young man, young knight aspirant, page -- pages
  • leger -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <legier, ligier, loigier> light, supple, light-hearted -- athletic

Desuz un pin, delez un eglentier,
Un faldestoed i unt, fait tut d'or mer:
La siet li reis ki dulce France tient.
  • desuz -- preposition; <desos, desous> under -- under
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • pin -- noun; oblique singular <pin> pine tree -- pine tree
  • delez -- preposition; <deles, delé, deleiz> next to; beside -- next to
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • eglentier -- noun; oblique singular <aiglent> wild rose -- wild rose
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • faldestoed -- noun; oblique singular <faldestuel, faldestuef, faldestoed> folding chair for important person, throne -- throne
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- ...
  • unt -- verb; third person plural present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- they have
  • fait -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <faire> make -- made
  • tut -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <tot> all, every, completely -- entirely
  • d'or -- preposition; <de> of, from + noun; oblique singular <or> gold -- of gold
  • mer -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <mer, mier> pure -- pure
  • la -- adverb; <la> there -- there
  • siet -- verb; third person singular present <seoir> sit, be seated -- is seated
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • dulce -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <dolz, dous> sweet, gentle -- our beloved
  • France -- proper name; oblique singular <France> France -- France
  • tient -- verb; third person singular present <tenir> hold, keep, seize, consider -- holds

Blanche ad la barbe e tut flurit le chef,
Gent ad le cors e le cuntenant fier:
S'est kil demandet, ne l'estoet enseigner.
  • blanche -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <blanc> white -- white
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he has
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- a
  • barbe -- noun; oblique singular <barbe> beard -- beard
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • tut -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <tot> all, every, completely -- entirely
  • flurit -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <florir> flower -- greyish white
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • chef -- noun; oblique singular <chief> head -- head
  • gent -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <gent> fair, handsome, beautiful -- fair
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he has
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- a
  • cors -- noun; oblique singular <cors> body -- body
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- a
  • cuntenant -- noun; oblique singular <contenant> demeanour, expression, appearance -- appearance
  • fier -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <fier> fierce, strong, proud -- strong
  • s'est -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus + verb third person singular present; <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- and if... were
  • kil -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- someone... him
  • demandet -- verb; third person singular present <demander> ask, ask for -- to ask for
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • l'estoet -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular imperfective <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- him... it is necessary
  • enseigner -- verb; infinitive <enseignier> teach, inform, point out -- point out

E li message descendirent a pied,
Sil saluerent par amur e par bien.
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • message -- noun; nominative plural <message> messenger -- messengers
  • descendirent -- verb; third person plural preterite <descendre> descend, dismount -- came down
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- ...
  • pied -- noun; oblique singular <pié> foot -- ...
  • sil -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- and... him
  • saluerent -- verb; third person plural preterite <saluer> salute, greet -- greeted
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- out of
  • amur -- noun; oblique singular <amor> love -- love
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- out of
  • bien -- noun; oblique singular <bien, ben> good, good fortune, well-being -- respect

Lesson Text

Carles li reis, nostre emperere magnes
set anz tuz pleins ad estet en Espaigne:
Tresqu'en la mer cunquist la tere altaigne. N'i ad castel ki devant lui remaigne;
Mur ne citet n'i est remés a fraindre
Fors Saraguce, ki est en une muntaigne. Li reis Marsilie la tient, ki Deu nen amet,
Mahumet sert e Apollin recleimet:
Nes poet guarder que mals ne l'i ateignet. AOI. Li empereres se fait e balz e liez:
Cordres ad prise e les murs peceiez,
Od ses cadables les turs en abatied; Mult grant eschech en unt si chevaler
D'or e d'argent e de guarnemenz chers. En la citet nen ad remés paien
Ne seit ocis u devient chrestien. Li empereres est en un grant verger,
Ensembl'od lui Rollant e Oliver,
Sansun li dux e Anseis li fiers,
Gefreid d'Anjou, le rei gunfanuner,
E si i furent e Gerin e Gerers; La u cist furent, des altres i out bien:
De dulce France i ad quinze milliers. Sur palies blancs siedent cil cevaler,
As tables juent pur els esbaneier
E as eschecs li plus saive e li veill,
E escremissent cil bacheler leger. Desuz un pin, delez un eglentier,
Un faldestoed i unt, fait tut d'or mer:
La siet li reis ki dulce France tient. Blanche ad la barbe e tut flurit le chef,
Gent ad le cors e le cuntenant fier:
S'est kil demandet, ne l'estoet enseigner. E li message descendirent a pied,
Sil saluerent par amur e par bien.

Translation

Charles the king, our great emperor,
has been in Spain a full seven years:
he conquered the high land up to the sea.
There is no castle that resists him;
there is no wall or town left to conquer,
except Saragossa, which is located on top of a mountain.
King Marsilie holds it, he who does not love God,
serves Mahomet and invokes Satan;
he cannot prevent that disaster reaches him there.
The emperor is ebullient as well as joyful:
he has taken Cordres and smashed the walls to pieces,
with his catapults he destroyed its towers;
his knights are laden with its booty
gold and silver and precious objects.
In the town no pagan is left
who has not been killed or become Christian.
The emperor is in a large orchard,
together with him are Roland and Oliver,
Sansun the duke and Anseis the proud one,
Gefreid of Anjou, the standard bearer of the king,
and Gerin as well as Gerer were there also;
Where these men were, there were many others:
from our beloved France there are fifteen thousand men.
The knights are seated on white precious cloths
to amuse themselves the most clever men and
the old men play games and chess,
and the pages, athletic, are fencing.
Under a pine tree, next to a wild rose,
they have a throne, entirely made of pure gold:
there the king is seated, who holds our beloved France.
He has a white beard and the head entirely greyish-white,
he has a fair body and a strong appearance:
if someone were to ask for him, it is not necessary to point him out.
And the messengers came down
and greeted him out of love and out of respect.

Grammar

1 Gender

Whereas the transition from Latin to French is characterized by the loss of the neuter, gender distribution itself is not fundamentally different in Old French: natural gender prevails for animate nouns, as in li uem vs. la feme ('the man' - 'the wife'), le filz - la fille ('the son' - 'the daughter), li tors 'the bull', la vache 'the cow', la jument 'the mare', and so forth. Inanimate nouns are either masculine or feminine and this so-called grammatical gender is unpredictable, with a few exceptions. Nouns in -or, for example tend to be feminine (e.g. la dolor 'the pain'). Because of wide-spread agreement patterns, gender marking is found in articles, demonstratives, possessives, adjectives, and participles.

2 Case: Nominal Declensions, Class I and Class II

Old French differs from all other stages of the language in that is still has declension of nouns. In the declension system of Old French, number and case are closely connected. The very large majority of nouns have a singular and a plural form. A limited number of nouns have a so-called collective singular: the singular refers to a single referent and to a group of persons or objects, as in fruit 'fruit' and 'fruits', or feuille 'leaf' and 'foliage'.

In Old French only two cases survive of the rich Latin nominal inflection. With Old Occitan, Old French differs fundamentally in this respect from from most other early Romance languages, which no longer have case marking on nouns; an important and well-known exception is Rumanian, where even today two nominal cases survive, a nominative-accusative and a genitive-dative.

The two cases that are found in Old French are the nominative and the so-called oblique case. The Old French nominative goes back to the Latin nominative, whereas the oblique case traces back to the Latin accusative, which assumed many functions from the other cases when they gradually disappeared in the development from Latin to Romance. Although Old French still distinguishes between the nominative and the oblique, these cases are not explicitly marked on all nouns. The majority of masculine nouns have distinct case forms; for feminine nouns the distinctions are primarily limited to number. It is possible to distinguish various classes.

Nominal Declensions, Class I

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   fame 'woman'   fames
Obl.   fame   fames

The majority of these nouns are feminine and go back to the Latin first declension in -a; they therefore end in -e in Old French, by regular phonological development. The class includes nominalized adjectives and participles as well, cf. force 'strength' from the Latin neuter plural fortia 'strong things'.

Note that for these nouns there is no formal distinction between cases, because the nominative is formally identical to the oblique case. The only formal distinction is between singular and plural.

The majority of Class II nouns are masculine and they have formal marking, represented by the ending -s, which follows the stem in the nominative singular and the oblique plural.

Nominal Declensions, Class II

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   murs (from La. murus) 'wall'   mur (from La. muri)
    reis 'king'   rei
Obl.   mur (from La. murum)   murs (from La. muros)
    rei   reis

Most of these nouns go back to nouns of the second declension in Latin, which were primarily masculine nouns as well. When the fourth declension disappeared, these nouns in -us became second declension nouns. This class of nouns further includes nominalized infinitives (li mangiers 'the meal') and nominalized participles and adjectives (Latin adj. diurnus 'daily' became Old French li jorz 'day').

3 Case: Hybrid Declensions

While not all feminine nouns end in -e, some masculine nouns do. This is the basis of what some scholars call "hybrid" declensions. Nouns in these classes have a declension pattern that does not correspond to what one might expect on the basis of the gender of the noun.

In practice this means that the case ending -s is used for feminine nouns that do not end in -e and that it lacks in some masculine nouns that do end in -e:

Nominal Declensions, Class Ia (feminine nouns)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   flors 'flower'   flors
Obl.   flor   flors

Words in this class most often in origin belonged to the third declension in Latin, such as amor 'love', mer 'sea', color 'color', dolor 'sorrow', loi 'religion', gent 'people', fin 'end', honor 'honor', main 'hand', valor 'worth', and others.

In the next class of nouns, the ending -s may or may not follow the stem.

Nominal Declensions, Class IIa (masculine nouns ending in ustressed -e)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   pere(s) 'father'   pere
Obl.   pere   peres

This declension includes nouns such as frere 'brother', gendre 'son-in-law', mestre 'master', arbre 'tree', ventre 'belly', livre 'book', archevesque 'archbishop', ermite 'hermit', and others.

Hybrid declensions are the result of the on-going breakdown of the case system, which started in early Latin. The development resulted not only in the loss of cases (compare the six cases of Latin to the two cases in Old French), but also in the disappearance of entire declensions (see the five declensions in Latin). Many nouns therefore moved from one declension to another on the basis of form or gender. Sometimes form and gender characteristics did not parallel, which led to declensional inconsistencies. In time the irregularities of declensions Ia and IIa disappeared, for example when the ending -s of the masculine singular spread, as in livre:

Nominal Declensions, Spread of -s

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   livres 'book' (earlier: livre)   livres
Obl.   livre   livres
4 Case Marking: Definite Articles and Adjectives

Case marking is also found in definite articles and adjectival elements, among them adjectives and participles.

4.1 Definite article declension

Case Marking, Definite Article

Masculine   Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   li 'the'   li
    li murs 'the wall'   li mur
Obl.   le   les
    le mur   les murs

Case Marking, Definite Article

Feminine   Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   la 'the'   les
    la fame 'the woman'   les fames
Obl.   la   les
    la fame   les fames
4.2 Adjectival declension

Like articles, adjectival elements agree with the noun in gender, number, and case. Adjectival inflection shows different patterns according to gender and to the declension the adjectives belong to.

Latin adjectives were divided into two groups or declensions. One included adjectives that distinguished a masculine, feminine, and neuter form (La. bonus, bona, bonum 'good') and the other declension -- the oldest one -- included those adjectives that distinguish between a masculine/feminine and a neuter form (La. fortis [masc./fem.] and forte [neuter] 'strong'). In Old French the first type of adjective follows the pattern of nominal Declension I when the adjective is feminine, and the pattern of nominal Declension II when the adjective is masculine. Past participles typically follow these patterns as well.

Adjectival Declension, Class I (feminine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   bone 'good'   bones
    dure 'hard'   dures
    entree 'enter' (Pf. Part.)   entrees
Obl.   bone   bones
    dure   dures
    entree   entrees

Adjectival Declension, Class II (masculine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   bons   bon
    durs   dur
    entrez   entré
Obl.   bon   bons
    dur   durs
    entré   entrez

Adjectives that follow these patterns include, e.g., sains 'holy', bruns 'brown', clers 'clear', fiers 'proud', legiers 'light, souple', tot 'all'.

Adjectives in -e follow the declension patterns of Class I feminine nouns when they are feminine and those of the Class II masculine nouns when they are masculine.

Adjectival Declension, Adjectives in -e (feminine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   sage 'wise'   sages
Obl.   sage   sages

Adjectival Declension, Adjectives in -e (masculine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   sages   sage
Obl.   sage   sages

Examples of adjectives of this category include e.g. amable 'amiable', foible 'feeble', riche 'rich'.

Adjectives in -re (e.g. povre 'poor') form a special group. The declension for feminine adjectives is regular, that of masculine adjectives lacks the -s suffix in the nominative singular.

Adjectival Declension, Adjectives in -re (feminine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   povre   povres
Obl.   povre   povres

Adjectival Declension, Adjectives in -re (masculine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   povre   povre
Obl.   povre   povres

Adjectives that follow this pattern include, among others: autre 'other', maigre 'thin', tendre 'tender'.

The archaic adjectival declension in Latin that originally distinguished animate (masc. or fem., e.g. fortis 'strong') vs. inanimate (neuter, e.g. forte ) survives in Old French in a declension pattern that does not include a suffix -e for feminine forms:

Adjectival Declension, Class III (feminine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   fort (forz) 'strong'   forz
Obl.   fort   forz

Adjectival Declension, Class III (masculine)

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   forz   fort
Obl.   fort   forz

Adjectives that are included are: brief 'short', cruel 'cruel', grant 'great', prod 'bold', vert 'green', fol 'foolish', and others.

5 Case Functions

The nominative primarily is the subject case and is used when addressing people, as in:

  • li reis tient la citet 'the king (Nom. Sg.) holds the town';
  • li empereres se fait balz (CdR 96, this lesson) 'the emperor (Nom. Sg.) is happy';
  • respunt li reis 'the king (Nom. Sg.) replies';
  • Deus, fet il 'God (Nom. Sg.), he said'.

The oblique case is used for all other functions, among them:

  • direct object of transitive verbs, as in
  • gent ad le cors (CdR 118, this lesson) 'he has a handsome body (Obl. Sg.)';
  • indirect object, as in
  • li nums Joiuse l'espee fut dunet (CdR 2508) 'the sword (Indir. Obj.) was given the name Joyeuse',
  • se Deu plet 'if it pleases (to) God (Indir. Obj.)';
  • genitive in combination with another noun, as in
  • la fille le rei 'the daughter of the king (Obl. Sg.)',
  • le rei gunfanuner (CdR 106, this lesson) 'the standard bearer of the king (Obl. Sg.)';
  • object of prepositions, as in
  • e dist al rei (CdR 27) 'and he sayd to the king (Obl. Sg.)';
  • li empereres est en un grant verger (CdR 103, this lesson) 'the king is in a large orchard (Obl. Sg.)';
  • adverbial expressions (e.g. space, time, direction), as in
  • set anz ad estet en Espaigne (CdR 2, this lesson) 'he has spent seven years (Obl. Pl.) in Spain'.

Old French Online

Lesson 2

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

When Charlemagne's army reaches France and the troops prepare themselves mentally to see their loved ones again, the rearguard under the command of Roland is attacked at Roncevaux. Despite the wise and urgent advice of his friend Oliver, Roland in his vanity refuses at first to blow the horn for military support. Only when Roland sees that many of his troops have died does he decide to call for Charlemagne's help. The physical effort of blowing the horn inflicts a fatal injury, and as a result Roland dies.

The Chanson describes in detail the last moments of Roland's life and his passing. When Charlemagne hears the signal, he returns to Spain to find that most of his men there have been killed, including Oliver and Roland. He prepares his revenge, which leads to the eventual victory of Christianity: the traitor is brought to justice, and Sarragossa eventually is taken.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The fragments below describe the most dramatic moments of the Chanson de Roland: Roland's blowing the horn, his injury, and his death. They also describe Charlemagne's arrival at the scene of the battle, and his emotions at seeing the disastrous effects of the attack (lines 1753-1758, 1785-1795, 2355-2365, 2396-2402, and 2412-2416).

The reader will notice that the fragments tend to be repetitive, which may be explained by the oral tradition that the Chanson de Geste was part of. The repetitive nature of the text also underscores the strong emotions that the events trigger in the characters. From a linguistic perspective, the reader will also notice that in many instances the case markers are not used, or are used incorrectly, illustrating the gradual disappearance of the case system.

Rollant ad mis l'olifan a sa buche,
Empeint le ben, par grant vertut le sunet.
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • mis -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <metre, mectre, mettre> put -- put
  • l'olifan -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <olifant> ivory horn -- the horn
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- at
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • buche -- noun; oblique singular <bouche, buche> mouth -- mouth
  • empeint -- verb; third person singular present <empeindre> blow, protrude -- he places
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • ben -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- solidly
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- with
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • vertut -- noun; oblique singular <vertu> might, power, strength -- force
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • sunet -- verb; third person singular present <suner, soner> sound, utter -- he blows

Halt sunt li pui e la voiz est mult lunge,
Granz .XXX. liwes l'oïrent il respundre.
  • halt -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <alt, aut, halt> high, strong, important -- high
  • sunt -- verb; third person plural present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- are
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • pui -- noun; nominative plural <pui> mountain, hill -- mountains
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • voiz -- noun; nominative singular <vois, voiz> noise, word, voice -- sound
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- carries
  • mult -- adverb, adjective; <molt, mult, mout> many, much, very -- very
  • lunge -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <lonc, long, loing> long, far -- far
  • granz -- adjective; oblique plural feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- long
  • .XXX. -- number; <.XXX.> thirty -- thirty # in Old French, numbers were preceded and followed by a dot
  • liwes -- noun; oblique plural <liue, live> mile -- miles away
  • l'oïrent -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person plural preterite <oir, odir> hear -- they heard...
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- it
  • respundre -- verb; infinitive <respondre> answer -- resonate

Karles l'oït e ses cumpaignes tutes.
Ço dist li reis: "Bataille funt nostre hume!"
  • Karles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • l'oït -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular preterite <oir, odir> hear -- heard it
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural feminine <son> his -- his
  • cumpaignes -- noun; nominative plural <compaigne> troops -- troops
  • tutes -- adjective; nominative plural feminine <tot> all, every, completely -- all
  • ço -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- these words
  • dist -- verb; third person singular preterite <dire> say, tell -- spoke
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • bataille -- noun; oblique singular <bataille> battle -- battle
  • funt -- verb; third person plural present <faire> make -- fight
  • nostre -- possessive; first person plural nominative plural masculine <nostre> our -- our
  • hume -- noun; nominative plural <home, ome> man -- troops

Li quens Rollant ad la buche sanglente.
De sun cervel rumput en est li temples.
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- ...
  • quens -- noun; nominative singular <conte> count -- count
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- his
  • buche -- noun; oblique singular <bouche, buche> mouth -- mouth
  • sanglente -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <sanglent> bloody -- full of blood
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • cervel -- noun; oblique singular <cervel> brains -- brains
  • rumput -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <rompre> break, burst -- burst open
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- has
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • temples -- noun; nominative singular <temple> temple, forehead -- temple

L'olifan sunet a dulor e a peine.
Karles l'oït e ses Franceis l'entendent.
  • l'olifan -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <olifant> ivory horn -- the horn
  • sunet -- verb; third person singular present <suner, soner> sound, utter -- he blows
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • dulor -- noun; oblique singular <dolor> pain, suffering -- suffering
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • peine -- noun; oblique singular <peine, paine> torment, suffering -- pain
  • Karles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • l'oït -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular preterite <oir, odir> hear -- heard him
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • Franceis -- proper name; nominative plural <Franceis> free, noble, subject of the king of France -- subjects
  • l'entendent -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person plural present <entendre> try, pay attention, understand, hear -- hear him

Ço dist li reis: "Cel corn ad lunge aleine!"
  • ço -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- these words
  • dist -- verb; third person singular preterite <dire> say, tell -- spoke
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • cel -- demonstrative; nominative singular masculine <cil> that -- that
  • corn -- noun; nominative singular <corn, cor> horn -- horn
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • lunge -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <lonc, long, loing> long, far -- long
  • aleine -- noun; oblique singular <aleine, alaine> blast, breath -- a breath

Respont dux Neimes: "Baron i fait la peine!
Bataille i ad, par le men escïentre.
Cil l'at traït ki vos en roevet feindre.
  • respont -- verb; third person singular present <respondre> answer -- answers
  • dux -- noun; nominative singular <duc> duke -- duke
  • Neimes -- proper name; nominative singular <Neimes> Naimes -- Naimes
  • baron -- noun; nominative singular <baron> brave warrior, brave knight -- a brave knight
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • fait la peine -- verb; third person singular present <faire> make + definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <peine, paine> torment, suffering -- is in distress
  • bataille -- noun; oblique singular <bataille> battle -- battle
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- ...
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • par le men escïentre -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + possessive; first person singular oblique singular masculine <mon> my + noun; oblique singular <escïent> knowledge -- to my knowledge
  • cil -- demonstrative; nominative singular masculine <cil> that -- he who
  • l'at -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has... him...
  • traït -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <trair> betray -- betrayed
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- you
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • roevet -- verb; third person singular present <rover> ask, call upon, order -- orders
  • feindre -- verb; infinitive <feindre> do nothing, shy away -- to do nothing

Adubez vos, si criez vostre enseigne,
Si sucurez vostre maisnee gente:
Asez oez que Rollant se dementet!"
  • adubez vos -- verb; second person plural imperative <adober> arm oneself + personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- arm yourself
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and
  • criez -- verb; second person plural imperative <crier> shout -- shout
  • vostre -- possessive; second person plural oblique singular feminine <vostre> your -- your
  • enseigne -- noun; oblique singular <enseigne> war cry -- war cry
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and
  • sucurez -- verb; second person plural imperative <secorer> go to the help of -- go to the help of
  • vostre -- possessive; second person plural oblique singular feminine <vostre> your -- your
  • maisnee -- noun; oblique singular <maisniee, maisnie> household, army -- army
  • gente -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <gent> fair, handsome, beautiful -- fair
  • asez -- adverb; <asez, assés> many, much, very well -- very well
  • oez -- verb; second person plural present <oir, odir> hear -- you hear
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • se dementet -- verb; third person singular present <se dementer> lament -- is lamenting

Ço sent Rollant que la mort le tresprent,
Devers la teste sur le quer li descent.
  • ço -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- ...
  • sent -- verb; third person singular present <sentir> smell, feel -- feels
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- ...
  • mort -- noun; nominative singular <mort> death -- death
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • tresprent -- verb; third person singular present <tresprendre> overcome completely -- overcomes completely
  • devers -- preposition; <devers, de vers> in the direction of, from the direction of -- from
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- his
  • teste -- noun; oblique singular <teste> head -- head
  • sur -- preposition; <seur, soure, sur, sor> on, over, to, above -- to
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- his
  • quer -- noun; oblique singular <cuer, coer, cor> heart -- heart
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- ...
  • descent -- verb; third person singular present <descendre> descend, dismount -- it descends

Desuz un pin i est alet curant,
Sur l'erbe verte s'i est culchet adenz,
Desuz lui met s'espee e l'olifan,
Turnat sa teste vers la paiene gent:
  • desuz -- preposition; <desos, desous> under -- under
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • pin -- noun; oblique singular <pin> pine tree -- pine tree
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- ...
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- he has
  • alet -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <aler> go -- gone
  • curant -- verb; participle present nominative singular masculine <corre> run -- running
  • sur -- preposition; <seur, soure, sur, sor> on, over, to, above -- on top of
  • l'erbe -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <erbre> grass -- the grass
  • verte -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <vert> green -- green
  • s'i est culchet -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <se> he + particle; <i> there + verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be + verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <couchier> lie down -- there he has lain down
  • adenz -- adverb; <adenz> face downwards -- face downwards
  • desuz -- preposition; <desos, desous> under -- under
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • met -- verb; third person singular present <metre, mectre, mettre> put -- he puts
  • s'espee -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his + noun; oblique singular <espee> sword -- his sword
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • l'olifan -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <olifant> ivory horn -- the horn
  • turnat -- verb; third person singular preterite <torner> turn, return -- he turned
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • teste -- noun; oblique singular <teste> head -- head
  • vers -- preposition; <vers> towards -- towards
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • paiene -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <paien> pagan, heathen -- pagan
  • gent -- noun; oblique singular <gent> race, people -- people

Pur ço l'ad fait que il voelt veirement
Que Carles diet e trestute sa gent,
Li gentilz quens, qu'il fut mort cunquerant.
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • ço -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- the reason
  • l'ad -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he has... this
  • fait -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <faire> make -- done
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • voelt -- verb; third person singular present <voloir> want -- wants
  • veirement -- adverb; <voirement> really -- really
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • Carles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • diet -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <dire> say, tell -- say
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • trestute -- reinforcing element; <tres> ... + adjective; nominative singular feminine <tot> all, every, completely -- entire
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular nominative singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • gent -- noun; nominative singular <gent> race, people -- people
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • gentilz -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <gentil> noble, brave -- brave
  • quens -- noun; nominative singular <conte> count -- count
  • qu'il -- conjunction; <que> that + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- that he
  • fut -- verb; third person singular preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- has
  • mort -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <morir> kill, die -- died
  • cunquerant -- verb; present participle nominative singular masculine <conquerre, cunquerre> conquer, capture -- as a conqueror

Cleimet sa culpe e menut e suvent,
Pur ses pecchez Deu en puroffrid lo guant. AOI
  • cleimet -- verb; third person singular present <clamer> call, proclaim, confess -- he confesses aloud
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • culpe -- noun; oblique singular <colpe, corpe, cope> sin, mistake -- sins
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- ...
  • menut e suvent -- adverb; <menu, menut> quickly + conjunction; <e, et, ed> and + adverb; <sovent> frequently, often -- tapping his chest quickly and frequently
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular oblique plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • pecchez -- noun; oblique plural <pechié> sin, mistake -- sins
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- to God
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • puroffrid -- verb; third person singular preterite <porofrir> present -- offered
  • lo -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- his
  • guant -- noun; oblique singular <gant> glove -- glove
  • AOI -- interjection; <AOI> ... -- ... # unknown element, possibly a war cry, typical of the Chanson de Roland

Morz est Rollant, Deus en ad l'anme es cels.
Li emperere en Rencesvals parvient.
  • morz -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <morir> kill, die -- died
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- has
  • Rollant -- proper name; nominative singular <Rollant> Roland -- Roland
  • Deus -- proper name; nominative singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • l'anme -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <anme, alme, arme, ame> soul, somebody -- his soul
  • es -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of + definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- in...
  • cels -- noun; oblique plural <ciel> heaven -- heaven
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • emperere -- noun; nominative singular <empereor> emperor -- emperor
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • Rencesvals -- proper name; oblique singular <Rencesvals> Roncevaux -- Roncevaux
  • parvient -- verb; third person singular present <parvenir> arrive -- arrives

Il nen i ad ne veie ne senter,
Ne voide tere, ne alne ne plein pied,
Que il n'i ait o Franceis o paien.
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- ...
  • nen -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- ...
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- no
  • veie -- noun; oblique singular <veie> road -- road
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • senter -- noun; oblique singular <sentier> path -- path
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • voide -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <vuit, vuide> empty -- empty
  • tere -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- any piece of ground
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • alne -- noun; oblique singular <alne> ell -- any ell
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- or
  • plein -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <plein, plain> full -- full
  • pied -- noun; oblique singular <pié> foot -- foot
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- where
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- ...
  • n'i -- negation; <ne, nen> not + particle; <i> there -- there... no
  • ait -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- is
  • o -- conjunction; <o, u> or -- ...
  • Franceis -- proper name; oblique singular <Franceis> free, noble, subject of the king of France -- Frenchman
  • o -- conjunction; <o, u> or -- or
  • paien -- noun; oblique singular <paien, pagien> pagan, heathen -- heathen

Carles escriet: "U estes vos, bels niés?"
...
  • Carles -- proper name; nominative singular <Charles> Charles, Charlemagne -- Charles
  • escriet -- verb; third person singular present <escrier> cry out, shout -- cries out
  • u -- interrogative adverb; <ou> where -- where
  • estes -- verb; second person plural present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- are
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • bels -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <bel> dear, beloved, handsome -- beloved
  • niés -- noun; nominative singular <nevot, neveu> grandson, nephew -- my nephew

"Deus! dist li reis, tant me pois esmaier
Que jo ne fui a l'estur cumencer!"
  • Deus -- proper name; nominative singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • dist -- verb; third person singular preterite <dire> say, tell -- said
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • reis -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • tant -- adverb; <tant> so, so much -- so much
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- myself
  • pois -- verb; first person singular present <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- I can
  • esmaier -- verb; infinitive <esmaier> be dismayed -- torment
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- for
  • jo -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- ...
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • fui -- verb; first person singular preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- having been
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- at
  • l'estur -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <estor, estorm> noise, tumult, battle -- of the battle
  • cumencer -- verb; infinitive <comencier> begin, start -- the beginning

Tiret sa barbe cum hom ki est iret;
Plurent des oilz si baron chevaler;
Encontre tere se pasment .XX. millers.
  • tiret -- verb; third person singular present <tirer> pull -- he pulls
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • barbe -- noun; oblique singular <barbe> beard -- beard
  • cum -- conjunction; <com, comme> as -- like
  • hom -- noun; nominative singular <home, ome> man -- a man
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- is
  • iret -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <iré, irié> angry, distressed, furious -- distressed
  • plurent -- verb; third person plural present <plorer> cry, shed tears -- shed tears
  • des -- preposition; <de> of, from + definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- from their
  • oilz -- noun; oblique plural <oeuil, oil> eye -- eyes
  • si -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • baron -- noun; nominative plural <baron> brave warrior, brave knight -- warrior
  • chevaler -- noun; nominative plural <chevalier> knight -- knights
  • encontre -- preposition; <encontre> to, towards, against -- on top of
  • tere -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- earth
  • se pasment -- verb; third person plural present <se pasmer> faint, swoon -- faint
  • .XX. -- number; <.XX.> twenty -- twenty # in Old French, numbers were preceded and followed by a dot
  • millers -- numeral; nominative plural <millier> thousand -- thousand men

Lesson Text

Rollant ad mis l'olifan a sa buche,
Empeint le ben, par grant vertut le sunet. Halt sunt li pui e la voiz est mult lunge,
Granz .XXX. liwes l'oïrent il respundre. Karles l'oït e ses cumpaignes tutes.
Ço dist li reis: "Bataille funt nostre hume!" Li quens Rollant ad la buche sanglente.
De sun cervel rumput en est li temples. L'olifan sunet a dulor e a peine.
Karles l'oït e ses Franceis l'entendent. Ço dist li reis: "Cel corn ad lunge aleine!" Respont dux Neimes: "Baron i fait la peine!
Bataille i ad, par le men escïentre.
Cil l'at traït ki vos en roevet feindre. Adubez vos, si criez vostre enseigne,
Si sucurez vostre maisnee gente:
Asez oez que Rollant se dementet!" Ço sent Rollant que la mort le tresprent,
Devers la teste sur le quer li descent. Desuz un pin i est alet curant,
Sur l'erbe verte s'i est culchet adenz,
Desuz lui met s'espee e l'olifan,
Turnat sa teste vers la paiene gent: Pur ço l'ad fait que il voelt veirement
Que Carles diet e trestute sa gent,
Li gentilz quens, qu'il fut mort cunquerant. Cleimet sa culpe e menut e suvent,
Pur ses pecchez Deu en puroffrid lo guant. AOI Morz est Rollant, Deus en ad l'anme es cels.
Li emperere en Rencesvals parvient. Il nen i ad ne veie ne senter,
Ne voide tere, ne alne ne plein pied,
Que il n'i ait o Franceis o paien. Carles escriet: "U estes vos, bels niés?"
... "Deus! dist li reis, tant me pois esmaier
Que jo ne fui a l'estur cumencer!" Tiret sa barbe cum hom ki est iret;
Plurent des oilz si baron chevaler;
Encontre tere se pasment .XX. millers.

Translation

Roland has put the horn at his mouth,
He places it solidly, with great force he blows it.
The mountains are high and the sound carries very far,
Thirty long miles away they heard it resonate.
Charles heard it, and all his troops.
The king spoke these words: "Our troops fight a battle!"
Count Roland has his mouth full of blood.
The temple of his brains has burst open.
He blows the horn in suffering and in pain.
Charles heard him and his subjects hear him.
The king spoke these words: "That horn has a long breath!"
Duke Naimes answers: "A brave knight is in distress!
There is a battle, to my knowledge.
He who has betrayed him, orders you to do nothing.
Arm yourself, and shout your war cry,
And go to the help of your fair army:
You hear very well that Roland is lamenting."
Roland feels that death overcomes him completely,
it descends from his head to his heart.
He has gone, running, under a pine tree,
there he has lain down on top of the green grass, face downwards,
he puts his sword and the horn under him,
he turned his head towards the pagan people:
He has done this for the reason that he really wants
that Charles and his entire people say
that he the brave count has died as a conqueror.
He confesses his sins aloud, tapping his chest quickly and frequently
For his sins he offered his glove to God.
Roland has died, God has his soul in heaven.
The emperor arrives in Roncevaux.
There is no road nor path,
nor any empty piece of ground, nor any ell or full foot,
where there is no Frenchman or heathen.
Charles cries out: "Where are you, my beloved nephew?"
...
"God!" the king said, "I can torment myself so much
for not having been there at the beginning of the battle!"
He pulls his beard like a man who is distressed;
His warrior knights shed tears from their eyes;
twenty thousand men faint on top of the earth.

Grammar

6 Case: Nominal Declension, Class III

In addition to the two declension classes discussed in Lesson 1, there is a third group of nouns in Old French, which is characterized by a varying number of syllables in the individual paradigms (the so-called imparisyllabic declension). This group of nouns traces back to the third declension in Latin (e.g. lex, legis), which included imparasyllabic nouns as well. Since the nominative singular had a number of syllables different from the other cases (e.g. La. imperator 'emperor-Nom.' vs. imperatorem 'emperor-Acc.'), the paradigm is characterized by a shift of accentuation, which affects the subsequent phonological changes. The following table presents the Latin forms and their Old French equivalents:

Nominal Declension, Latin vs. Old French

    Nom. Sg.   Nom. Pl.
Latin:   imperator 'emperor'   imperatores
Old French:   emperedre   emperedor
    Acc./Obl. Sg.   Acc./Obl. Pl.
Latin:   imperatorem   imperatores
Old French:   emperedor   emperedors

Nominal Declension, Class III

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   emperedre 'emperor'   emperedor
    chantere 'singer'   chanteor
Obl.   emperedor   emperedors
    chanteor   chanteors

Nouns included in this class are, for example: cuens, conte 'count', enfes, enfant 'child', niés, nevo 'nephew', sire, seignor 'lord', traïtre, traïtor 'traitor', and others. These nouns can be divided in four groups; three of them are:

  • masculine nouns referring to agents (verb stem + a suffix -eor or (i)ere), for example: chantere, chanteor 'singer', derived from the verb chanter (stem: chant-) 'sing' or buvere, buveor 'drinker' from the verb bevre (stem: buv-) 'drink';
  • masculine nouns, often of Germanic origin with a suffix -on for cases other than the nominative. These nouns are primarily nouns of persons or proper names. Examples include: ber, baron 'baron', lerre, larron 'thief', compaing, compaignon 'companion', Charles, Charlon 'Charles', Guenes, Ganelon 'Ganelon', and others;
  • feminine nouns that alternate the nominative singular with the other forms in -ain.

Nominal Declension, Feminine Nouns in -ain

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   la none 'the nun'   les nonains
Obl.   la nonain   les nonains

Examples include ante, antain 'aunt', pute, putain 'prostitute', niece, nieçain, 'niece', and others that are less frequent.

The fourth group in Class III consists of a variety of nouns, such as hom, home 'man', enfes, enfant 'child', sire, seignor 'lord'. These are all masculine nouns with the exception of suer, seror 'sister'.

Like the other declensional groups (Lesson 1), the case distinction gradually disappeared: the masculine nominative singular ending (-s) spread to nouns that originally did not have it, as sire > sires (which gives the following paradigm: li sires, le seigneur, li seigneur, les seigneurs). Moreover, one of the two forms, the nominative or oblique, came to be generalized to the rest of the paradigm; most commonly it was the oblique form that generalized: e.g. li gars vs. le garçon 'boy' became li garçons vs. le garçon (plural: li garçon and les garçons). This process came to completion in the Middle French period, when the oblique form eventually was the only form left. In the 13th century, a limited number of (animate) nouns developed double paradigms, each based on the nominative vs. oblique stem, cf:

Nominal Declension, Development of sire

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   li sire   li sire
Obl.   le sire   les sires

Nominal Declension, Development of seigneur

    Sg.   Pl.
Nom.   li seigneurs   li seigneur
Obl.   le seigneur   les seigneurs
7 Verb Conjugation: Present and Past

The verb in Old French expresses person, number, tense, mood, and to some extent aspect. Verb forms typically do not have an obligatory subject personal pronoun, so chant means 'I sing'. Cf. also: chante 'he sings' vs. li reis chante 'the king sings'. A verbal paradigm typically has three forms in the singular (1st, 2nd, and 3rd person) and three in the plural. The majority of the forms are "synthetic," which means that a unique form expresses the entire verbal concept, e.g. fenissons 'end-Present-we'.

Several forms are "analytic," which means that an auxiliary is combined with the main verb, generally the perfective participle or an infinitive. Compare: chant 'I sing' vs. ai chanté 'I have sung'.

On the basis of the ending of the infinitive, we distinguish four conjugations in Old French: verbs in -er, -ir, -oir, and in -re. Of these the verbs in -er and most verbs in -ir are so-called regular verbs. It is accurate to say that as a rule of thumb the verbs in -er, which are most frequent, trace back to the first conjugation verbs in Latin (e.g. Latin cantare survives as chanter in Old French).

There are two types of verb in -ir: those that include an infix -iss- in some forms, and those that do not. The infix traces back to the Latin infix -isc-, an inchoative marker, which conveys the notion of 'to begin', as in tepesco 'I become warm', based on tepeo 'I am warm'. Reflecting this etymological origin, many verbs in -ir are formed on adjectives (OFr. adj. sage 'wise' > v. assagir 'become wise', adj. riche 'rich' > v. enrichir 'become rich'); others are in origin Germanic verbs (e.g. rôtir 'roast', choisir 'choose').

Verbs in -oir go back to second conjugation verbs in -ere in Latin (e.g. Latin manere 'stay' vs. OFr. manoir 'stay'). Verbs in -re trace back to the Latin verbs in -re.

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -er, Present Indicative (chanter)

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -   chant 'I sing'   -ons   chantons
2nd pers.   -es   chantes   -ez   chantez
3rd pers.   -e   chante(t)   -ent   chantent

In some verbs, the accent is on the verb ending throughout the entire paradigm; in others, it shifts to the verb stem for certain forms (1st sg., 2nd sg. and 3rd sg. and pl. present indicative and present subjunctive, and 2nd sg. imperative). This accounts for an alternation pattern, as in the verb amer:

amer 'love'

Present   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   aim 'I love'   amons
2nd pers.   aimes   amez
3rd pers.   aime(t)   aiment

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -ir with infix

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -is   fenis 'I end'   -issons   fenissons
2nd pers.   -is   fenis   -iss(i)ez   feniss(i)ez
3rd pers.   -it   fenist   -issent   fenissent

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -ir without infix

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -   part 'I leave'   -ons   partons
2nd pers.   -s   parz   -ez   partez
3rd pers.   -t   part   -ent   partent

Verbal Conjugation, Verbs in -re

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -   cor 'I run'   -ons   corons
2nd pers.   -s   cors   -ez   corez
3rd pers.   -t   cort   ent   corent

The Old French verb has two past tenses, an imperfective (which traces back to the Latin imperfective in -bam, for example cantabam 'I sang') and a preterite (Fr. passe/simple), which goes back to the Latin perfective form, e.g. cantavi 'I have sung'. Latin cantabam survived as chantoie in Old French; Latin cantavi survived as chantai in Old French.

The imperfective and preterite forms for the various conjugations in Old French are as follows.

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -er (chanter)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -oie   chantoie   -iiens   chantiiens
            -ïons   chantïons
2nd pers.   -oies   chantoies   -iiez   chantiiez
3rd pers.   -oit   chantoit   -oient   chantoient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -ai   chantai   -ames   chantames
2nd pers.   -as   chantas   -astes   chantastes
3rd pers.   -a   chanta   -erent   chanterent

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -ir with infix (fenir)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -issoie   fenissoie   -issiiens   fenissiiens
            -issïons   fenissïons
2nd pers.   -issoies   fenissoies   -issiiez   fenissiiez
3rd pers.   -issoi(e)t   fenissoi(e)t   -issoient   fenissoient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -i   feni   -imes   fenimes
2nd pers.   -is   fenis   -istes   fenistes
3rd pers.   -i   feni   -irent   fenirent

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -ir without infix (partir)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -oie   partoie   -iions   partiions
            -ïons   partïons
            -ïens   partïens
2nd pers.   -oies   partoies   -iiez   partiiez
            -ïez   partïez
3rd pers.   -oit   partoit   oient   partoient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -i   parti   -imes   partimes
2nd pers.   -is   partis   -istes   partistes
3rd pers.   -i   parti   -irent   partirent

Verbal Conjugation, Imperfective and Preterite, Verbs in -re (corre)

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -oie   coroie   -iiens   coriiens
            -ïons   corïons
2nd pers.   -oies   coroies   -iiez   coriiez
3rd pers.   -oit   coroit   oient   coroient
                 
Preterite   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -ui   corui   -umes   corumes
2nd pers.   -us   corus   -ustes   corustes
3rd pers.   -u   coru   -urent   corurent
8 Avoir and Estre

The verbs avoir and estre in Old French have two functions: they function as full lexical elements and as auxiliairies. Avoir is, first of all, a verb of possession; in addition it is used in a common impersonal construction (see Grammar Point 10), and it is an important tense auxiliary (see Grammar Point 9). Estre is a lexical verb conveying existence, a copula, and an auxiliary. The conjugations of both verbs are as follows:

Verbal Conjugation, avoir

Present   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   ai 'I have'   avons
2nd pers.   as   avez
3rd pers.   a   ont
         
Imperfective   Sg.   Pl.    
1st pers.   avoie   'I had'   avïons, aviiens
2nd pers.   avoies   avïez, aviiez    
3rd pers.   avoit   avoient    
             
Preterite   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   oi 'I had'   eümes, oümes
2nd pers.   eüs, oüs   eüstes, oüstes
3rd pers.   ot, out   orent, ourent
         
Participles    
Present participle   aiant
Perfective participle   eüs

Verbal Conjugation, estre

Present   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   sui 'I am'   somes, esmes
2nd pers.   es, ies, iés   estes
3rd pers.   est   sont
         
Imperfective (Type I)   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   iere, ere 'I was'   eriiens, erïons
2nd pers.   ieres, eres   eriiez, erïez
3rd pers.   iert, ert   ierent, erent
    iere, ere    
         
Imperfective (Type II)   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   estoie 'I was'   estiiens, estïons
2nd pers.   estoies   estiiez, estïez
3rd pers.   estoitt   estoient
         
Preterite   Sg.   Pl.
1st pers.   fui 'I was'   fumes
2nd pers.   fus   fustes
3rd pers.   fu   furent
         
Participles    
Present participle   estant
Perfective participle   esté
9 Compound Tenses

While Latin only had one auxiliary, esse, which combined with the perfective particle (e.g., laudauts est 'he is in the state resulting from the praising'), French from its earliest stage had two, estre and avoir, as the following examples show:

Auxiliary estre:

  • alez est en un verger (CdR 11)
  • 'he went into an orchard'
  • murs ne citét n'est remés a fraindre (CdR 5, Lesson 1)
  • 'there is no wall or town left to conquer'

Auxiliary avoir:

  • li reis m'ad tramis ses messages (CdR 181)
  • 'the king has sent me his messages'
  • set anz ad estet en Espaigne (CdR 2, Lesson 1)
  • 'he has spent seven years in Spain'

In Old French the auxiliaries combine with the perfective participle to form four so-called analytic verb forms or compound tenses: present perfect, past perfect (or pluperfect), future perfect, and conditional perfect. For example:

Present Perfect:   ai chanté   'I have sung'
Past Perfect:   avoie chanté   'I had sung'
Future Perfect:   avrai chanté   'I will have sung'
Conditional Perfect:   avroie chanté   'I would have sung'

In Old French, estre is not only a tense auxiliary but a passive auxiliary as well, as the following examples show:

estre, tense auxiliary:

  • alez est en un verger (CdR 11)
  • 'he went into an orchard'

estre, passive auxiliary:

  • la traïsun ne poet estre celee (CdR 1458)
  • 'the treason cannot be kept secret'

In general transitive verbs combine with avoir in compound tenses, while intransitive verbs combine with estre, as in the following examples:

Transitive verb + avoir

  • li reis m'ad tramis ses messages (CdR 181)
  • 'the king has sent me his messages'

Intransitive verb + estre

  • alez est en un verger (CdR 11)
  • 'he has gone into an orchard'

Some verbs combine with avoir or estre according to whether their use is transitive or intransitive, cf.:

morir, intransitive use ('die'):

  • morz est Rollant (CdR 2397, this lesson)
  • 'Roland has died'
  • paien sunt morz a millers (CdR 1439)
  • 'the pagans have died by thousands'

morir, transitive use ('kill'):

  • qui tei a mort France douce a honnie (CdR 2953)
  • '(he) who has killed you has dishonored (our) beloved France'

Reflexive verbs as a rule combine with estre in compound tenses as well, cf:

  • s'i est cuchet (CdR 2358, this lesson)
  • 'he lay down'

But there are many instances with avoir, as in:

  • il s'a vestu
  • 'he has put his clothes on'

With other verbs as well, there is some variation or confusion in the use of auxliaries, cf.:

  • mur ne citet n'i est remés a fraindre (CdR 5, Lesson 1)
  • 'there is no wall or town left to conquer'
  • en la citet nen ad remés paien (CdR 101, Lesson 1)
  • 'in the town no pagan is left'
10 Impersonal Verbs

Impersonal verbs are verbs that ypically occur in the third person singular, with or without a pronominal element, as in:

  • anuite 'it is getting dark'
  • il anuite 'it is getting dark'

Strictly speaking, il in this context is a pronominal element that occupies the place of a pronominal subject, but has no semantic value (it is empty). Most instances of impersonal verbs in Old French do not have this element.

Impersonal verbs are found in all early Indo-European languages and, while many early Indo-European languages had numerous impersonal verbs, their number in most languages decreased with time.

There are three types of impersonal verbs in Indo-European:

  1. impersonal verbs expressing meteorological conditions and events;
  2. impersonal verbs expressing emotions, feelings, and physical experience;
  3. impersonal verbs expressing modality, such as necessity.

These three types are attested in Old French; category 3 verbs increase with time.

10.1 Meteorological conditions and events
  • (il) anuite 'it is getting dark'
  • (il) avesprit 'it is getting dark'
  • (il) ajorne 'the day breaks'
  • (il) neige 'it is snowing'
  • (il) plove 'it is raining'
10.2 Emotions, feelings, and physical experience
  • (il) abelist 'it pleases'
  • (il) membre 'remember'
  • (il) remembre 'remember'
10.3 Modality, such as necessity
  • (il) affiert 'it is fitting'
  • (il) loist 'it is possible'
  • (il) estuet 'it is necessary'
  • (il) semble 'it seems'
  • (il) fault 'it is necessary'
  • (il) covient 'it is necessary'
  • (il) chaut 'it matters, it is important'

In addition to these impersonal verbs, there are also several impersonal expressions in Old French, cf:

  • estre tart a 'to be eager'
  • estre avis a 'to be of the opinion'
  • avoir mestier a 'to be of use to, need'

The person who is undergoing the emotional or physical experience or to whom the modality refers is referred to in the oblique case or a pronominal direct or indirect object:

  • molt est la reine tart 'the queen is very eager'
  • m'est avis 'it seems to me'
  • morir le covient 'he had to die'
  • ni li chalt (CdR 227) 'it does no matter to him'

The verb avoir has been glossed in this on-line course as meaning 'have, be'. Avoir, first of all, is a verb of possession 'have', but in impersonal constructions its meaning becomes 'be', cf.:

  • num ad Rollant 'he has the name Roland; he is called Roland'
  • grifuns i ad 'there are griffins'

The object or person that is present takes the form of an oblique case, as in the preceding example. The constructions are found in Old French with or without il and with or without i, cf:

  • ad + oblique case 'there is' --
  • meillor vassal n'aveit en la curt nul (CdR 231) 'there was no better knight at the court'
  • i + ad + oblique case 'there is' --
  • bataille i ad (CdR 1791, this lesson) 'there is a battle'
  • grifuns i ad (CdR 2544) 'there are griffins'
  • n'i ad cheval (CdR 2522) 'there is no horse'
  • n'i ad castel (CdR 3, Lesson 1) 'there is no castle'
  • il + i + ad + oblique case 'there is' --
  • il nen i ad ne veie ne senter (CdR 2399, this lesson) 'there is no road nor path'
  • que il n'i ait o Franceis o paien (CdR 2401, this lesson) 'where there is no Frenchman nor pagan"

The use of il in these constructions is rather rare in early times, but spreads in the Middle French period; eventually the expression became fixed, including il as well as i. It survives in Modern French as il y a 'there is'.

Old French Online

Lesson 3

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

Saints played an important role in everyday life in the Middle Ages. A saint is a person who is officially recognized by the Church of Rome as having lived a remarkably holy life. Because of their exceptional Christian virtues, saints are assumed to be in heaven, where they are able to intercede for sinners, those who live a less-than-holy life.

With the calendar of saints indicating the days of the individual saints, the Church had introduced their systematic celebration, highlighting their virtuous lives as Christians. Because of their interceding function, saints often were patrons of certain groups, roles that generally trace back to events in their lives. St. Nicolas, for example, was patron saint of sailors because -- according to legends -- he had saved sailors at one point in his life; St. Luke, who originally was believed to be a painter and a physician, was the patron saint of painters and of physicians. Moreover people generally were named after a saint, for whom they tended to develop special devotion.

Outside and inside churches and houses were many statues of saints, each with its own symbols (e.g. St. John the Evangelist with the poisoned cup to which he was condemned). There was a strong hagiographic tradition as well: an important number of medieval documents describe saints' lives, often written by contemporaries or based on stories told by them.

Saints were, so to speak, omnipresent in daily life in the Middle Ages.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The text for this lesson has been taken from La Vie de Saint Alexis, which dates from the mid-11th century and relates the life of Saint Alexis, a young Roman whose life was devoted to God. The legend of St. Alexis is rather international: it is attested in Syria, Greece, and Western Europe. The document discussed here presumably is based on a lengthy written tradition.

The Old French text is a poem of 625 verses, which in all probability was chanted during the liturgy of the saint's day, July 17.

Son of an important and rich Roman senator, Alexis decides on the eve of his wedding to leave Rome and live with the poor. Having distributed his possessions among the poor, he lives for seventeen years in Edessa, spending his days as a beggar. When the locals come to consider him a saint, he leaves the town on a ship and eventually ends up in Ostia, a port close to Rome. In the streets of Rome he encounters his father, who fails to recognize him. Alexis asks to be taken into the household. His father accepts, and Alexis stays there for another seventeen years without being recognized by his family, living as a pauper under the staircase. Refusing to reveal his identity, he sees how his parents and his wife grieve his loss. He patiently undergoes the physical torments he imposes upon himself and the pestering by his father's men. After seventeen years he feels that he is about to die and he calls for his servant: he will write a letter explaining the situation and revealing his indentity. Shortly after his death, the letter is discovered and Alexis is recognized as a saintly figure.

The fragments below describe how Alexis, after seventeen years, returns to Rome and asks his father to take him into his house. They also describe how his parents and his wife fail to recognize him, and spend their time grieving their lost son and husband.

A un des porz ki plus est pres de Rome,
Iloec arivet la nef a cel saint home.
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- one
  • des -- preposition; <de> of, from + definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- of the
  • porz -- noun; oblique plural <port> harbour, port -- ports
  • ki -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> that -- that
  • plus est pres de -- adverb; <plus> more + verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be + preposition; <pres de> close to -- is closest to
  • Rome -- proper name; oblique singular <Rome> Rome -- Rome
  • iloec -- adverb; <iluec, ilec, iluoc> there -- there
  • arivet -- verb; third person singular present <ariver> arrive -- arrives
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • nef -- noun; nominative singular <nef> ship -- ship
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- of
  • cel -- demonstrative; oblique singular masculine <cil> that -- that
  • saint -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <saint> holy -- holy
  • home -- noun; oblique singular <home, ome> man -- man

Quant vit sun regne, durement s'en redutet
De ses parenz, qued il nel recunuissent
E de l'honur del secle ne l'encumbrent.
  • quant -- conjunction; <quant> when -- when
  • vit -- verb; third person singular preterite <veoir> see -- he saw
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • regne -- noun; oblique singular <regne> kingdom, country -- country
  • durement -- adverb; <durement> greatly, sorely, very -- very
  • s'en redutet -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <se> he + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it + verb; third person singular present <redoter> be afraid, fear -- he is worried
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- about
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular oblique plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • parenz -- noun; oblique plural <parent> father, parent -- parents
  • qued -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person plural nominative masculine <il> they -- they
  • nel -- negation; <ne, nen> not + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him...
  • recunuissent -- verb; third person plural subjunctive present <reconoistre> recognize -- recognize
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- ...
  • l'honur -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <onor, enor, anor> honor, respect, esteem, fief -- honors
  • del -- preposition; <de> of, from + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- of the
  • secle -- noun; oblique singular <siecle, secle, seule> earthly life, world -- world
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- ...
  • l'encumbrent -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person plural subjunctive present <encombrer> overload -- overload him with

Eist de la nef e vint andreit a Rome;
  • eist -- verb; third person singular present <issir> go out, come out -- he leaves
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- ...
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • nef -- noun; oblique singular <nef> ship -- ship
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • vint -- verb; third person singular preterite <venir> come, go -- went
  • andreit -- adverb; <endreit> precisely, right, immediately -- directly
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • Rome -- proper name; oblique singular <Rome> Rome -- Rome

Vait par les rues dunt il ja bien fut cointe,
Altra pur altre, mais sun pedre i ancuntret,
  • vait -- verb; third person singular present <aler> go -- he goes
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- through
  • les -- definite article; oblique plural feminine <li> the -- the
  • rues -- noun; oblique plural <rue> street, village -- streets
  • dunt -- relative pronoun; <dont, dunt> of whom, of which, whose -- with which
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • ja -- adverb; <ja, jai> now, already, at once -- already
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- very
  • fut -- verb; third person singular preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- was
  • cointe -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <cointe> refined, clever, elegant -- familiar
  • altra pur altre -- indefinite adjective; oblique singular feminine <altre> other + preposition; <por> for + indefinite adjective; oblique singular feminine <altre> other -- one after the other
  • mais -- conjunction; <mais> more, further, rather -- eventually
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • pedre -- noun; oblique singular <pere> father -- father
  • i -- particle; <i> there -- there
  • ancuntret -- verb; third person singular present <encontrer> meet -- he runs into

Ansembl'ot lui grant masse de ses humes;
Sil reconut, par sun dreit num le numet.
  • ansembl'ot -- preposition; <ensemble od> together with -- together with... (is)
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • grant -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- large
  • masse -- noun; nominative singular <masse> mass -- group
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular oblique plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • humes -- noun; oblique plural <home, ome> man -- men
  • sil -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- and... him
  • reconut -- verb; third person singular preterite <reconoistre> recognize -- he recognized
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- by
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • dreit -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <droit> direct, right, proper -- proper
  • num -- noun; oblique singular <nom, non> name, title -- name
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • numet -- verb; third person singular present <nomer> name, call -- he calls

"Eufemïen, bel sire, riches hom,
Quar me herberges pur Deu an ta maison;
  • Eufemïen -- proper name; nominative singular <Eufemïen> Eufemien -- Eufemien
  • bel -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <bel> dear, beloved, handsome -- dear
  • sire -- noun; nominative singular <seignor> lord -- lord
  • riches -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <riche> powerful, strong, generous -- powerful
  • hom -- noun; nominative singular <home, ome> man -- man
  • quar -- conjunction; <quar, car> for, because -- ...
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • herberges -- verb; second person singular subjunctive present <herbergier> lodge, shelter, receive as guest -- may you lodge
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for the sake of
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • an -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • ta -- possessive; second person singular oblique singular feminine <ton> your -- your
  • maison -- noun; oblique singular <maison> house -- house

Suz tun degrét me fai un grabatum
Empur tun filz dunt tu as tel dolur;
  • suz -- preposition; <sos, soz> under -- under
  • tun -- possessive; second person singular oblique singular masculine <ton> your -- your
  • degrét -- noun; oblique singular <degré> staircase -- staircase
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular indirect object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • fai -- verb; second person singular imperative <faire> make -- make
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • grabatum -- noun; oblique singular <grabatum> simple bed -- simple bed
  • empur -- preposition; <enpur, anpur> for the sake of -- for the sake of
  • tun -- possessive; second person singular oblique singular masculine <ton> your -- your
  • filz -- noun; oblique singular <fil> son -- son
  • dunt -- relative pronoun; <dont, dunt> of whom, of which, whose -- about whom
  • tu -- personal pronoun; second person singular nominative <tu> you -- you
  • as -- verb; second person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- have
  • tel -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <tel> such -- such
  • dolur -- noun; oblique singular <dolor> pain, suffering -- grief

Tut soi amferm, sim pais pur sue amor".
  • tut -- adverb; <tot> entirely -- utterly
  • soi -- verb; first person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- I am
  • amferm -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <enferm> ill, crippled, weak, unhealthy -- weak
  • sim -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus + personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- and thus... me
  • pais -- verb; second person singular imperative <paistre, pestre> feed -- feed
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • sue -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • amor -- noun; oblique singular <amor> love -- love

Quant ot li pedre le clamor de sun filz,
Plurent si oil, ne s'en puet astenir:
  • quant -- conjunction; <quant> when -- when
  • ot -- verb; third person singular present <oir, odir> hear -- hears
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • pedre -- noun; nominative singular <pere> father -- father
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • clamor -- noun; oblique singular <clameor> appeal -- appeal
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • filz -- noun; oblique singular <fil> son -- son
  • plurent -- verb; third person plural present <plorer> cry, shed tears -- shed tears
  • si -- possessive; third person singular nominative plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • oil -- noun; nominative plural <oeuil, oil> eye -- eyes
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • s'en -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <se> he + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- himself...
  • puet -- verb; third person singular present <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- he can
  • astenir -- verb; infinitive <astenir> keep from -- contain

"Por amor Deu e pur mun cher ami,
Tut te durai, boens hom, quanque m'as quis,
Lit ed ostel e pain e carn e vin".
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • amor -- noun; oblique singular <amor> love -- the love
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- of God
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • mun -- possessive; first person singular oblique singular masculine <mon> my -- my
  • cher -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <cher> beloved, expensive -- beloved
  • ami -- noun; object singular <ami> friend -- friend
  • tut -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <tot> all, every, completely -- all
  • te -- personal pronoun; second person singular indirect object <tu> you -- you
  • durai -- verb; first person singular future <doner> give -- I will give
  • boens -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <bon> good -- good
  • hom -- noun; nominative singular <home, ome> man -- man
  • quanque -- pronoun; <quanque> all that -- ...
  • m'as -- personal pronoun; first person singular indirect object <jo, jou, jeu> I + verb; second person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- you have... me
  • quis -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <quere, querre> look for, want, ask -- asked for
  • lit -- noun; oblique singular <lit> bed -- a bed
  • ed -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • ostel -- noun; oblique singular <ostel> house, dwelling -- lodging
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • pain -- noun; oblique singular <pain> bread -- bread
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • carn -- noun; oblique singular <charn, char> flesh, meat -- meat
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • vin -- noun; oblique singular <vin> wine -- wine

Sovent le virent e le pedre e le medra,
E la pulcele quet il out espusede:
Par nule guise unces ne l'aviserent;
  • sovent -- adverb; <sovent> frequently, often -- often
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • virent -- verb; third person plural preterite <veoir> see -- they saw
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- ...
  • le -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- his # case form is rather exceptional in this instance
  • pedre -- noun; nominative singular <pere> father -- father
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • le -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- his # case form and gender distribution are rather exceptional in this instance
  • medra -- noun; nominative singular <mere> mother -- mother
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • pulcele -- noun; nominative singular <pucele> girl, servant, maiden -- girl
  • quet -- relative pronoun; oblique <qui> who -- whom
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • out -- verb; third person singular preterite <avoir, aveir> have, be -- had
  • espusede -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular feminine <esposer> marry -- married
  • par nule guise unces -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of + adjective; oblique singular feminine <nul> no, not any + noun; oblique singular <guise> way, manner + adverb; <onques> once, ever -- never in any way
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- ...
  • l'aviserent -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person plural preterite <aviser> look at, see, recognize, appreciate -- they recognized him

N'il ne lur dist, ne il nel demanderent,
Quels hom esteit ne de quel terre il eret.
  • n'il -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he...
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • lur -- personal pronoun; third person plural indirect object <il> they -- them
  • dist -- verb; third person singular preterite <dire> say, tell -- did... tell
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- and...
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person plural nominative masculine <il> they -- they
  • nel -- negation; <ne, nen> not + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- not...
  • demanderent -- verb; third person plural preterite <demander> ask, ask for -- did... ask
  • quels -- interrogative; nominative singular masculine <quel> what -- who
  • hom -- noun; nominative singular <home, ome> man -- ...
  • esteit -- verb; third person singular imperfective <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- he was
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- from
  • quel -- interrogative; oblique singular feminine <quel> what -- what
  • terre -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- country
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • eret -- verb; third person singular imperfective <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- came

Soventes feiz lur veit grant duel mener
E de lur oilz mult tendrement plurer,
E tut pur lui, unces nïent pur eil.
  • soventes -- adjective; oblique plural feminine <sovent> many -- many
  • feiz -- noun; oblique plural <feiz, veiz> time -- times
  • lur -- personal pronoun; third person plural indirect object <il> they -- them
  • veit -- verb; third person singular present <veoir> see -- he sees
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • duel -- noun; oblique singular <dol, duel> suffering, grief -- grief
  • mener -- verb; infinitive <mener> take, lead, show -- display
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- from
  • lur -- possessive; third person plural oblique plural masculine <lor, leur> their -- their
  • oilz -- noun; oblique plural <oeuil, oil> eye -- eyes
  • mult -- adverb, adjective; <molt, mult, mout> many, much, very -- great
  • tendrement -- adverb; <tendrement> tenderly -- with tenderness
  • plurer -- verb; infinitive <plorer> cry, shed tears -- shed tears
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- ...
  • tut -- adverb; <tot> entirely -- entirely
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • unces nïent -- adverb; <onques> once, ever + adverb; <nïent> not at all -- never
  • pur -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • eil -- personal pronoun; third person plural direct object <il> they -- themselves

Danz Alexis le met el consirrer;
Ne l'en est rien, si'st a Deu aturnét.
  • danz -- noun; nominative singular <dam, dan> sir, lord -- sir
  • Alexis -- proper name; nominative singular <Alexis> Alexis -- Alexis
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • met -- verb; third person singular present <metre, mectre, mettre> put -- takes
  • el -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- in...
  • consirrer -- verb; infinitive <conserrer, consirrer> deprive, resign -- resignation
  • ne l'en est rien -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not + personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it + verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be + indefinite pronoun; <rien> anything -- it does not matter
  • si'st -- adverb; <si> thus, that way, that much + verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- that much... he is
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • aturnét -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular masculine <atorner> turn, prepare -- turned

Soz le degrét ou il gist sur sa nate,
Iluec paist l'um del relef de sa tabla.
  • soz -- preposition; <sos, soz> under -- under
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • degrét -- noun; oblique singular <degré> staircase -- staircase
  • ou -- relative pronoun; <ou, u> where -- where
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • gist -- verb; third person singular present <gesir> lie -- lies
  • sur -- preposition; <seur, soure, sur, sor> on, over, to, above -- on
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • nate -- noun; oblique singular <nate> matting -- matting
  • iluec -- adverb; <iluec, ilec, iluoc> there -- there
  • paist -- verb; third person singular present <paistre, pestre> feed -- feed
  • l'um -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the + personal pronoun; nominative singular <om, on> one -- they
  • del -- preposition; <de> of, from + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- of the
  • relef -- noun; oblique singular <relef> remains, scraps -- remains
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- the
  • tabla -- noun; oblique singular <table> table -- table

A grant poverte deduit sun grant parage;
Ço ne volt il que sa mere le sacet:
Plus aimet Deu que trestut sun linage.
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • poverte -- noun; oblique singular <poverté> poverty, misery -- poverty
  • deduit -- verb; third person singular present <deduire> lead, live -- he lives
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <grant> great, large, tall -- high
  • parage -- noun; oblique singular <parage> family, origin, rank -- social rank
  • ço -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- ...
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • volt -- verb; third person singular present <voloir> want -- does want
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- ...
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular nominative singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • mere -- noun; nominative singular <mere> mother -- mother
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- ...
  • sacet -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <savoir> know -- to know
  • plus -- adverb; <plus> more -- more
  • aimet -- verb; third person singular present <amer> love -- he loves
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • que -- conjunction; <que> than -- than
  • trestut -- reinforcing element; <tres> ... + adjective; oblique singular masculine <tot> all, every, completely -- entire
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • linage -- noun; oblique singular <lignage> lineage, family -- lineage

Trent'e quatre anz ad si sun cors penét:
Deus sun servise li volt guereduner:
Mult li angreget la sue anfermetét.
  • trent'e quatre -- numeral; <trente et quatre> thirty four -- thirty four
  • anz -- noun; oblique plural <an> year -- during... years
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he has
  • si -- adverb; <si> thus, that way, that much -- that way
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • cors -- noun; oblique singular <cors> body -- body
  • penét -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <pener> torture, suffer -- tortured
  • Deus -- proper name; nominative singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • sun -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • servise -- noun; oblique singular <servise> devotion, favor, task -- devotion
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- ...
  • volt -- verb; third person singular present <voloir> want -- wants
  • guereduner -- verb; infinitive <guerredoner> reward -- to reward
  • mult -- adverb, adjective; <molt, mult, mout> many, much, very -- much
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- for him
  • angreget -- verb; third person singular present <angregier> grow worse, become more painful -- becomes more painful
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- ...
  • sue -- possessive; third person singular nominative singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • anfermetét -- noun; nominative singular <enfermeté> physical or moral weakness, illness -- physical weakness

Or set il bien qued il s'en deit aler:
Cel son servant ad a sei apelét.
  • or -- adverb; <or> now -- now
  • set -- verb; third person singular present <savoir> know -- knows
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- well
  • qued -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • s'en deit aler -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <se> he + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it + verb; third person singular present <devoir> have to + verb; infinitive <aler> go -- has to die
  • cel -- demonstrative; oblique singular masculine <cil> that -- ...
  • son -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • servant -- noun; oblique singular <servant> servant -- servant
  • ad -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he has
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • sei -- pronoun personal; third person singular direct object <se> he -- him
  • apelét -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <apeler> accuse, summon, call -- called to see

Lesson Text

A un des porz ki plus est pres de Rome,
Iloec arivet la nef a cel saint home. Quant vit sun regne, durement s'en redutet
De ses parenz, qued il nel recunuissent
E de l'honur del secle ne l'encumbrent. Eist de la nef e vint andreit a Rome; Vait par les rues dunt il ja bien fut cointe,
Altra pur altre, mais sun pedre i ancuntret, Ansembl'ot lui grant masse de ses humes;
Sil reconut, par sun dreit num le numet. "Eufemïen, bel sire, riches hom,
Quar me herberges pur Deu an ta maison; Suz tun degrét me fai un grabatum
Empur tun filz dunt tu as tel dolur; Tut soi amferm, sim pais pur sue amor". Quant ot li pedre le clamor de sun filz,
Plurent si oil, ne s'en puet astenir: "Por amor Deu e pur mun cher ami,
Tut te durai, boens hom, quanque m'as quis,
Lit ed ostel e pain e carn e vin". Sovent le virent e le pedre e le medra,
E la pulcele quet il out espusede:
Par nule guise unces ne l'aviserent; N'il ne lur dist, ne il nel demanderent,
Quels hom esteit ne de quel terre il eret. Soventes feiz lur veit grant duel mener
E de lur oilz mult tendrement plurer,
E tut pur lui, unces nïent pur eil. Danz Alexis le met el consirrer;
Ne l'en est rien, si'st a Deu aturnét. Soz le degrét ou il gist sur sa nate,
Iluec paist l'um del relef de sa tabla. A grant poverte deduit sun grant parage;
Ço ne volt il que sa mere le sacet:
Plus aimet Deu que trestut sun linage. Trent'e quatre anz ad si sun cors penét:
Deus sun servise li volt guereduner:
Mult li angreget la sue anfermetét. Or set il bien qued il s'en deit aler:
Cel son servant ad a sei apelét.

Translation

In one of the ports that is closest to Rome,
There the ship of that holy man arrives.
When he saw his country, he is very worried
About his parents, that they recognize him
And overload him with the honors of the world.
He leaves the ship and went directly to Rome;
He goes through the streets with which he was already very familiar,
One after the other, eventually he there runs into his father,
Together with him is a large group of his men;
And he recognized him, he calls him by his proper name.
"Eufemien, dear Lord, powerful man,
may you lodge me in your house for the sake of God;
Make me a simple bed under your staircase
For the sake of your son, about whom you have such grief;
I am utterly weak and thus feed me for his love".
When the father hears the appeal of his son,
His eyes shed tears, he cannot contain himself:
"For the love of God and for my beloved friend,
I will give you, good man, all you have asked me for,
A bed and lodging and bread and meat and wine."
They saw him often, his father and his mother,
And the girl whom he had married:
They never recognized him in any way;
He did not tell them, and they did not ask,
Who he was nor what country he came from.
Many times he sees them display great grief
And shed tears from their eyes with great tenderness,
Entirely for him, never for themselves.
Sir Alexis takes it in resignation;
It does not matter, that much he is turned to God.
Under the staircase where he lies on his matting,
There they feed him of the remains of the table.
In great poverty he lives his high social rank;
He does not want his mother to know:
He loves God more than his entire lineage.
He has tortured his body that way during thirty-four years:
God wants to reward his devotion:
His physical weakness becomes much more painful for him.
He now knows well that he has to die:
He has called his servant to see him.

Grammar

11 Past Tenses: Uses

In the previous lesson it was said that Old French had an imperfect tense (Fr. imparfait, e.g. chantoie 'I was singing'), a preterite (Fr. passe/ simple or passe/ de/fini, e.g. chantai 'I sang'), and a compound past tense, the perfective present (e.g. ai chanté 'I have sung').

The actual uses of these forms will be discussed in the following paragraphs. It is, however, necessary to include in this discussion the present as well, because that tense is often used as a so-called historical present.

The student may have noticed in the fragments analyzed so far that the present and the three past tenses may alternate in any given sentence, as for example:

(a) the present and the preterite:

    Karles l'oït e ses Franceis l'entendent (CdR 1788, Lesson 2)
    'Charles heard (Pret.) him and his subjects hear (Pres.) him'

(b) the compound tense and the preterite:

    Carles li reis, ...,
    Set anz tuz pleins ad estet en Espaigne:
    Tresqu'en la mer cunquist la tere altaigne (CdR 1-3, Lesson 1)
    'Charles the king, ...,
    has been in Spain a full seven years:
    he conquered (Pret.) the high land up to the sea'

The use of tenses was less strict in early medieval texts than it became from the 13th century onward. Yet even in the early period tense use was not chaotic; there were definite tendencies:

(a) imperfect:

  • refers to past action and state;
  • refers to actions that are durative or repeted;
  • refers to habits;
  • refers to actions that typically are not completed;
  • in later texts the imperfect may also be used to refer to permanent qualities of persons or objects (see also [b]);
  • the imperfect in Old French is less frequent than in later times and is often replaced by the preterite.

Examples:

    il nel demanderent
    Quels hom esteit ne de quel terre il eret (Al. 239-240, this lesson)
    'they did (Pret.) not ask him,
    Who he was (Impf.) nor what country he was (Impf.) from'

(b) preterite:

  • refers to (completed) actions in the past that have no link with the present;
  • is typically found in reference to a sequence of events;
  • refers to permanent characteristics of persons or objects (later to be replaced by the imperfect in this use; cf. [a]);
  • may replace the imperfect.

Examples:

    Blancandrins vint devant Marsiliun (CdR 414)
    'Blancandrin came (Pret.) to see Marsile'
     
    vairs out les oilz et molt fier lu visage (CdR 283)
    'he had (Pret.) grey-blue eyes and a proud face'
     
    li quens Rollant fut noble guerrer (CdR 2066)
    'Count Roland was (Pret.) a noble warrior'

(c) compound tense:

  • refers to action in state of completion;
  • refers to actions that took place in the past, but have an impact on the present;
  • refers to action of the past, just like the preterite.

Examples:

    Carles li reis, ... ,
    Set anz tuz pleins ad estet en Espaigne (CdR 1, Lesson 1)
    'Charles the king, ...,
    has been in Spain a full seven years'
    [and now he is on his way back to France]

(d) historical present:

  • refers to actions that took place in the past as if they are taking place at the moment of narration, enhancing the dramatic effects or liveliness of style;
  • emotional moments in the text often are in the historical present.

Examples:

In a story set in the past, one finds:

    E Deu apelent andui parfitement (Al. 22)
    'And they both beseeched (Pres.) God perfectly'

Changes in tense use often mark a dramatic moment in the text; cf:

    Quant vit sun regne, durement s'en redutet ... (Al. 198, this lesson)
    'When he saw (Pret.) his country, he was (Pres.) very worried'
     
    Puis converserent ansemble longament:
    N'ourent amfant, peiset lur en forment, (Al. 21-22)
    'Then they lived (Pret.) together for a long time,
    they had (Pret.) no children, which was (Pres.) a great grief to them'
12 Definite Article: Forms

The definite article in Old French has the following paradigm:

Definite Article

    Masc. Sg.   Masc. Pl.   Fem. Sg.   Fem. Pl.
Nom.   li   li   la   les
Obl.   le, lo   les   la   les

The vowel of singular forms often disappears in front of another vowel (elision); cf.:

    l'ami   'the friend' (Obl. Sg. Masc.)
    l'amie   'the friend'(Nom./Obl. Sg. Fem.)

As a rule there is no elision in the nominative singular masculine and in the plural:

    li amis   'the friend' (Nom. Sg. Masc.)
    li ami   'the friends' (Nom. Pl. Masc.)

In sequences that include a preposition, a definite article, and a noun starting with a consonant, the definite article le and les may combine with the preposition (enclisis); cf:

    a   +   le   >   al, au
    a   +   les   >   as, aus, aux
                     
    de   +   le   >   del, dou, du
    de   +   les   >   des
                     
    en   +   le   >   el, eu, ou, u
    en   +   les   >   es
13 Definite Article: Uses

Latin did not have definite articles, but in the shift from Latin to the Romance languages definite articles developed out of Latin demonstratives. For French -- with the exception of a few dialects -- the definite article traces back to the Latin demonstrative ille 'that'.

Whereas the use of definite articles in modern French has become almostautomatic, its use in medieval French is motivated. Because of inconsistencies, linguists so far have not been able to pinpoint the precise "rules," but there are definite tendencies.

The definite article in Old French is used when the element in question is known either because it has already been mentioned, or because it is generally known; cf.:

    Rollant ad mis l'olifan a sa buche (CdR 1753, Lesson 2)
    'Roland has put the horn to his mouth'

In this example reference is made to the horn about which there has been much discussion already. Similarly,

    Li empereres se fait ... balz (CdR 96, Lesson 1)
    'the emperor is ebullient'

The emperor is Charlemagne, who from the beginning of the document is the main character.

In the following example reference is made to la feste seint Martin, which is generally known in the Middle Ages:

    Vos le sivrez a la feste seint Michel (CdR 37)
    'you will follow him on the holiday of St. Michael'

A noun may also refer to a unique phenomenon, e.g. the world:

    Bons fut le secles ... (Al. 1)
    'Good was the world ...'

On the whole there is no definite article when the noun has generic value, as in:

    Fers e acers i deit aveir valor (CdR 1362)
    'it is iron and steel that have value'

There is no definite article when the noun is an abstract noun; cf.:

    el num la virgine ki portat salvetét (Al. 89)
    'in the name of the Virgin, who brought salvation'
     
    cum fort pecét m'apresset! (Al. 59)
    'how much sin is tempting me!'

There is no article when the noun refers to a country; cf.:

    de dulce France i ad quinze milliers (CdR 109, Lesson 1)
    'from our beloved France there are fifteen thousand men'

Before the 13th century there generally is no article when the noun refers to peoples or groups of people; cf.:

    Franceis i unt ferut de coeur e de vigur;
    Paien sunt morz a millers (CdR 1438-1439)
    'the French have been striking there with zeal and strength;
    the pagans have died by thousands'

There are a number of expressions including a verb and a direct object in which the noun does not combine with an article, such as:

    merci crier   'beg for mercy'
    messe esculter   'go to mass' (lit.: to mass listen)
    guerre commencer   'start war'
    merci aveir   'have mercy'

There is no definite article in adverbial expressions introduced by a preposition; cf.:

    a grant poverte deduit sun grant parage (Al. 248, this lesson)
    'in great povery he lives his high social rank'

In an ennumeration a noun may be ommited, leaving the definite article behind; cf.:

    al tens Noë ed al tens Abraham ed al David (Al. 6-7)
    'in the time of Noah and in the time of Abraham and in that of David'

The definite article combines often with titles and proper names; cf.:

    Li reis Marsilie (CdR 10, Lesson 1)
    'King Marsilie'
     
    Li quens Rollant (CdR 1785, Lesson 2)
    'Count Roland'

Definite articles may combine with possessives; cf.:

    par le men escïentre (CdR 1791, Lesson 2)
    'to my knowledge'
     
    la tue amurs (CdR 3107)
    'your love'
     
    la sue anfermetét (Al. 278, this lesson)
    'his physical weakness'
14 The Subjunctive: Forms

Old French is characterized by the productive use of the present and past subjunctive. The formation of the two subjunctives is based on two different stems. The present subjunctive is based on the present stem, which also is found in the first person plural indicative; cf.:

Formation of the Present Subjunctive

    Inf.   Pres. Part.   1st Pl. Pres.   Pres. Subju.
    chanter   chantant   chantons   chant
    fenir   fenissant   fenissons   fenisse
    partir   partant   partons   parte

The imperfect subjunctive is based on the perfective stem, found in the past (perfective) participle and the preterite as well; cf.:

Formation of the Imperfective Subjunctive

    Inf.   Past Part.   Pret.   Impf. Subju.
    chanter   chanté   chantai   chantasse
    fenir   feni   fenis   fenisse
    partir   parti   parti   partisse

From a historical perspective, Old French chantasse traces directly to Latin cantavissem (cantav-issem), and like the preterite is based on the perfective stem of the verb: chantai for example traces back to Latin cantavi (cantav-i). The Old French past (or perfective) participle has the same stem as well, because it is based on the Latin perfective stem. This is especially clear in Latin verbs like relinquere 'leave', which have -n- in its present stem, but not in the perfective stem; cf. relinquo 'I leave' vs. reliqui 'I have left', relinquens 'leave-Pres. Part.' vs. relictus 'leave-Pf. Part.'.

The present and imperfect forms of the subjunctive for the various conjugations are as follows.

14.1 Present subjunctive

Present Subjunctive, Verbs in -er (chanter, e.g. chant 'that I may sing') --

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -   chant   -ons   chantons
            -iens   chantiens
2nd pers.   -s   chanz   -iez   chantez
3rd pers.   -t   chant   -ent   chantent

Present Subjunctive, Verbs in -ir with infix (fenir, e.g. fenisse 'that I may end') --

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -isse   fenisse   -issons   fenissons
            -issiens   fenissiens
2nd pers.   -isses   fenisses   -iss(i)ez   feniss(i)ez
3rd pers.   -isse   fenisse   -issent   fenissent

Present Subjunctive, Verbs in -ir without infix (partir, e.g. parte 'that I may leave') --

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -e   parte   -ons   partons
            -iens   partiens
2nd pers.   -es   partes   -ez   partez
3rd pers.   -e   parte   -ent   partent

Present Subjunctive, Verbs in -re (corre, e.g. corre 'that I may run') --

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -e   corre   -ons   corons
2nd pers.   -es   cores   -ez   corez
3rd pers.   -e   core   -ent   corent
14.2 Imperfective subjunctive

Imperfective Subjunctive, Verbs in -er (chanter, e.g. chantasse 'that I sang') --

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -asse   chantasse   -issons   chantissons
            -issiens   chantissiens
2nd pers.   -asses   chantasses   -issoiz   chantissoiz
            -iss(i)ez   chantiss(i)ez
3rd pers.   -ast   chantast   -assent   chantassent

Imperfective Subjunctive, Verbs in -ir with infix (fenir, e.g. fenisse 'that I ended') --

Imperfective   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -isse   fenisse   -issons   fenissons
            -issiens   fenissiens
2nd pers.   -isses   fenisses   -issoiz   fenissoiz
            -iss(i)ez   feniss(i)ez
3rd pers.   -ist   fenist   -issent   fenissent

Imperfective Subjunctive, Verbs in -ir without infix (partir, e.g. partisse 'that I left') --

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -isse   partisse   -issons   partissons
            -issiens   partissiens
2nd pers.   -isses   partisses   -iss(i)ez   partiss(i)ez
3rd pers.   -ist   partist   -issent   partissent

Imperfective Subjunctive, Verbs in -re (corre, e.g. corusse 'that I ran') --

Present   Ending   Sg.   Ending   Pl.
1st pers.   -usse   corusse   -ussons   corussons
2nd pers.   -usses   corusses   -ussoiz   corussoiz
            -uss(i)ez   coruss(i)ez
3rd pers.   -ust   corust   -ussent   corussent
15 The Subjunctive: Uses

The subjunctive is a mood that expresses the speaker's attitude towards the action conveyed by the verb: fear, anger, wish, and so forth. The indicative, by contrast, refers to a plain fact. Compare the following two examples:

    Li reis me done cunseil
    'the king gives me advice'

In this example the speaker makes a simple observation of something that is happening. In the next example the speaker expresses his wish that the event expressed by the verb will take place; cf:

    Que Deus pareîs me duinst
    '(that) God give me access to Heaven'

In Modern French, the use of the subjunctive in main clauses is limited to one or two fixed expressions (e.g. vive la France 'long live France') and to constructions introduced by the particle que 'that', expressing wishes or orders; cf., for example, que personne ne sorte 'nobody should go out'.

In Old French, the use of the subjunctive was more widespread. First, the present as well as imperfect subjunctive were both very much alive. Second, the subjunctive was freely used in subordinate as well as main clauses and its occurrence was semantically motivated.

In main clauses the subjunctive typically expresses wishes and orders, and may or may not be combined with the particle que, si, or car:

    filz, la tue aname el ciel seit absoluthe! (Al. 410)
    'son, may your soul be free in heaven!'
     
    si m'aît Deus
    'God help me'
     
    de vos ait Deus mercit! (CdR 1855)
    'may God have pity upon you'
     
    Deus li otreit seinte beneîçun! (CdR 2245)
    'may God give him his blessing'
     
    paien, mal aies tu!
    'heathen, be damned (lit.: have [Subju.] misery)!'
     
    quar me herberges ... an ta maison (Al. 217, this lesson)
    'may you lodge me in your house'

The second person subjunctive could also function as an imperative marked for its politeness (see Grammar Point 16, Lesson 4).

In subordinate clauses, the subjunctive occurs:

· after verbs expressing a wish; cf.:

    il voelt veirement que Carles diet (CdR 2362-2363)
    'he really wants that Charles said ...'
     
    priet Deu que pareîs li duinst (CdR 2241)
    'he prays to God that He give him access to heaven'

· after verbs expressing the notion of 'thinking', e.g. penser 'think', m'est avis 'it seems to me', cuider 'think', croire 'believe'; cf.:

    ne sai le lieu ... u t'alge querre (Al. 133-134)
    'I do not know the place where to look (Subju.) for you'

· after verbs expressing an order:

    je vos defend que n'i adeist nuls hom (CdR 2437)
    'I order you that no one get (Subju.) close'

· after verbs expressing doubt, possibility, or necessity; cf.:

    se mei leüst, si t'oüsse guardét (Al. 490)
    'if it had been allowed, I would have protected you'

· after verbs expressing fear; cf.:

    durement s'en redutet..., qued il nel recunuissent (Al. 198-199, this lesson)
    'he is very worried that they [might] recognize (Subju.) him'

· in indirect interrogative constructions, especially after a negation:

    ne set qu'il face
    'he does not know what to do (Subju.)'

· after negated or hypothetical clauses; cf.:

    n'i ad castel ki devant lui remaigne (CdR 4, Lesson 1)
    'there is no castle that resists (Subju.) him'
     
    nuls n'en i at ki n'alget malendus (Al. 554)
    'there is nobody who leaves (Subju.) in bad shape'

· in adverbial clauses expressing time and referring to future events; cf.:

    n'en descendrat ...
    enceis qu'en seient .VII.C. espees traites (CdR 810-811)
    'he will not come down
    before seven hundred swords have been (Subju.) unsheathed'

Old French Online

Lesson 4

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

As noted in the Introduction to Lesson 3, Old French literature includes several works that praise the lives or martyrdom of saints. Although most saints were historical figures, a few were instead the product of popular imagination. One of the latter figures was, in all likelihood, Saint Eulalia, whose martyrdom shows striking similarities with that of St. Agnes, a young Roman martyr.

According to popular belief, St. Eulalia of Mérida (a.k.a. St. Eulalia of Barcelona) was a saint and martyr who died in 304 at the age of twelve under Maximian, ruler under Emperor Diocletian. In 304, Christianity was not yet the official religion of the Roman Empire.

In 878, bones were identified in Barcelona as those of St. Eulalia, which triggered the saint's cult there and in France as well. In Spain, St. Eulalia was one of the most popular saints. In art she typically is represented with the martyr's palm, and often a dove flies out of her mouth. Our text selection will show why she is represented in that way.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The text of this lesson, La Cantilène de Sainte Eulalie, is one of the earliest Old French documents. Like the previous document, it has a liturgical background and was in fact a hymn written to praise the Christian virtues of the saint in question. The hymn praises the saint's stamina: her Christian faith and her love of God remain unshaken in the face of material temptations, threats of torture, and ultimately physical suffering. Having survived the flames, she eventually is decapitated and her soul goes straight to heaven. The narrator then invites readers and listeners to pray that St. Eulalia will intercede on their behalf.

For various scholarly reasons it has been assumed that the text dates from 882 and was written in the north of France. There is no consensus among scholars whether this text is a poem or, rather, poetic prose. Earlier Latin texts may have been a source of inspiration for this document. The reader will notice a relatively high incidence of Latin words in this hymn, which counts only 29 lines (e.g. anima, clementia, post, or Christus). The use of cases is more consistent than we have noticed in the texts discussed so far.

The text also has a number of archaisms in word order patterns, cf. the sequence genitive + noun as in li Deo inimi, the sequence direct object + verb as in qu'elle Deo raneiet, or the sequence direct object + infinitive as in volt lo seule lazsier (see also Grammar Point 17). The syntactic structures are more complex than they have been so far: there are several rather complex subordinate constructions involving a subjunctive form of the verb, e.g. elle no'nt eskoltet les ... conselliers qu'elle Deo raneiet or il li enortet, dont lei nonque chielt, qued elle fuiet lo nom..., ell'ent aduret lo ... element.

The nothern origin of the text is illustrated by a certain number of features, for example retention of [k] before [a] as in cose 'thing', but chief 'head' with a palatalized initial consonant.

Buona pulcella fut Eulalia,
Bel auret corps, bellezour anima.
  • buona -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <bon> good -- good
  • pulcella -- noun; nominative singular <pucele> girl, servant, maiden -- a girl
  • fut -- verb; third person singular preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- was
  • Eulalia -- proper name; nominative singular <Eulalia> Eulalia -- Eulalia
  • bel -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <bel> dear, beloved, handsome -- beautiful
  • auret -- verb; third person singular pluperfect <avoir, aveir> have, be -- she had # very unusual form which traces back to Latin habuerat 3rd sg. pluperfect 'she had had'; had preterite value in Old French
  • corps -- noun; oblique singular <cors> body -- a body
  • bellezour -- adjective; comparative oblique singular feminine <bel> dear, beloved, handsome -- more beautiful
  • anima -- noun; oblique singular <anima> soul -- a soul # Latin word anima, animae

Voldrent la veintre li Deo inimi,
Voldrent la faire diaule servir.
  • voldrent -- verb; third person plural pluperfect <voloir> want -- wanted # very unusual form which traces back to Latin voluerant 3rd pl. pluperfect 'they had wanted'; had preterite value in Old French
  • la -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object feminine <il> he -- her
  • veintre -- verb; infinitive <veintre> vanquish, conquer, overcome -- overcome
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • Deo -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- of God
  • inimi -- noun; nominative plural <enemi> enemy, devil -- enemies
  • voldrent -- verb; third person plural pluperfect <voloir> want -- they wanted # very unusual form which traces back to Latin voluerant 3rd pl. pluperfect 'they had wanted'; had preterite value in Old French
  • la -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object feminine <il> he -- her
  • faire -- verb; infinitive <faire> make -- to make
  • diaule -- noun; oblique singular <deable, diavle> devil -- the devil
  • servir -- verb; infinitive <servir> serve -- serve

Elle no'nt eskoltet les mals conselliers
Qu'elle Deo raneiet chi maent sus en ciel.
  • elle -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- she
  • no'nt -- negation; <non> not + adverb; <ent, end> subsequently -- not...
  • eskoltet -- verb; third person singular present <escolter> listen to, pay attention to -- does listen to
  • les -- definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • mals -- adjective; oblique plural masculine <mal> bad, mean, wretched -- mean
  • conselliers -- noun; oblique plural <conseillier, conseilleor> counsellor, advisor -- men who advise
  • qu'elle -- conjunction; <que> that + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- that she
  • Deo -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • raneiet -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <renoier, renier> abjure, deny -- abjure
  • chi -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • maent -- verb; third person singular present <maindre> stay, remain -- lives
  • sus en -- adverb; <sus, suz> up, above + preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- right up in
  • ciel -- noun; oblique singular <ciel> heaven -- heaven

Ne por or ned argent ne paramenz,
Por manatce regiel ne preiement,
Niule cose non la pouret omque pleier,
La polle sempre non amast lo Deo menestier.
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- not
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • or -- noun; oblique singular <or> gold -- gold
  • ned -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • argent -- noun; oblique singular <argent> silver, money, riches -- money
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- nor
  • paramenz -- noun; oblique plural <parament> finery, precious object -- precious objects
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- because of
  • manatce -- noun; oblique singular <menace, manace> menace -- menaces
  • regiel -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <regal> royal, of the king -- royal
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- not... or
  • preiement -- noun; oblique singular <priement> prayer -- begging
  • niule -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <nul> no, not any -- one
  • cose -- noun; nominative singular <chose, cose> thing, affair, creature -- thing
  • non -- negation; <non> not -- not
  • la -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object feminine <il> he -- her
  • pouret -- verb; third person singular pluperfect <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- could # very unusual form which traces back to Latin potuerat 3rd sg. pluperfect 'had been able'; had preterite value in Old French
  • omque -- adverb; <onques> once, ever -- ever
  • pleier -- verb; infinitive <ploier> bend, yield -- to make yield from
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- ...
  • polle -- noun; nominative singular <polle> girl -- ...
  • sempre -- adverb; <sempres, sempre> always, immediately -- continuously
  • non -- negation; <non> not -- ...
  • amast -- verb; third person singular subjunctive imperfective <amer> love -- loving
  • lo -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- ...
  • Deo -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God's
  • menestier -- noun; oblique singular <menestier> service, profession -- service

E por o fut presentede Maximiien,
Chi rex eret a cels dis soure pagiens.
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • o -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <o, ou, euc> this -- this reason
  • fut -- verb; third person singular preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- she was
  • presentede -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular feminine <presenter> present, offer, bring before the judge -- brought before
  • Maximiien -- proper name; oblique singular <Maximiien> Maximian -- Maximian
  • chi -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • rex -- noun; nominative singular <regem> king -- king # Latin word rex, regis
  • eret -- verb; third person singular imperfective <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- was
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • cels -- demonstrative; oblique plural masculine <cil> that -- those
  • dis -- noun; oblique plural <di> day -- days
  • soure -- preposition; <seur, soure, sur, sor> on, over, to, above -- over
  • pagiens -- noun; oblique plural <paien, pagien> pagan, heathen -- the pagans

Il li enortet, dont lei nonque chielt,
Qued elle fuiet lo nom christiien
Ell'ent aduret lo suon element.
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object feminine <il> he -- her
  • enortet -- verb; third person singular present <enorter> exhort, urge, seduce -- urges
  • dont -- relative pronoun; <dont, dunt> of whom, of which, whose -- but
  • lei -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object feminine <il> he -- she
  • nonque -- adverb; <nonque> never -- never
  • chielt -- impersonal verb; third person singular present <chaloir> concern, matter -- is interested
  • qued -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • elle -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- she
  • fuiet -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <fuir, fuier> flee from, abandon -- abandon
  • lo -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • nom -- noun; oblique singular <nom, non> name, title -- name
  • christiien -- adjective; oblique singular <chrestien> christian -- of christian
  • ell'ent -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he + adverb; <ent, end> subsequently -- and... subsequently
  • aduret -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <adurer> worship -- worship
  • lo -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- ...
  • suon -- possessive; third person singular oblique masculine <son> his -- his
  • element -- noun; oblique singular <element> force, energy, god -- god

Melz sostendreiet les empedementz
Qu'elle perdesse sa virginitét.
Por os furet morte a grand honestét.
  • melz -- comparative adverb; <miels, mels> better, rather -- rather
  • sostendreiet -- verb; third person singular conditional <sostenir> sustain, support -- she would undergo
  • les -- definite article; oblique plural masculine <li> the -- ...
  • empedementz -- noun; oblique plural <empedement> persecution -- persecution
  • qu'elle -- conjunction; <que> than + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- than...
  • perdesse -- verb; third person singular subjunctive imperfective <perdre> lose, perish -- lose
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- her
  • virginitét -- noun; oblique singular <virginitét> spiritual purity, christian purity -- spiritual purity
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • os -- demonstrative; oblique plural neuter <o, ou, euc> this -- these reasons
  • furet -- verb; third person singular pluperfect <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- ... # very unusual form which traces back to Latin fuerat 3rd sg. pluperfect 'she had been'; had preterite value in Old French
  • morte -- verb; perfective participle nominative singular feminine <morir> kill, die -- she died
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- in
  • grand -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • honestét -- noun; oblique singular <honestét> honor -- honor

Enz enl fou la getterent, com arde tost.
Elle colpes non auret, por o nos coist.
A czo nos voldret concreidre li rex pagiens;
Ad une spede li roveret tolir lo chief.
  • enz -- adverb, reinforcing element; <ens, enz> ... -- ... # reinforces the preposition en
  • enl -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- into the
  • fou -- noun; oblique singular <feu, fou> fire, family -- fire
  • la -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object feminine <il> he -- her
  • getterent -- verb; third person plural preterite <geter, giter> throw, reject, utter -- they threw
  • com -- conjunction; <com, cum> in order that -- so that
  • arde -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <ardoir, ardre> burn -- she would burn
  • tost -- adverb; <tost> soon, immediately, quickly -- quickly
  • elle -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- she
  • colpes -- noun; oblique plural <colpe, corpe, cope> sin, mistake -- sins
  • non -- negation; <non> not -- no
  • auret -- verb; third person singular pluperfect <avoir, aveir> have, be -- had # very unsual form which traces back to Latin habuerat 3rd sg. pluperfect 'she had had'; had preterite value in Old French
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • o -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <o, ou, euc> this -- this reason
  • nos coist -- negation; <non> not + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <se> he + verb; third person singular preterite <cuire> cook, burn -- she did not burn
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • czo -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it -- this
  • nos -- negation; <non> not + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <se> he -- not
  • voldret -- verb; third person singular pluperfect <voloir> want -- did...want # very unusual form which traces back to Latin voluerat 3rd sg. pluperfect 'he had wanted'; had preterite value in Old French
  • concreidre -- verb; infinitive <concreidre> give in -- to give in
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • rex -- noun; nominative singular <regem> king -- king # Latin word rex, regis
  • pagiens -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <paien> pagan, heathen -- pagan
  • ad -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- with
  • une -- indefinite article; oblique singular feminine <un> a -- a
  • spede -- noun; oblique singular <espee> sword -- sword
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object feminine <il> he -- ...
  • roveret -- verb; third person singular pluperfect <rover> ask, call upon, order -- he ordered # very unusual form which traces back to Latin rogaverat 3rd sg. pluperfect 'he had ordered'; had preterite value in Old French
  • tolir -- verb; infinitive <tolir> take off, cut off -- to (be) cut off
  • lo -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- her
  • chief -- noun; oblique singular <chief> head -- head

La domnizelle celle kose non contredist:
Volt lo seule lazsier, si ruovet Krist.
In figure de colomb volat a ciel.
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • domnizelle -- noun; nominative singular <damoiselle> girl of noble birth -- girl
  • celle -- demonstrative; oblique singular feminine <cil> that -- that
  • kose -- noun; oblique singular <chose, cose> thing, affair, creature -- idea
  • non -- negation; <non> not -- not
  • contredist -- verb; third person singular preterite <contredire> oppose, resist -- did oppose
  • volt -- verb; third person singular present <voloir> want -- she wants
  • lo -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- ...
  • seule -- noun; oblique singular <siecle, secle, seule> earthly life, world -- earthly life
  • lazsier -- verb; infinitive <laissier> leave, let, abandon -- to abandon
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and
  • ruovet -- verb; third person singular present <rover> ask, call upon, order -- she calls upon
  • Krist -- proper name; oblique singular <Christ> Christ -- Christ
  • in -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • figure -- noun; oblique singular <figure> form, person, character -- the form
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • colomb -- noun; oblique singular <colon, colomb> pigeon, dove -- a dove
  • volat -- verb; third person singular preterite <voler> fly -- she flew
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • ciel -- noun; oblique singular <ciel> heaven -- heaven

Tuit oram que por nos degnet preier
Qued auuisset de nos Christus mercit
Post la mort et a lui nos laist venir
Par souue clementia
  • tuit -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <tot> all, every, completely -- all
  • oram -- verb; first person plural imperative <orer> pray -- let us pray
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • nos -- personal pronoun; first person plural direct object <nos> we -- us
  • degnet -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <daignier> deign -- she will deign
  • preier -- verb; infinitive <prier, preier> pray, beg, beseech -- to pray
  • qued -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • auuisset -- verb; third person singular subjunctive imperfective <avoir, aveir> have, be -- may have
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- on
  • nos -- personal pronoun; first person plural direct object <nos> we -- us
  • Christus -- proper name; nominative singular <Christus> Christ -- Christ # Latin word Christus, Christi
  • mercit -- noun; oblique singular <merci> grace, mercy, pity -- mercy
  • post -- preposition; <post> after -- after # Latin word post
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- ...
  • mort -- noun; oblique singular <mort> death -- death
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- Him
  • nos -- personal pronoun; first person plural direct object <nos> we -- us
  • laist -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <laissier> leave, let, abandon -- may allow
  • venir -- verb; infinitive <venir> come, go -- to come
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- through
  • souue -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- His
  • clementia -- noun; oblique singular <clementiam> grace -- grace # Latin word clementia, clementiae

Lesson Text

Buona pulcella fut Eulalia,
Bel auret corps, bellezour anima. Voldrent la veintre li Deo inimi,
Voldrent la faire diaule servir. Elle no'nt eskoltet les mals conselliers
Qu'elle Deo raneiet chi maent sus en ciel. Ne por or ned argent ne paramenz,
Por manatce regiel ne preiement,
Niule cose non la pouret omque pleier,
La polle sempre non amast lo Deo menestier. E por o fut presentede Maximiien,
Chi rex eret a cels dis soure pagiens. Il li enortet, dont lei nonque chielt,
Qued elle fuiet lo nom christiien
Ell'ent aduret lo suon element. Melz sostendreiet les empedementz
Qu'elle perdesse sa virginitét.
Por os furet morte a grand honestét. Enz enl fou la getterent, com arde tost.
Elle colpes non auret, por o nos coist.
A czo nos voldret concreidre li rex pagiens;
Ad une spede li roveret tolir lo chief. La domnizelle celle kose non contredist:
Volt lo seule lazsier, si ruovet Krist.
In figure de colomb volat a ciel. Tuit oram que por nos degnet preier
Qued auuisset de nos Christus mercit
Post la mort et a lui nos laist venir
Par souue clementia

Translation

Eulalia was a good girl,
She had a beautiful body and an even more beautiful soul.
The enemies of God wanted to overcome her,
They wanted to make her serve the devil.
She does not listen to the mean men who advise
That she abjure God, who lives right up in heaven.
Not for gold, nor money, nor precious objects,
Not because of royal menaces or begging,
Not one thing could ever make her yield
From continuously loving God's service.
And for this reason she was brought before Maximian,
Who in those days was king over the pagans.
He urges her, but she is never interested,
That she abandon the name of christian
And subsequently worship his god.
She would rather undergo persecution
Than lose her spiritual purity.
For these reasons she died in great honor.
They threw her into the fire so that she would burn quickly.
She had no sins, for this reason she did not burn.
The pagan king did not want to give in to this;
He ordered her head to be cut off with a sword.
The girl did not oppose that idea:
She wants to abandon earthly life, and she calls upon Christ.
In the form of a dove she flew to heaven.
Let us all pray that she will deign to pray for us
That Christ may have mercy on us
And may allow us to come to Him after death
Through His grace.

Grammar

16 Imperative

The imperative is a mood that, in direct address, expresses an order, a request, or a suggestion. The imperative may be negated:

    ne vus esmaiez! (CdR 27) 'do not worry'
    vs. tais, Oliver (CdR 1026) 'be silent, Oliver'

Verbs in Old French have two imperative forms, the second person singular and the second person plural, which are used when one addresses the person or persons with whom one is talking; cf.:

Imperative, 2nd Sg. and 2nd Pl.

Imperative       2nd Sg.   2nd Pl.
    Verbs in -er   chante   chantez
    Verbs in -ir, with infix   fenis   fenissiez
        fenissez    
    Verbs in -ir, without infix   part   partez
    Verbs in -re   cor   corez
             
    estre   soies   soiiez
            soiez
    avoir   aie(s)   aiiez
            aiez

In addition, there is a first person plural imperative, which rather is an adhortative, e.g. chantons 'let us sing'. Its forms are as follows:

Imperative, 1st Pl.

Imperative       1st Pl.
    Verbs in -er   chantons
    Verbs in -ir with infix   fenissons
    Verbs in -ir without infix   partons
    Verbs in -re   corons
         
    estre   soiiens, soions
    avoir   aiiens, aions

Verbs with varying stress patterns (e.g. aimer, aim 'I love' [stress on the stem] vs. amons 'we love' [stress on the ending], see Lesson 2), have similar stress patterns for the imperative forms; the singular forms have no ending, the plural forms are identical to those of the present indicative:

Imperative, Verbs with varying stress patterns

Imperative       2nd Sg.   1st Pl.   2nd Pl.    
    aimer 'love'   aim   amons   amez    
    tenir 'hold'   tien   tenons   tenez    
    dire   'say'   di   dimes   dites
    faire   'make'   fai   faimes   faites
    croire 'believe'   croi   creons   creez    
    boire   'drink'   beif   bevons   bevez
        boif   buvons   buvez    

The imperative often combines with the particle car, which functions as a reinforcing element:

    Rollant, l'olifant car sunez (CdR 1059) 'Roland, blow the horn'
    Car chevalchiez, barun! 'Ride, knights!'

In polite expressions the second person subjunctive could have imperative value as well, in main clauses with or without particle, e.g. car, which here again functions as a reinforcing element; cf.:

    quar me herberges ... (Al. 217, Lesson 3) 'may you lodge me' > 'lodge me'

Finally, infinitives could function as imperatives as well, especially in negation; they then have the value of a second person singular imperative; cf.:

    Sire cumpainz, amis, nel dire ja! (CdR 1113)
    'Sir companion, friend, never say that!

In affirmative uses, the infinitive is preceded by de, the definite article, and or in clause-initial position. Often the imperative then refers to the first person plural and has adhortative value; cf.:

    or del mangier 'well let's eat'
    or du ferir 'let's strike!'
17 Word Order

When discussing word order patterns including subjects and direct objects, linguists typically refer to the order of nominal elements; in the ordering of pronominal elements non-syntactic factors (e.g. prosodic factors) play an important role.

The well-established case system in Latin allowed for word order variation. Consequently, for pragmatic reasons or reasons of emphasis, for example, word order in Latin could vary, which however did not mean than Latin word order was indiscriminately "free". There were clearcut tendencies, such as:

· the direct object in unmarked sequence preceded the finite verb; cf.:

    Caesar   Gallorum   animos   verbis   confirmavit
    Caesar-Nom.   Gauls-Gen.   minds-Acc.   words-Abl.   comfort-Pf.-3Pl.
    'Caesar comforted the minds of the Gauls with his words'

· the genitive as a rule preceded the head noun in unmarked order; cf.:

    Caesaris   adventus
    Caesar-Gen.   approach
    'Caesar's approach'

· in comparative constructions the ablative of comparison tended to precede the adjective proper; cf.:

    luce   clarior
    light-Abl.   bright-Comp.
    'brighter than light'

· the subject as topic of the sentence occurred in clause-initial position. As a result the unmarked word order of nominal elements in Latin was Subject + Direct Object + Verb; cf.:

    Ariovistus   legatos   ad   eum   mittit
    Ariovistus-Subj.   messengers-Dir. Obj.   to   him   send-Pres.
    'Ariovistus sends messengers to him'

In the course of history these Latin ordering patterns, which had been inherited from Proto-Indo-European, were reversed. In Old French, therefore, the direct object follows the finite verb, the genitive follows the noun, and the referent follows the adjective.

· verb + direct object:

    esguardat la pulcela (Al. 56) 'he looked at the girl'
    cunquist la tere altaigne (CdR 2, Lesson 1) 'he conquered the high land'

Similarly, with a predicate:

    Li empereres se fait e balz e liez (CdR 96, Lesson 1)
    'the emperor is ebullient as well as joyful'

· noun + genitive:

    la cambre sum pedre (Al. 74) 'the room of his father'

· adjective + referent:

    mains riches de mon pere (Palefroi 407) 'less rich than my father'
    plus de .IIII. milliers 'more than four thousand'
    chevalier ... plus vieil de lui (Palefroi 658-60) 'a knight older than he'

In general terms it is accurate to say that word order in Old French was well on its way to developing the patterns that are typical of the modern language, but there was more variety and many structures still featured archaic characteristics.

The archaic order object + verb, for example, survived for a long time in subordinate clauses, especially in relative clauses; cf.:

    Marsilie ..., ki Deu nen aimet 'Marsilie ..., who does not love God,'
    Mahumet sert e Apollin recleimet (CdR 7-8, Lesson 1) 'serves Mahomet and invokes Satan'

Similarly the next example with a prepositional phrase:

    n'i ad castel ki devant lui remaigne (CdR 3)
    'there is no castle that resists him'

In other constructions as well one may find archaisms, as in those including an infinitive preceded by its direct object:

    voldrent la faire diaule servir (Eul. 4, this lesson)
    'they want her to serve the devil'

Other sequences are attested as well, but in given contexts. When the subordinate clause is introduced by a relative pronoun in direct object function, the sequence becomes, Complement + Subject + Verb, as in:

    la dame ... que li chevaliers tant aima
    'the lady whom the knight loved that much'

Verb + Subject + Complement typically is attested in interrogative sentences.

A typical construction in Old French is what generally is referred to as subject inversion: when the clause is introduced by a complement, the subject follows the finite verb. Similarly, when the clause is introduced by an adverb or an adverbial construction, the subject commonly follows the finite verb:

    Sur palies blancs siedent cil cevaler (CdR 110, Lesson 1)
    'On white precious clothes the knights are seated'
    ço sent Rollant que ... (CdR 2355)
    'Roland feels that ...'

Similarly, in interjections we frequently find subject inversion:

    Deus! dist li reis, tant me pois esmaier (CdR 2412, Lesson 2)
    'God, the king said, I can torment myself'
18 Demonstratives

Whereas Latin had a demonstrative system based on three elements, French from its earliest times had a system based on two demonstratives; cf.:

Demonstratives, Latin vs. Old French

    Latin   Old French
this [close to me]   hic   cist 'this'
that [close to you]   iste    
that [close to him/her]   ille   cil ' that'

Old French therefore made a distinction between 'this' and 'that'. The forms cist and cil trace back to Latin iste and ille respectively, to which a reinforcing demonstrative element ecce has been added: ecce + istum > cist and ecce + illum > cil.

The inflected forms of the demonstratives in Old French are as follows:

Declension of Demonstratives, cist 'this'

cist 'this'   Masculine   Feminine
Nom. Sg.   (i)cist   (i)ceste
Obl. Sg.   (i)cest   (i)ceste
    (i)cet    
Obl. Sg. (stressed)   (i)cestui   (i)cest(e)i
         
Nom. Pl.   (i)cist   (i)cestes, (i)cez, (i)ces
Obl. Pl.   (i)cez   (i)cestes, (i)cez, (i)ces
    (i)ces    

Declension of Demonstratives, cil ' that'

cil 'that'   Masculine   Feminine
Nom. Sg.   (i)cil   (i)cele
Obl. Sg.   (i)cel   (i)cele
Obl. Sg. (stressed)   (i)celui   (i)cel(e)i
         
Nom. Pl.   (i)cil   (i)celes
Obl. Pl.   (i)cels   (i)celes, (i)ces
    (i)ceus    

The prefix i- is a reinforcing element.

To some extent the original demonstrative distinctions are still present in the early uses in Old French: cist 'here' referred to elements within the range (in time and space) of the speaker and the person spoken to; cil 'that' referred to elements close to a third person.

Cist and cil originally were used both as adjectival and pronominal elements; cf. adjectival uses:

    en cest païs 'in this country'
    en ceste ville 'in this town'
    en celle ville 'in that town'

Pronominal use:

    la u cist furent (CdR 108, Lesson 1)
    'there were these were'

In time, a preference developed by which cist came to be used as an adjectival element, and cil as a pronominal element. Some of the individual forms of the paradigms underwent this change rapidly, others survived much longer. Adjectival cels and celes, for example, relatively soon gave way to cez and ces in that function.

Demonstratives in Old French have deictic function--pointing out elements that are near or further away--and sometimes defining function. In these instances they are similar to definite articles; cf.:

    sur palies blancs siedent cil cevaler (CdR 110, Lesson 1)
    'on white precious clothes the knights are seated'

In order to reinforce the deictic value of demonstratives, speakers started to use the adverbial particles -ci and -la. The particle was attached to the demonstrative or its noun. Instances are attested from the 12th century onward.

The demonstrative paradigms in Old French also included "neuter" forms. These forms were not part of the gender system as such, which was based on the distinction masculine vs. feminine; they refer to elements that are best translated in English as 'it', being elements of indefinite gender; cf.:

Neuter   cist   cil
Nom. sg.   (i)cest   (i)cel
Obl. Sg.   (i)cest   (i)cel
         
Nom. Pl.   -   -
Obl. Pl.   -   -

There also existed an isolated neuter form that traces back to Latin ecce + hoc: ce, with a stressed form ço. Ce, and especially ço, is frequently used in Old French in clause-initial position in combination with verbs such as dire 'say', croire 'believe', sentir 'feel', voir 'see'; the construction is followed by a subordinate clause or by direct speech; cf.:

    Ço dist li reis: "Cel corn ad lunge aleine!" (CdR 1789, Lesson 2)
    'The king spoke these words: "That horn has a long breath!"'
     
    Ço sent Rollant que la mort le trespent (CdR 2355, Lesson 2)
    'Roland feels that death overcomes him completely'

In addition to compound forms, a non-compound form survived as well in Old French: Latin hoc > Old French o, ou, euc. The form could be used as subject as well as object, often referring to the preceding clause or sentence; cf.:

    E por o fut presentede Maximiien (Eul. 11, this lesson)
    'and for this she was brought before Maximian'

It became obsolete by the end of the 12th century, surviving in a few fixed epression and phrases only.

19 Negation

The most important negating element in Old French is the particle ne, nen. It precedes the (finite) verb, following the inherited pattern from Latin; cf.:

    ne s'en puet astenir (Al. 222, Lesson 3)
    'he cannot contain himself'
     
    ço ne volt il que sa mere le sacet (Al. 249, Lesson 3)
    'he does not want his mother to know'

The negating element often is reinforced by another element that itself generally has no negating value in origin, cf.:

· nouns (originally) referring to small elements or elements of little value, such as pas 'step', point 'point', goutte 'drop', mie 'crumb', rien '(some)thing', chose 'thing', and many others. Whereas ne tends to precede the finite verb, the nominal element follows; cf.:

    Rollant, ki ne l'otriet mie (CdR 194)
    'Roland, who does not appreciate it'

On the whole this type of negation is slightly stronger than negated clauses with just the element ne. This emphatic value eroded with time and some of the elements grammaticalized and came to be combined with ne to form the most common negating device in later French; cf. il ne mange pas 'he does not eat'.

· adjectives or pronominal elements, such as aucun 'some, someone', or nul 'no one, not any'; cf.:

    niule cose non la pouret omque pleier (Eul. 9, this lesson)
    'not one thing could ever make her yield'

· adverbs such as mais 'more, ever', onques 'ever', ja 'ever', gueres 'much' and others; cf.:

    ne ... onques 'never, not at all'
    ne ... gueres 'not much, not much longer'
    ne ... ja 'never'
    ne ... mais 'no longer, never again'
     
    unches mais hom tel ne vit ajustee (CdR 1461)
    'never before man saw such a battle'
20 Indefinite Article: Forms and Uses

In addition to definite articles, Romance languages from the earlist times have indefinte articles as well. The paradigm of un (from Latin unus 'one-Nom.' / unum 'one-Acc.) is as follows:

Declension of Indefinite Article

Indef. art.   Masculine   Feminine
Nom. Sg.   uns   une
Obl. Sg.   un   une
         
Nom. Pl.   un   unes
Obl. Pl.   uns   unes

The uses of plural un typically have collective value, referring to pairs or to elements that inherently are collective; cf.:

· Pairs:

    uns ganz   'a pair of gloves' (Be/r., Tristan 2006)
    Tristan unes forces aveit   'Tristan had scissors'

· Collective:

    uns degrez   'a staircase'

The occurrence of indefinite articles is rather limited in Old French, as several examples in the texts analyzed so far have shown:

    Ansembl'ot lui grant masse de ses humes (Al. 214, Lesson 3) 'together with him was a large group of men'
    bataille i ad (CdR 1791, Lesson 2) 'there is a battle'

· But:

    ad une spede li roveret tolir lo chief (Al. 22, this lesson)
    'he ordered her head to be cut off with a sword'

Old French Online

Lesson 5

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

From the middle of the 12th century, novels emerged in medieval French literature that put women and love in the limelight. These texts were in a way the forerunners of those that represent l' amour courtois, 'courtly love'. While the hero in the Chanson de Geste primarily was a brave Christian warrior, he now is gallant as well and he fights for his dame rather than for God or his king. In early times the action in these novels was set in antiquity or in the Celtic world (e.g. Cornwall, Ireland, Wales, Armorica). These Celtic novels have strong mysterious and magical characteristics, present passion as fatal, and often focus on the world of King Arthur. The tradition comes to full bloom in the novels of Chrétien de Troyes (Lesson 6). Less refined were the novels of Tristan, which relate the dramatic story -- set in Britanny -- of Tristan and Iseut. The story presumably had its roots in early Celtic legends and made it to France because of contacts with the English.

Tristan was a knight at the court of Marc, king of Cornwall, who also was his uncle and had raised him. Tristan was the son of King Marc's sister and therefore held an important position from an Indo-European anthropological perspective. King Marc was one of the vassals of King Arthur.

Before the actual coup de foudre between Tristan and Iseut takes place, Tristan is sent out on various difficult missions, which he carries out with great success. At some point the king asks him to go to Ireland and bring Iseut, his (Marc's) bride, to his court. On board the ship on their way back to Cornwall, Tristan and Iseut by mistake drink a love potion that the king and Iseut were supposed to drink on the evening of their wedding. As a result Tristan and Iseut are caught in a passionate and overwhelming love that they cannot fight.

There are several texts that relate the story of Tristan and Iseut. Among the best known are the text by Béroul, and a more refined version by Thomas. The texts of both Béroul and Thomas are fragmentary, but Béroul's stories relate the early stages. Thanks to translations in other languages (German, Old Norse, English), we are able to reconstruct the entire story.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The text selected for this lesson is a passage from Béroul's Tristan and is dated around 1170 (# 142-175). After the marriage between Marc and Iseut, the affair between Tristan and Iseut continues despite treason, primitive life in a forest, reconciliation with king Marc, Tristan's marriage to another woman, and illness. Eventually Tristan, deceived by his wife, commits suicide, and Iseut dies on top of his body.

In this text Tristan and Iseut are secretly meeting in an orchard; but the king, who has been notified and suspects an illicit relation, is listening in. Tristan and Iseut are aware of his presence but do not show it. Tristan has just asked Iseut to intercede with the king on his behalf.

The text presents an example of spoken medieval French. It includes relatively many personal pronouns and hypothetical se contructions followed by conditionals.

Par foi, sire, grant tort avez,
Que de tel chose a moi parlez
Que de vos le mete a raison
Et de s'ire face pardon.
  • par foi -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of + noun; oblique singular <foi, fei> faith, honor -- sincerely
  • sire -- noun; nominative singular <seignor> lord -- lord
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • tort -- noun; oblique singular <tort> mistake -- a mistake
  • avez -- verb; second person plural present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- you make
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- to
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- about
  • tel -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <tel> such -- such
  • chose -- noun; oblique singular <chose, cose> thing, affair, creature -- matter
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- to
  • moi -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • parlez -- verb; second person plural present <parler> speak, talk -- talk
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- about
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- you
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • mete a raison -- verb; first person singular subjunctive present <metre, mectre, mettre> put + preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on + noun; oblique singular <raison> reason, speech, word -- talk to
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- ...
  • s'ire -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his + noun; oblique singular <ire> anger, distress -- his distress
  • face -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <faire> make -- he forgets
  • pardon -- noun; oblique singular <pardon> grace, permission -- ...

Je ne vuel pas encor morir,
Ne moi du tot en tot perir!
Il vos mescroit de moi forment,
Et j'en tendroie parlement?
  • je -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- I
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • vuel -- verb; first person singular present <voloir> want -- do... want
  • pas -- negation; <pas> not -- ...
  • encor -- adverb; <encore, encor, uncore> still, yet -- yet
  • morir -- verb; infinitive <morir> kill, die -- die
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- nor
  • moi -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- ...
  • du tot en tot -- preposition; <de> of, from + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <tot> whole + preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of + noun; oblique singular <tot> whole -- completely
  • perir -- verb; infinitive <perir> perish, destroy -- perish
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- you
  • mescroit -- verb; third person singular present <mescroire> refuse to believe, suspect -- suspects
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- on... behalf
  • moi -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- my
  • forment -- adverb; <forment> greatly, very, very much -- strongly
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • j'en -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- I... about it
  • tendroie -- verb; first person singular conditional <tenir> hold, keep, seize, consider -- would have
  • parlement -- noun; oblique singular <parlement> conversation, word, meeting -- a conversation

Donc seroie je trop hardie.
Par foi, Tristan, n'en ferai mie,
Ne vos nu me devez requerre.
  • donc -- adverb; <donc> then, therefore -- therefore
  • seroie -- verb; first person singular conditional <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- would be
  • je -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- it
  • trop -- adverb; <trop> too much, extremely, excessively -- too
  • hardie -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <hardi> bold, brave -- bold
  • par foi -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of + noun; oblique singular <foi, fei> faith, honor -- sincerely
  • Tristan -- proper name; nominative singular <Tristan> Tristan -- Tristan
  • n'en -- negation; <ne, nen> not + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- not... it
  • ferai -- verb; first person singular future <faire> make -- I will do
  • mie -- negation; <mie> not -- ...
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • nu -- negation; <ne, nen> not + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <il> he -- ... it
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- from me
  • devez -- verb; second person plural imperative <devoir> have to -- should
  • requerre -- verb; infinitive <requerre> ask, beseech -- ask

Tote sui sole en ceste terre.
Il vos a fait chambres veer
Por moi: s'il or m'en ot parler,
Bien me porroit tenir por fole.
  • tote -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <tot> all, every, completely -- completely
  • sui -- verb; first person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- I am
  • sole -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <sol> alone -- alone
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • ceste -- demonstrative; oblique singular feminine <cest, cist> this -- this
  • terre -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- country
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- for you
  • a -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • fait -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <faire> make -- made
  • chambres -- noun; oblique plural <chambre> chamber, territory, royal apartment -- his private apartments
  • veer -- verb; infinitive <veer> refuse, forbid -- forbidden teritory
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- because of
  • moi -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • s'il -- conjunction; <se> if + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- if he
  • or -- adverb; <or> now -- now
  • m'en -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- me... about it
  • ot -- verb; third person singular present <oir, odir> hear -- he hears
  • parler -- verb; infinitive <parler> speak, talk -- talk
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- very well
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • porroit -- verb; third person singular conditional <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- he could
  • tenir -- verb; infinitive <tenir> hold, keep, seize, consider -- consider
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- ...
  • fole -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <fol> crazy -- crazy

Par foi, ja n'en dirai parole;
Et si vos dirai une rien,
Si vuel que vos le saciés bien:
Së il vos pardounot, beau sire,
Par Deu son mautalent et s'ire,
J'en seroie joiose et lie.
  • par foi -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of + noun; oblique singular <foi, fei> faith, honor -- sincerely
  • ja n'en -- adverb; <ja> ever + negation; <ne, nen> not + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- not... about it
  • dirai -- verb; first person singular future <dire> say, tell -- I will say
  • parole -- noun; oblique singular <parole> word, speech -- a word
  • et si -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and + conjunction; <si> yet -- but
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- you
  • dirai -- verb; first person singular future <dire> say, tell -- I will tell
  • une -- indefinite article; oblique singular feminine <un> a -- one
  • rien -- noun; oblique singular <rien, ren> thing, creature, person -- thing
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and
  • vuel -- verb; first person singular present <voloir> want -- I want
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- ...
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- this
  • saciés -- verb; second person plural subjunctive present <savoir> know -- to know
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- very well
  • së -- conjunction; <se> if -- if
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- you
  • pardounot -- verb; third person singular preterite <pardoner> forgive, pardon -- forgave
  • beau -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <bel> dear, beloved, handsome -- dear
  • sire -- noun; nominative singular <seignor> lord -- lord
  • par -- preposition; <par> through, by, by reason of -- through
  • Deu -- proper name; oblique singular <Dieu, Deu> God -- God
  • son -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • mautalent -- noun; oblique singular <maltalent> anger -- anger
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • s'ire -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his + noun; oblique singular <ire> anger, distress -- his distress
  • j'en -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- I... about it
  • seroie -- verb; first person singular conditional <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- would be
  • joiose -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <joieus> full of joy -- full of joy
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • lie -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <lié, liet> happy, joyful -- happy

S'or savoit ceste chevauchie,
Cel sai je bien que ja resort,
Tristan, n'avreie contre mort.
  • s'or -- conjunction; <si> if + adverb; <or> now -- if... now
  • savoit -- verb; third person singular imperfective <savoir> know -- he knew about
  • ceste -- demonstrative; oblique singular feminine <cest, cist> this -- this
  • chevauchie -- noun; oblique singular <chevauchie> expedition, ride -- meeting
  • cel -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <cil> that -- ...
  • sai -- verb; first person singular present <savoir> know -- know
  • je -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- I
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- well
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • ja -- adverb; <ja> ever -- never
  • resort -- noun; oblique singular <resort> restriction, remedy, defense -- any remedy
  • Tristan -- proper name; nominative singular <Tristan> Tristan -- Tristan
  • n'avreie -- negation; <ne, nen> not + verb; first person singular conditional <avoir, aveir> have, be -- I would have
  • contre -- preposition; <contre> against, compared with -- against
  • mort -- noun; oblique singular <mort> death -- death

Vois m'en imais ne prendrai some.
Grant poor ai quë aucun home
Ne vos ait ci veü venir.
  • vois m'en -- verb; first person singular present <aler> go + personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- I am leaving
  • imais -- conjunction; <mais, mes> but -- but
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- no
  • prendrai -- verb; first person singular future <prendre> take, take hold of, seize -- I will get
  • some -- noun; oblique singular <som, some> sleep -- sleep
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • poor -- noun; oblique singular <paor, peor> fear -- fear
  • ai -- verb; first person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- I have
  • quë -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • aucun -- indefinite adjective; nominative singular masculine <aucun> some -- some
  • home -- noun; nominative singular <home, ome> man -- man
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- ...
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- you
  • ait -- verb; third person singular subjunctive present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • ci -- adverb; <ci> here -- here
  • veü -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <veoir> see -- seen
  • venir -- verb; infinitive <venir> come, go -- coming

S'un mot en puet li rois oïr
Que nos fuson ça asemblé,
Il me feroit ardoir en ré.
Ne seret pas mervelle grant.
  • s'un -- conjunction; <se> if + indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- if... one
  • mot -- noun; oblique singular <mot> word -- word
  • en -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- ...
  • puet -- verb; third person singular present <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- can
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • rois -- noun; nominative singular <roi> king -- king
  • oïr -- verb; infinitive <oir, odir> hear -- hear
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • nos -- personal pronoun; first person plural nominative <nos> we -- we
  • fuson -- verb; first person plural subjunctive imperfective <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- have
  • ça -- adverb; <ça, çai> here, hither -- here
  • asemblé -- verb; perfective participle nominative plural masculine <assembler, assanler> call together, assemble, meet -- met
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- he
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • feroit -- verb; third person singular conditional <faire> make -- would make
  • ardoir -- verb; infinitive <ardoir, ardre> burn -- burn
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- at
  • ré -- noun; oblique singular <ré, rei, rez> stake -- the stake
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- no
  • seret -- verb; third person singular conditional <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- it would be
  • pas -- negation; <pas> not -- ...
  • mervelle -- noun; nominative singular <merveille> what is surprising, wonder -- surprise
  • grant -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great

Mis cors trenble, poor ai grant.
De la poor qui or me prent,
Vois m'en, trop sui ci longuement."
  • mis -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular masculine <mon> my -- my
  • cors -- noun; nominative singular <cors> body -- body
  • trenble -- verb; third person singular present <trembler> tremble -- is trembling
  • poor -- noun; oblique singular <paor, peor> fear -- fear
  • ai -- verb; first person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- I have
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- from
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • poor -- noun; oblique singular <paor, peor> fear -- fear
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> that -- which
  • or -- adverb; <or> now -- now
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • prent -- verb; third person singular present <prendre> take, take hold of, seize -- takes hold of
  • vois m'en -- verb; first person singular present <aler> go + personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- I am going away
  • trop -- adverb; <trop> too much, extremely, excessively -- too
  • sui -- verb; first person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- I have been
  • ci -- adverb; <ci> here -- here
  • longuement -- adverb; <longement> long, for a long time -- long

Lesson Text

Par foi, sire, grant tort avez,
Que de tel chose a moi parlez
Que de vos le mete a raison
Et de s'ire face pardon. Je ne vuel pas encor morir,
Ne moi du tot en tot perir!
Il vos mescroit de moi forment,
Et j'en tendroie parlement? Donc seroie je trop hardie.
Par foi, Tristan, n'en ferai mie,
Ne vos nu me devez requerre. Tote sui sole en ceste terre.
Il vos a fait chambres veer
Por moi: s'il or m'en ot parler,
Bien me porroit tenir por fole. Par foi, ja n'en dirai parole;
Et si vos dirai une rien,
Si vuel que vos le saciés bien:
Së il vos pardounot, beau sire,
Par Deu son mautalent et s'ire,
J'en seroie joiose et lie. S'or savoit ceste chevauchie,
Cel sai je bien que ja resort,
Tristan, n'avreie contre mort. Vois m'en imais ne prendrai some.
Grant poor ai quë aucun home
Ne vos ait ci veü venir. S'un mot en puet li rois oïr
Que nos fuson ça asemblé,
Il me feroit ardoir en ré.
Ne seret pas mervelle grant. Mis cors trenble, poor ai grant.
De la poor qui or me prent,
Vois m'en, trop sui ci longuement."

Translation

Sincerely, lord, you make a great mistake,
To talk to me about such matter
That I talk to him about you
And that he forgets his distress.
I do not want yet to die,
Nor perish completely!
He suspects you strongly on my behalf,
And I would have a conversation about it?
Therefore it would be too bold
Sincerely, Tristan, I will not do it,
You should not ask it from me.
I am completely alone in this country.
He has made his private apartment forbidden territory for you
Because of me: if he now hears me talk about it,
He could very well consider me crazy.
Sincerely, I will not to say a word about it;
But I will tell you one thing,
And I want you to know this very well:
If he forgave you, dear lord,
Through God his anger and his distress,
I would be full of joy about it, and happy.
If he now knew about this meeting,
I know well, Tristan, that I would never
have any remedy against death.
I am leaving but I will get no sleep.
I have great fear that some man
Has seen you coming here.
If the king can hear one word
That we have met here,
He would make me burn at the stake.
It would be no great surprise.
My body is trembling, I have great fear.
From the fear, which takes hold of me now,
I am going away, I have been here too long.

Grammar

21 Possession

Possession in Old French noun phrases is expressed primarily by the oblique case, with or without a preposition:

· Without preposition:

    li Deo inimi (Eul. 3, Lesson 4) 'the enemies of God'    
    le rei gunfanuner (CdR 106, Lesson 1) 'the standard bearer of the king'    
    al tens Noë   (Al. 6) 'in the time of Noah'
    el ventre la baleine (Elie. 3607) 'in the stomach of the whale'    

· With preposition:

    la nef a cel saint home (Al. 197, Lesson 3)
    'the ship of that holy man'
     
    filie d'un noble Franc (Al. 40)
    '(the) daughter of a Frankish nobleman'
     
    fille ad un conpta de Rome (Al. 42)
    'the daughter of a count in Rome'

The distribution of these constructions depends on semantic and syntactic criteria. From a semantic perspective, the construction with de combines with all types of nouns, animate and non-animate. The preposition a / ad only combines with nouns that are animate, whereas the construction without preposition only occurs in combination with nouns that refer to humans or animals that behave like humans (cf. the whale above). The possessor most commonly is referred to by a noun that moreover, as a rule, has no or only a few complements; generally the noun is singular, cf.:

    la fille le rei   'the king's daughter'
    les armes vos peres   'the arms of your fathers'
    li filz son hoste   'the son of his host'
    la feste seint Michel   'the holiday of St. Michael'

The various syntactic relations underlying the noun - (preposition) - noun sequences (e.g. subjective vs. objective genitive 'the love of father' vs. 'the love for father') may affect the choice of the construction, but discussion of the details would go too far in the context of this course.

The sequence of elements is most commonly 'element in possession' + 'possessor', cf.:

    la feste seint Michel
    'the holiday of St. Michael'
    la nef a cel saint home (Al. 197, Lesson 3)
    'the ship of that holy man'
    la filie d'un noble Franc (Al. 40)
    'the daughter of a Frankish nobleman'

Yet the reverse order is attested, especially in formulaic expressions (e.g. la Dieu merci), in expressions including autrui (e.g. l'autrui joie 'the joy of another person') and in early texts (e.g. li Deo inimi Eul. 3). With time the sequence 'element in possession' + 'possessor' only spread, with the exception of a few lexicalized items. Among the prepositional expressions there are very few instances in which the possessor comes first.

22 The Future: Forms and Uses

In Lesson 2 it was explained that one of the important changes in the development of the verb system from Latin to Old French was the emergence of 'have' as an auxiliary. The compound past tenses of Old French illustrate this development. Less obvious is the use of the auxiliary 'have' in the forms of the future. These forms trace back to analytic Vulgar and Late Latin formations including an infinitive and a finite form of the verb habeo 'have', cf.:

    Latin       Old French
    cantare habeo 'sing-Inf. have-1st Sg.'   >   chanterai

With time the analytic Latin forms have become synthetic.

The Old French endings trace back to present tense forms (future) as well as imperfect tense forms (past future and conditional). The paradigms are as follows:

Future, Conjugation

    Future   Past Future
1st Sg.   chanterai   chanteroie
2nd Sg.   chanteras   chanteroies
3rd Sg.   chantera   chanteroit
         
1st Pl.   chanterons   chanterïons
        chanterïons
2nd Pl.   chanterez   chanterïez
3rd Pl.   chanteront   chanteroient

The future forms refer to actions that take place in the future. The forms in -roie typically refer to actions that may take place in the future -- likely or unlikely -- and therefore they often occur in hypothetical sentences introduced by se 'if'.

    de soe part vos voldreie preier (Cour. de Louis 516)
    'on his behalf I would like to ask you'
     
    së il vos pardounot ... j'en seroie joiose
    'if he forgave you ... I would be full of joy' (Be/r., Trist. 160; 162, this lesson)
23 Common Irregular Verbs: voloir, pooir, aler

Irregular Verb voloir

voloir   Present   Preterite   Subjunctive Pres.
1st Sg.   vue(i)l   vo(i)l   vue(i)lle
    vol   vos    
2nd Sg.   v(u)eus   volis   vue(i)lles
    viaus   vousis    
3rd Sg.   v(u)eut   vo(l)t   vue(i)lle
    viaut   vout    
             
1st Pl.   volons   volimes   voilliens
2nd Pl.   volez   volistes   voiliez
            vuelliez
3rd Pl.   vuelent   voldrent   vueillent
             
Imperfect   voloie        
Future   voudrai - vourrai        
Conditional   voudroie - vourroie        
Impf. subjunctive   vosisse - volisse        
Pf. Participle   volu        
Pres. Participle   volant - voillant - vueillant        

Irregular Verb pooir

pooir   Present   Preterite   Subjunctive Pres.
1st Sg.   puis   poi   puisse
             
2nd Sg.   poez   poüs   puisses
    puez   peüs    
3rd Sg.   puet   poutt   puisse
    peut   pot   puist
             
1st Pl.   poons   poümes   puissiens
    peümes   puissons    
2nd Pl.   poez   poüstes   puissiez
    peüstes        
3rd Pl.   poeent   po(u)rent   puissent
    pueent        
             
Imperfect   pooie        
Future   porrai        
Conditional   porroie        
Impf. subjunctive   poüsse - poïsse - peüsse        
Pf. Participle   poü - peü        
Pres. Participle   poant - puissant        

Irregular Verb aler

aler   Present   Preterite   Subjunctive Pres.
1st Sg.   vois   alai   voise
            aille, alge
2nd Sg.   vais       voises
    vas       ailles, alges
3rd Sg.   va(it)       voise, voist
    vet       aille, aut, alge
             
1st Pl.   allons       voisonss, voisiens
            aillens, algiens
            a(il)lons
2nd Pl.   allez       voisiez
            ailliez, algiez
3rd Pl.   vont       voisent
            aillent, algent
             
Imperfect   aloie        
Future   irai        
Conditional   iroie        
Pf. Participle   alé        
Pres. Participle   alant        
Imperative   va(s) - alez - alons        
24 Adjectives: Comparative and Superlative

Adjectives in Old French are marked for case, gender, and number. In addition the adjectival paradigm has analytic comparative forms, although a few adjectives still have synthetic formations.

The most widespread formation is analytic and includes an adverb followed by the adjective proper, cf.:

Comparative, Analytic formation

    Type of comparative   Particle   Adjective
    comparative of superiority   plus 'more'   + adjective
    comparative of inferiority   moins 'less'   + adjective
    comparative of equality   si 'as'   + adjective
        aussi 'as'   + adjective
        tant 'as'   + adjective
        other adverbs    

Among these forms, the comparative of superiority is by far the most common form.

Yet a few synthetic comparatives from Latin survive in Old French; these are very common, cf.:

Comparative, Synthetic formations

    Adjective   Comparative   Comparative
    grant 'big, large'   graindre (Nom.) /   graignor (Obl.)
            'bigger, larger'
    grant   maire (Nom.) /   maior (Obl.)
            'bigger, larger'
    petit 'small'   mendre (Nom.) /   menor (Obl.)
    bon 'good'   mieudre (Nom.) /   meillor (Obl.)
    mal 'bad'   pire (Nom.) /   peior (Obl.)
            'worse'

The following series of adjectives have a synthetic comparative form only in the oblique case; these forms typically occur in the early texts:

Comparative, Synthetic formations

    Adjective       Comp. Obl.    
    fort   'strong'   forçor   'stronger'
    alt   'high'   alçor   'higher'
    bel   'beautiful'   belasor (9th c.)   'more beautiful'
            belior (12th c.)    
    sordois   'worse, dirty'   sordoior   'worse, inferior'
    gent   'noble'   gençor   'more noble'

The declension of the comparative forms follows that of the third class of nouns, cf.:

Synthetic Comparative, Declension (masculine)

Masculine   Singular   Plural
Nom.   graindre   graignor
Obl.   graignor   graignors

Synthetic Comparative, Declension (feminine)

Feminine   Singular   Plural
Nom.   graindre   graignors
Obl.   graignor   graignors

Superlatives generally are not marked, and the interpretation therefore depends on the context, cf.:

    un des porz ki plus est pres de Rome (Al. 197, Lesson 3)
    'one of the ports that is closest to Rome'

Very rarely one may find a superlative that is formally marked: a definite article then combines with the comparative adjective proper (synthetic or analytic). These formations spread in later times, cf.:

    de toutes autres la gençor (Ben.)
    'of all others the most noble'

Yet if there is no analytic formation of superlatives, there are a number of synthetic formations that convey so-called absolute superlative value:

· Several synthetic Latin superlatives have survived in Old French, cf.: pesme 'very bad' (< La. pessimum), merme 'very small'(< minimum), malisme 'very bad', proismes 'very close'(< La. proximum), and others.

· There are learned formations in -isme, cf.:

Superlatives in -isme

    Adjective   Superlative    
    fort   fortisme   'very strong'
    alt   altisme   'very high'
    grant   grandisme   'very big'
    saint   saintisme   'very holy'

· Finally, there is a range of adverbs that convey superlative value in combination with adjectives 'very, most', cf.: molt, tres, mais, tant, mut par and others, e.g.:

    il est mult irascut (CdR 777) 'he is very angry'
    mult grant venjance (CdR 1459) 'a very rude revenge'
25 Adjectives: Comparison

Whereas Latin had two types of comparison, Old French only has an analytic construction. In Latin the comparison was either a case construction or a so-called particle construction.

In the case construction the ablative marks the element that is being compared, cf.:

    luce   clarior
    'light-Abl.   brighter' > 'brighter than light'

In the particle construction the particle -- quam -- has that function:

    lingua   quam   manu   promptior
    tongue   than   hand   ready-Comp.' >
    'prompter in words than in action'

With the loss of synthetic froms in Latin -- case, comparative, verb forms -- the comparison in Old French has become analytic and includes either a particle or a preposition.

The particle construction (of which the Latin quam construction was a forerunner) is the most widespread type of comparison, cf.:

    plus est isnels que esprever (CdR 1535)
    'he is quicker than a sparrow hawk'

Constructions with a preposition--which trace back to the original case construction in Latin-- typically include a pronominal element or a number, cf.:

    meillor vassal n'out en la curt de lui (CdR 776)
    'there was no better knight in the court than he'
     
    plus de .IIII. milliers
    'more than four thousand'

The prepositional construction is also attested with a nominal referent when it functions simply as a subject, cf.:

    maines riches de mon pere (Palefroi 407)
    'less rich than my father'

Comparison constructions often include a negation, cf.:

    plus est isnels que n'est oisel ki volet (CdR 1616)
    'he is quicker than a bird that flies'

With time the particle construction spread and came to be used exclusively in comparisons, with the exception of numbers (e.g. modern French il y a plus de vingt étudiants 'there are more than twenty students'). (See Italian for a much more common use of the prepositional construction today).

Old French Online

Lesson 6

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

With the pilgrimages and the crusades, life in Western Europe opened up to new horizons and different lifestyles. As a result the social elite gradually became more secular and developed a keen interest in refined literature, with new ideals and a rich imagination. This development led -- towards the end of the 12th century -- to la littérature courtoise, a literature in which knights with high prestige, following l'idéal courtois, are in constant pursuit of glory and love for their lady. Love in these works is no longer an all-devouring passion, as in the Tristan novels, but rather a pure and noble feeling, which imposes certain rules comparable to those of a feudal society.

Love in these works is based on:

  1. Loyalty and faithfulness;
  2. Mutual admiration: of beauty and wisdom in the lady; of military qualities in the knight. Both need to be polite, elegant, and well-educated (reading, writing, music). They therefore typically represent the higher levels of society;
  3. Veneration of the lady. A source of inspiration, the lady represents a distant love which is almost inaccessible to the knight. The knight carries an object with him that reminds him of her (e.g. glove, curl of hair) and the lady is allowed to ask for rather extreme services, which will prove the knight's love and devotion;
  4. Compensation. When the knight has proven his qualities and his willingness to follow up on her capricious requests, the lady may accept his love, which in fact will take the form of a friendship rather than a passionate love affair.

These ideals are expressed in poetry as well as prose. One of the best known novelists of this period is Chrétien de Troyes, who between 1165 and 1190 wrote several novels that continue the setting of the Celtic novels but combine it with the new ideals: refined love stories involving magic and the world of King Arthur. King Arthur -- reminding the French of Charlemagne -- was popular in France because of his role as the leader of Celtic resistance under the Anglo-Saxons. The novels were based on and related the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot, and the Cycle of the Grail.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The text selected for this lesson has been taken from Chrétien de Troyes' novel Yvain ou le chevalier au lion (2560-2580; 2600-2615). Yvain is a knight who discovers a magical fountain in a forest and is attacked by the nobleman who guards it. Having killed his opponent, Yvain hides in the dead man's castle and falls in love with his widow, whom he subsequently marries. Then King Arthur passes by and Yvain decides to escort him on great adventures. He asks his lady to allow him to follow the king in his pursuit of glory. He is granted permission to go away for a year, but he has to be back exactly one year later. When Yvain returns too late, his lady refuses to receive him and Yvain has to carry out a series of new tasks to win back her love.

In the text selected here, Yvain asks his lady to allow him to follow King Arthur and his lady replies, specifying her conditions.

"Ma tres chiere dame,
vos qui estes mes cuers et m'ame,
mes biens, ma joie, et ma santez,
une chose m'acreantez
por vostre enor e por la moie."
  • ma -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular feminine <mon> my -- my
  • tres -- adverb; <tres> much, very -- very
  • chiere -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <cher> beloved, expensive -- dear
  • dame -- noun; nominative singular <dame> lady, dame -- lady
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • estes -- verb; second person plural present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- are
  • mes -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular masculine <mon> my -- my
  • cuers -- noun; nominative singular <cuer, coer, cor> heart -- heart
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • m'ame -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular feminine <mon> my + noun; nominative singular <anme, alme, arme, ame> soul, somebody -- my soul
  • mes -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular masculine <mon> my -- my
  • biens -- noun; nominative singular <bien, ben> good, good fortune, well-being -- good fortune
  • ma -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular feminine <mon> my -- my
  • joie -- noun; nominative singular <joi, joie> joy -- joy
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • ma -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular feminine <mon> my -- my
  • santez -- noun; nominative singular <santé> health, well-being -- well-being
  • une -- indefinite article; oblique singular feminine <un> a -- one
  • chose -- noun; oblique singular <chose, cose> thing, affair, creature -- thing
  • m'acreantez -- personal pronoun; first person singular indirect object <jo, jou, jeu> I + verb; second person plural imperative <acreanter> promise, allow, agree -- grant me
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • vostre -- possessive; second person plural oblique singular feminine <vostre> your -- your
  • enor -- noun; oblique singular <onor, enor, anor> honor, respect, esteem, fief -- honor
  • e -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- for
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- ...
  • moie -- possessive; first person singular oblique singular feminine <mon> my -- mine

La dame tantost li otroie,
qu'el ne set qu'il vialt demander
et dit: "Biax sire, comander
me poez ce qui boen vos iert."
  • la -- definite article; nominative singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • dame -- noun; nominative singular <dame> lady, dame -- lady
  • tantost -- adverb; <tantost> immediately -- immediately
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- to him
  • otroie -- verb; third person singular present <otroier, otrier> grant, agree -- grants (it)
  • qu'el -- conjunction; <que> that + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- although she
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • set -- verb; third person singular present <savoir> know -- does... know
  • qu'il -- conjunction; <que> that + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative masculine <il> he -- what he
  • vialt -- verb; third person singular present <voloir> want -- wants
  • demander -- verb; infinitive <demander> ask, ask for -- to ask
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • dit -- verb; third person singular present <dire> say, tell -- she says
  • biax -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <bel> dear, beloved, handsome -- beloved
  • sire -- noun; nominative singular <seignor> lord -- lord
  • comander -- verb; infinitive <comander> give, recommend, order -- ask
  • me -- personal pronoun; first person singular indirect object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • poez -- verb; second person plural present <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- you can
  • ce qui -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it + relative pronoun; subject <qui> that -- what
  • boen -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <bon> good -- ...
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- you
  • iert -- verb; third person singular future <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- like

Congié maintenant li requiert
mes sire Yvains, de convoier
le roi, et d'aler tornoier,
que l'an ne l'apialt recreant.
  • congié -- noun; oblique singular <congié> permission to leave, permission, leave -- permission to leave
  • maintenant -- adverb; <maintenant> immediately, soon -- immediately
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object feminine <il> he -- her
  • requiert -- verb; third person singular present <requerre> ask, beseech -- asks for
  • mes -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular masculine <mon> my -- ...
  • sire -- noun; nominative singular <seignor> lord -- lord
  • Yvains -- proper name; nominative singular <Yvain> Yvain -- Yvain
  • de -- particle; <de> to -- to
  • convoier -- verb; infinitive <convoier> escort -- escort
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • roi -- noun; oblique singular <roi> king -- king
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • d'aler -- particle; <de> to + verb; infinitive <aler> go -- to go
  • tornoier -- verb; infinitive <tornoier> whirl around, tourney -- fight in tornaments
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- so that
  • l'an -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the + personal pronoun; third person singular nominative <om, on> one -- one
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • l'apialt -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular present <apeler> accuse, summon, call -- does... call him
  • recreant -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <recreant> exhausted, cowardly -- a coward

Et ele dit: "je vos creant
le congié jusqu'a un termine.
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • ele -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- she
  • dit -- verb; third person singular present <dire> say, tell -- says
  • je -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- I
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- you
  • creant -- verb; first person singular present <creanter, granter> grant, agree -- grant
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- ...
  • congié -- noun; oblique singular <congié> permission to leave, permission, leave -- permission to leave
  • jusqu'a -- preposition; <jusqu'a> as far as, up to -- for
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- a
  • termine -- noun; oblique singular <termine> period of time -- period of time

Mes l'amors devanra haïne,
que j'ai en vos, toz an soiez
seürs, se vos trespassïez
le terme que je vos dirai;
sachiez que ja n'en mantirai:
se vos mantez, je dirai voir.
  • mes -- conjunction; <mais, mes> but -- but
  • l'amors -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the + noun; nominative singular <amor> love -- the love
  • devanra -- verb; third person singular future <devenir> become -- will become
  • haïne -- noun; nominative singular <haine> hatred -- hatred
  • que -- relative pronoun; object <qui> that -- that
  • j'ai -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I + verb; first person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- I have
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- for
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural direct object <vos> you -- you
  • toz -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <tot> all, every, completely -- ...
  • an -- pronoun; inanimate <en> of it -- of that
  • soiez -- verb; second person plural imperative <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- be
  • seürs -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <seur> sure -- sure
  • se -- conjunction; <se> if -- if
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • trespassïez -- verb; second person plural imperfective <trespasser> pass, cross, go by -- exceed
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • terme -- noun; oblique singular <terme> term, period, period of time -- period of time
  • que -- relative pronoun; object <qui> that -- that
  • je -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- I
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- to you
  • dirai -- verb; first person singular future <dire> say, tell -- will mention
  • sachiez -- verb; second person plural imperative <savoir> know -- know
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • ja n'en mantirai -- adverb; <ja> ever + negation; <ne, nen> not + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it + verb; first person singular future <mentir> lie, betray, deny, fail -- I will keep my word
  • se -- conjunction; <se> if -- if
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • mantez -- verb; second person plural present <mentir> lie, betray, deny, fail -- fail
  • je -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- I
  • dirai -- verb; first person singular future <dire> say, tell -- will tell
  • voir -- adverb; <voir> truly, indeed -- the truth

Se vos volez m'amor avoir
et de rien nule m'avez chiere,
pansez de tost venir arriere
a tot le moins jusqu'a un an
huit jorz aprés la Saint Johan
c'ui an cest jor sont les huitaves.
  • se -- conjunction; <se> if -- if
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • volez -- verb; second person plural present <voloir> want -- want
  • m'amor -- possessive; first person singular oblique singular feminine <mon> my + noun; oblique singular <amor> love -- my love
  • avoir -- verb; infinitive <avoir, aveir> have, be -- to have
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • de rien nule -- preposition; <de> of, from + noun; oblique singular <rien, ren> thing, creature, person + adjective; oblique singular feminine <nul> no, not any -- in any way
  • m'avez chiere -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I + verb; second person plural present <avoir, aveir> have, be + adjective; oblique singular feminine <cher> beloved, expensive -- you cherish me
  • pansez -- verb; second person plural imperative <penser> think, pay attention -- make sure
  • de -- particle; <de> to -- to
  • tost -- adverb; <tost> soon, immediately, quickly -- in time
  • venir -- verb; infinitive <venir> come, go -- come
  • arriere -- adverb; <arriere, arrere, arire> back -- back
  • a tot le moins -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on + adverb; <tot> entirely + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + adverb; <meins, mains, moins> less, fewer -- at the very least
  • jusqu'a -- preposition; <jusqu'a> as far as, up to -- within
  • un -- indefinite article; oblique singular masculine <un> a -- one
  • an -- noun; oblique singular <an> year -- year
  • huit -- numeral; <huit> eight -- eight
  • jorz -- noun; oblique plural <jorn, jor> day -- days
  • aprés -- preposition; <apres> after, afterwards -- after
  • la Saint Johan -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the + adjective; oblique singular masculine <saint> holy + proper name; oblique singular <Johan> John -- the feast of St. John
  • c'ui an cest jor -- demonstrative; neuter <ço, ceo, ce, ceu> this, that, it + adverb; <ui, ue, oi> today + preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of + demonstrative; oblique singular masculine <cest, cist> this + noun; oblique singular <jorn, jor> day -- of which this very day
  • sont -- verb; third person plural present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- we celebrate
  • les -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • huitaves -- noun; nominative plural <huitaves> octave -- octave # period of eight days following an important Christian holiday

De m'amor soiez maz et haves,
se vos n'iestes jusqu'a ce jor
ceanz avoec moi au retor."
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- instead of
  • m'amor -- possessive; first person singular oblique singular feminine <mon> my + noun; oblique singular <amor> love -- my love
  • soiez -- verb; second person plural imperative <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- you will have
  • maz -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <mat> feeble, exhausted, sad -- sadness
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • haves -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <have> dark, sick, somber -- gloom
  • se -- conjunction; <se> if -- if
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • n'iestes -- negation; <ne, nen> not + verb; second person plural present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- are not
  • jusqu'a -- preposition; <jusqu'a> as far as, up to -- on
  • ce -- demonstrative; oblique singular masculine <cil> that -- that
  • jor -- noun; oblique singular <jorn, jor> day -- day
  • ceanz -- adverb; <ceanz, seans> in here -- here
  • avoec -- preposition; <avuec, avec, avoc> with -- with
  • moi -- personal pronoun; first person singular direct object <jo, jou, jeu> I -- me
  • au retor -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the + noun; oblique singular <retor, retorn> return -- back

... Mes or metroiz an vostre doi
cest mien anel, que je vos prest;
  • mes -- conjunction; <mais, mes> but -- but
  • or -- adverb; <or> now -- now
  • metroiz -- verb; second person plural conditional <metre, mectre, mettre> put -- you should put
  • an -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- on
  • vostre -- possessive; second person plural oblique singular masculine <vostre> your -- your
  • doi -- noun; oblique singular <doi, dei> finger -- finger
  • cest -- demonstrative; oblique singular masculine <cest, cist> this -- this
  • mien -- possessive; first person singular oblique singular masculine <mon> my -- of mine
  • anel -- noun; oblique singular <anel> ring -- ring
  • que -- relative pronoun; object <qui> that -- that
  • je -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- I
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- to you
  • prest -- verb; first person singular present <prester> lend -- lend

et de la pierre quex ele est
vos voel dire tot en apert:
prison ne tient ne sanc ne pert
nus amanz verais et leax,
ne avenir ne li puet max;
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- about
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • pierre -- noun; oblique singular <piere, pierre> stone, prison -- stone
  • quex -- relative pronoun; nominative singular feminine <quel> which -- that
  • ele -- personal pronoun; third person singular nominative feminine <il> he -- it
  • est -- verb; third person singular present <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- carries
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- you
  • voel -- verb; first person singular present <voloir> want -- I want
  • dire -- verb; infinitive <dire> say, tell -- to tell
  • tot -- adverb; <tot> entirely -- most
  • en apert -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of + adjective; oblique singular masculine <apert> open, visible, manifest -- openly
  • prison -- noun; oblique singular <prison> captivity, prison -- captivity
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- ...
  • tient -- verb; third person singular present <tenir> hold, keep, seize, consider -- undergoes
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- or
  • sanc -- noun; oblique singular <sanc> blood -- blood
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- ...
  • pert -- verb; third person singular present <perdre> lose, perish -- loses
  • nus -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <nul> no, not any -- no
  • amanz -- noun; nominative singular <amant> lover -- lover
  • verais -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <verai> real, true -- true
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • leax -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <leal, loial> loyal, legitimate -- loyal
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- and no
  • avenir -- verb; infinitive <avenir> arrive, happen -- happen
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- ...
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- to him
  • puet -- verb; third person singular present <pooir, poeir, poier> can, be able -- can
  • max -- noun; nominative singular <mal> evil, disaster, illness -- evil

mes qui le porte, et chier le tient
de s'amie li resovient,
et si devient plus durs que fers;
cil vos iert escuz et haubers
et voir einz mes a chevalier
ne le vos prester ne baillier,
mes por amors le vos doing gié."
  • mes -- conjunction; <mais, mes> but -- but
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- he who
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • porte -- verb; third person singular present <porter> carry, bring, wear -- wears
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • chier le tient -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <cher> beloved, expensive + personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he + verb; third person singular present <tenir> hold, keep, seize, consider -- cherishes it
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- ...
  • s'amie -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his + noun; object singular <amie> friend -- his friend
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- ...
  • resovient -- verb; third person singular present <resovenir> remember -- remembers
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- thus
  • devient -- verb; third person singular present <devenir> become -- he becomes
  • plus -- adverb; <plus> more -- ...
  • durs -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <dur> hard, unrefined, cruel -- stronger
  • que -- conjunction; <que> than -- than
  • fers -- noun; nominative singular <fer> iron, weapon -- iron
  • cil -- demonstrative; nominative singular masculine <cil> that -- this
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- your
  • iert -- verb; third person singular future <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- will be
  • escuz -- noun; nominative singular <escu> shield -- shield
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • haubers -- noun; nominative singular <halberc, osberc> hauberk -- hauberk
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • voir -- adverb; <voir> truly, indeed -- truly
  • einz mes -- adverb; <ainc, ainz, ains> earlier, rather + conjunction; <mais> more, further, rather -- never before
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- ...
  • chevalier -- noun; oblique singular <chevalier> knight -- to a knight
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • vos -- verb; first person singular preterite <voloir> want -- I wanted
  • prester -- verb; infinitive <prester> lend -- lend
  • ne -- negation; <ne, ni> nor, and not -- or
  • baillier -- verb; infinitive <baillier> own, receive, give -- give
  • mes -- conjunction; <mais, mes> but -- but
  • por -- preposition; <por> for -- because of
  • amors -- noun; oblique plural <amor> love -- my feelings of love
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- it
  • vos -- personal pronoun; second person plural indirect object <vos> you -- to you
  • doing -- verb; first person singular present <doner> give -- give
  • gié -- personal pronoun; first person singular nominative <jo, jou, jeu> I -- I

Or a mes sire Yvains congié:
molt out ploré au congié prendre.
  • or -- adverb; <or> now -- now
  • a -- verb; third person singular present <avoir, aveir> have, be -- has
  • mes -- possessive; first person singular nominative singular masculine <mon> my -- ...
  • sire -- noun; nominative singular <seignor> lord -- lord
  • Yvains -- proper name; nominative singular <Yvain> Yvain -- Yvain
  • congié -- noun; oblique singular <congié> permission to leave, permission, leave -- permission to leave
  • molt -- adverb, adjective; <molt, mult, mout> many, much, very -- many
  • out -- verb; third person singular preterite <avoir, aveir> have, be -- he...
  • ploré -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <plorer> cry, shed tears -- shed tears
  • au -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on + definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- when
  • congié -- noun; oblique singular <congié> permission to leave, permission, leave -- his leave
  • prendre -- verb; infinitive <prendre> take, take hold of, seize -- taking

Lesson Text

"Ma tres chiere dame,
vos qui estes mes cuers et m'ame,
mes biens, ma joie, et ma santez,
une chose m'acreantez
por vostre enor e por la moie." La dame tantost li otroie,
qu'el ne set qu'il vialt demander
et dit: "Biax sire, comander
me poez ce qui boen vos iert." Congié maintenant li requiert
mes sire Yvains, de convoier
le roi, et d'aler tornoier,
que l'an ne l'apialt recreant. Et ele dit: "je vos creant
le congié jusqu'a un termine. Mes l'amors devanra haïne,
que j'ai en vos, toz an soiez
seürs, se vos trespassïez
le terme que je vos dirai;
sachiez que ja n'en mantirai:
se vos mantez, je dirai voir. Se vos volez m'amor avoir
et de rien nule m'avez chiere,
pansez de tost venir arriere
a tot le moins jusqu'a un an
huit jorz aprés la Saint Johan
c'ui an cest jor sont les huitaves. De m'amor soiez maz et haves,
se vos n'iestes jusqu'a ce jor
ceanz avoec moi au retor." ... Mes or metroiz an vostre doi
cest mien anel, que je vos prest; et de la pierre quex ele est
vos voel dire tot en apert:
prison ne tient ne sanc ne pert
nus amanz verais et leax,
ne avenir ne li puet max; mes qui le porte, et chier le tient
de s'amie li resovient,
et si devient plus durs que fers;
cil vos iert escuz et haubers
et voir einz mes a chevalier
ne le vos prester ne baillier,
mes por amors le vos doing gié." Or a mes sire Yvains congié:
molt out ploré au congié prendre.

Translation

My very dear lady
You who are my heart and my soul
My good fortune, my joy and my well-being
Grant me one thing
For your honor and for mine.
The lady immediately grants it to him
Although she does not know what he wants to ask
And she says: "Beloved lord, you can
Ask me what you like."
Lord Yvain asks her immediately for permission
to leave to escort the king
And to go fight in tornaments
So that one does not call him a coward.
And she says: "I grant you
Permission to leave for a period of time.
But the love I have for you
will become hatred, be sure of that,
If you exceed the period of time
That I will mention to you;
Know that I will keep my word:
If you fail, I will tell the truth.
If you want to have my love
And you cherish me in any way,
Make sure to come back in time
At the very least within one year
Eight days after the feast of St. John
Of which we celebrate the octave this very day."
Instead of my love you will have sadness and gloom,
If you are not on that day
Back here with me."
But now you should put on your finger
This ring of mine, that I lend to you;
And about the stone that it carries
I want to tell you most openly:
No true and loyal lover
Undergoes captivity, or loses blood,
And no evil can happen to him;
But he who wears it, and cherishes it
Remembers his friend,
And thus he becomes stronger than iron;
This will be your shield and hauberk
And truly never before I wanted
To lend it or give it to a knight,
But because of my feelings of love I give it to you.
Now Lord Yvain has permission to leave:
He shed many tears when taking his leave.

Grammar

26 Adverbs of Manner

Most adverbs in Latin were either fossilized case forms or morphologically marked. Magis 'more', plus 'more' and nimis 'too much', for example, were fossilized accusative neuters. Among adverbs of manner the most productive formation was based on a process of derivation whereby a suffix -e or -(i)ter was added to an adjectival base: -e was used for adjectives of Declension I/II and -(i)ter for adjectives of Declension III, cf.:

Latin Adverb Formation, Adverbs of manner

    Adjective   Adverb
    stult-us 'stupid'   stult-e 'stupidly'
    grand-is 'great'   grand-iter 'greatly'

In the later periods of Latin and in its popular varieties the -(i)ter derivation spread at the expense of -e, cf.:

    avidus 'eager'   (avide)   >   aviditer
    benignus 'benign'   (benigne)   >   benigniter

Moreover two new strategies developed, prepositional phrases and adjective + noun combinations:

· prepositional phrases

    in commune   'generally'
    in totum   'entirely'

· adjective + noun combinations

    libero ore   'with a frank mouth, frankly'
    citato pede   'with a speedy foot, quickly'
    ardenti corde   'with a burning heart, ardently, intensely'
    studioso animo   'with an eager mind, impatiently'
    tristi mente   'with a sad mind, sadly'

Among these varieties the mente combinations survived in the Romance languages, with the exception of Rumanian.

In Old French we find several devices to form adverbs of manner:

26.1. Several adjectives are used as adverbs without any specific morphological marker:

    bel   'beautiful, beautifully'
    chier   'dear, expensive, dearly'
    cler   'clear, clearly'
    droit   'right, rightly'
    haut   'high, loudly'
    petit   'small, slightly'
    tot   'all, completely'
    voir   'real, sincere, really'
         
    escriet e haltement e cler (CdR 1974)
    'he shouted loudly and clearly'

When adjectives are used as adverbs, they can still show agreement with the noun: this pattern is typical of tot, cf.:

    tote sui sole en ceste terre (Bér., Trist. 153, Lesson 5)
    I am completely alone in this country'
     
    A l'apostolie revint tuz esmeriz (Al. 352)
    'he turned toward the pope completely shaken'

26.2. A suffix -tre(s), which traces back to the -(i)ter suffix of Vulgar and Late Latin is added to a base. In Old French the suffix combines with adjectives as well as nouns, cf.:

    nuitantre 'during the night, at night' < nuit 'night'

26.3. A device that survived as an almost "pan-Romance" phenomenon is the adverbial formation in -ment mentioned earlier. It traces back to the formations mentioned above:

    Adjective + mente   'with a ... mind, in ... spirit'

Since mente originally was a feminine noun, the adjective in the French formation takes the feminine form as well:

    Adjective   >   Adverb
    veir 'real'       veirement 'really'(CdR 2361)
    dur 'hard'       durement 'bitterly' (CdR 1814)
    gent 'noble'       gentement 'bravely'(CdR 2099)
    lung 'long'       lungement 'for a long time' (CdR 1858)
    isnel 'quick'       isnelement 'quickly' (CdR 2085)
             
    ki durement ne plurt (CdR 1814)    
    'who does not cry bitterly'
         
    si lungement ... m'avez servit (CdR 1858)    
    'you have served me such a long time'
         
    vengent el camp cumunement   (CdR 1838)
    'they arrive at the battlefield together'

Some adjectives have both the -ment formation and may be used as an adverb without morphological change:

    Adjective   Adverb   Adverb in -ment
    halt   halt   haltement 'loudly'
    veir   veir   veirement

In Old French the formation may also include nouns and adverbs as its base:

    altresi   adv. 'same'   > altresiment 'same'
    vassal   n. 'vassal'   > vassalment 'bravely'
             
    Franceis sunt bon, si ferunt vassalment (CdR 1080)
    'the French are brave, they will fight bravely'

The derivation on the basis of Class I/II adjectives is not problematic because the formation of the feminine is provided in the paradigm (e.g. dur masc. > dure fem. > durement adv.). Class III adjectives do not include a feminine form in -e but instead all adjectives end in a consonant (cf. Grammar Point 4): e.g. fort 'strong'. Derivation with these adjectives as base therefore results in a number of phonetic assimilations, cf.:

· consonant assimilation

    fort + -ment   >   forment
    grief + -ment   >   griément

· -l- vocalization

    cruel + -ment   >   cruaument

· loss of -l-

    gentil + ment   >   gentiment

26.4. A suffix -s may be added to adverbs, prepositions, and nouns to form a new adverb:

    merveille   >   merveilles
    'remarkable thing'       'marvelously, extremely'

This process is possibly based on analogy with the high number of Latin adverbs in -s that survived in Old French and were very widespread: e.g. mais 'more' < La. magis, plus 'more' < La. plus, fors 'except' < La. foris. The process accounts for the etymology of several formations as well:

    unques / unces   <   La. umque + -s 'ever'
    sempres   <   La. semper + -s 'always'
    sens, sans   <   La. sine + -s 'without'

26.5. Adverbial formations based on prepositional phrases survive in Old French, cf.:

    par grant irur (CdR 1842)   'with great anger'
    par / a compas   'regularly'
    par maistrie   'excellently'

The formation is especially productive when including the preposition a + a plural noun in -on, cf.:

    a tastons 'gropingly'
    a genouillons 'on one's knees'
27 Personal Pronouns: Forms

Since pronouns are elements that are used instead of a noun they agree in number, case, and gender with the noun they replace. The paradigms of personal pronouns in Old French distinguish person (1-3), number (singular/plural), gender (for the third person), and case (nominative, direct object, indirect object). Moreover there is an important distinction between so-called stressed and unstressed non-nominative forms. The paradigms are as follows:

Personal Pronouns

    1st Sg.   2nd Sg.   3rd Sg.   3rd Sg.
            Masc.   Fem.
Nom.   jo, jou   tu   il   el(e)
    je(u)            
Dir. Obj.   me   te   le   la
Dir. Obj. (str.)   moi   toi   lui   li / lié
Indir. Obj.   me   te   li   li
Indir. Obj. (str.)   moi   toi   lui   li / lié
                 
    1st Pl.   2nd Pl.   3rd Pl.   3rd Pl.
            Masc.   Fem.
Nom.   nos   vos   il   eles
Dir. Obj.   nos   vos   les   les
Dir. Obj. (str.)   nos   vos   eus   eles
Indir. Obj.   nos   vos   lor   lor
            leur   leur
Indir. Obj. (str.)   -   -   -   -

Elision and enclisis

Like the definite article (see Grammar Point 14), personal pronouns may undergo processes of elision and enclisis:

Elision:

· unstressed elements easily undergo elision, especially le and la:

    l'oïrent (CdR 1756) 'they heard it'
    pur ço l'ad fait (CdR 2361)
    'for this reason he has done this'

· je, which is inherently stressed, does not undergo elision;

· strong forms, such as moi and toi, followed by en or i may undergo elision.

Enclisis:

The unstressed forms of the paradigm may be attached to other elements in the clause, especially je, ne, se, si, que, en:

Personal Pronouns, Patterns of enclisis

    je + le   >   jel, gel
    je + les   >   ges
    ne + le   >   nel, nu, nul
    ne + les   >   nes
    que + le   >   qel
    qui + le   >   quil
    qui + les   >   quis
    se + le   >   sel
    se + les   >   ses
    si + le   >   sil, sel
             
    s'est kil demandet (CdR 119, Lesson 1)
    'if there is someone who asks for him'
     
    e li message descendirent a pied
    sil saluerent ... (CdR 121, Lesson 1)
    'and the messagers came down'
    'and they greeted him ...'
28 Personal Pronouns: Uses

28.1. In Old French tu was a second person singular pronoun, whereas vos was a true plural, used only to address more than one person. Soon a polite use of vos developed as well when it came to be used--inconsistenly at first--to address a person of higher social rank. Among nobles, for example, vos became part of basic politeness. Yet, God typically continued to be referred to in direct address as tu.

28.2. Subject pronouns are late in Indo-European. The finite verb expressed person and number, and early uses of subject pronouns were marked, having emphatic function. In Old French as well, subject pronouns are not obligatory. Accordingly the finite verb in Old French as a rule may occur without explicit subject, be it nominal or pronominal:

    Rollant ad mis l'olifan a sa buche
    Empeint le ben, par grant vertut le sunet
    (CdR 1753-1754, Lesson 2)
    'Roland has put the horn at his mouth'
    '(he) places it solidly and (he) blows with great force'
     
    L'olifan sunet a dulor e a peine (CdR 1787, Lesson 2)
    '(He) blows the horn in suffering'

The explicit subject can be absent even when there is a change of subject, cf.:

    que de vos mete a raison
    et de s'ire face pardon (Bér., Trist. 165-166, Lesson 5)
    'that I talk to him about you'
    'and that he forgets his distress!'

The absence of subject pronouns traditionally has been accounted for by the rather explicit verb ending. The texts analyzed so far show that in some the use of pronominal subjects is more frequent than elsewhere. The Chanson de Rolland has relatively few subject pronouns, and when they occur their use is emphatic. The text of Lesson 5, a passionate dialogue in which persons take position, has relatively many instances. The use of subject pronouns in Old French therefore often marks a certain emphasis, cf. the following example, where the use of the subject pronouns is contrastive:

    pur mei n'iras tu mie! (CdR 296)
    'you will not go in my place !'
     
    Qui i purruns enveier ... ?
    Jo i puis aler mult ben! (CdR 252; 254)
    'whom could we send there?'
    'I could go there easily !'

The following example illustrates emphatic use of the subject pronoun in combination with left dislocation:

    li quens Rollant, il est mult irascut (CdR 777)
    'count Roland, he is very angry'

As a result the subject pronoun is inherently stressed and therefore can occur at various locations in the clause, not only in proximity to the verb: cf.:

    il et ses freres ...   'he and his brothers ...'
    je et mi chevalier ...   'I and my knights ...'

Instead of subject pronouns Old French may use nouns such as cors 'body', cf.:

    mis cors trenble (Trist. 173, Lesson 5)
    'my body is trembling' > 'I am trembling'

Cors can also be used as a reinforcing element especially when it combines with a personal pronoun, cf.:

        Jo cunduirai mun cors en Rencesvals (CdR 892)
        'I myself will go to Roncedvaux'
    vs.    
        En Rencesvals irai mun cors juer ! (CdR 901)
        'I will go to Roncevaux'

With time the use of subject pronouns increased. One of the important differences between Old and Middle French is the dramatic increase in use of subject pronouns. It is important to point out that subject pronouns in Old French are said to be "deleted" when in postposition to the verb: there are many more instances of preverbal than postverbal pronominal subjects. It may be, however, that the spread of subject pronouns as pointed out manifested itself preverbally first, and postverbally only later.

The use of subject pronouns with impersonal verbs is late. If subject pronouns are commonly used with finite verbs in Middle French, there is no regular use of pronominal subjects with impersonal verbs before 16th century French. E.g:

    anuite 'it gets dark'
    bataille i ad (CdR 1971, Lesson 2) 'there is a battle'
    m'est avis 'it seems to me'
    tei cuvenist helme ... a porter (Al. 411) 'you need to wear a helmet'

Early instances of impersonal "subject" pronouns are attested, cf.:

    Il nus i cuvent guarde (CdR 192)
    'we need to be careful'

28.3. Unstressed pronominal forms are verb bound: they are in proximity to the verb, either preceding or following it. Stressed forms are characterized by a much less strict use. They typically occur at the beginning of the clause, function as objects of prepositions, combine with infinitives, and are used with emphasis:

With an infinitive:

    as tables juent pur els esbaneier (CdR 111, Lesson 1)
    'they play games to amuse themselves'

With a preposition:

    desuz lui met s'espee (CdR 2359, Lesson 2)
    'under him he places his sword'
     
    a lui nos laist venir (Eul. 28, Lesson 4)
    'may he allow to come to him'

28.4. Third person direct object pronouns may be omitted in Old French when co-occurring with an indirect object in the same clause, cf.:

    il la volt prendra: cil ne li volt querpir (Al. 351)
    'he wants to take it: Alexis does not want to give (it) to him'

It can also be omitted when the direct object is governed by different verbs; in these instances it will be omitted with the second verb.

29 Possessives: Forms

There are two series of possessives in Old French: stressed, and unstressed. The unstressed possessives are used only as adjectival elements; the stressed forms may be used both as pronominal and adjectival elements. As adjectival elements, possessives agree with the head noun in case, number, and gender. As pronominal elements they agree with the noun they replace.

Possessives, Masculine unstressed forms

    1st Sg.   2nd Sg.   3rd Sg.
Nom. Sg.   mes   tes   ses
Obl. Sg.   mon   ton   son
             
Nom. Pl.   mi   ti   si
Obl. Pl.   mes   tes   ses
             
    1st Pl.   2nd Pl.   3rd Pl.
Nom. Sg.   nostre   vostre   lor (leur)
Obl. Sg.   nostre   vostre   lor (leur)
             
Nom. Pl.   nostre   vostre   lor (leur)
Obl. Pl.   noz   voz   lor (leur)

Possessives, Feminine unstressed forms

    1st Sg.   2nd Sg.   3rd Sg.
Nom. Sg.   ma   ta   sa
Obl. Sg.   ma   ta   sa
             
Nom. Pl.   mes   tes   ses
Obl. Pl.   mes   tes   ses
             
    1st Pl.   2nd Pl.   3rd Pl.
Nom. Sg.   nostre   vostre   lor (leur)
Obl. Sg.   nostre   vostre   lor (leur)
             
Nom. Pl.   noz   voz   lor (leur)
Obl. Pl.   noz   voz   lor (leur)

The feminine forms ma, ta, and sa regularly undergo elision when preceding a vowel-initial noun, cf.:

    s'ire (Bér., Trist. 145, Lesson 5) 'his distress'
    s'amie (Yv. 2610, this lesson) 'his friend'

The stressed possessives trace back to La. meum, tuum, and suum. While meum gave mien, the Old French tuen and suen from the 13th century became tien and sien, in analogy with mien.

Possessives, Masculine stressed forms

    1st Sg.   2nd Sg.   3rd Sg.
Nom. Sg.   miens   tuens   suens
Obl. Sg.   mien   tuen   suen
             
Nom. Pl.   mien   tuen   suen
Obl. Pl.   miens   tuens   suens
             
    1st Pl.   2nd Pl.   3rd Pl.
Nom. Sg.   nostres   vostres   lor
Obl. Sg.   nostre   vostre   lor
             
Nom. Pl.   nostre   vostre   lor
Obl. Pl.   nostres   vostres   lor

Possessives, Feminine stressed forms

    1st Sg.   2nd Sg.   3rd Sg.
Nom. Sg.   meie   to(u)e   so(u)e
    moie   teue   seue
Obl. Sg.   meie   to(u)e   so(u)e
    moie   teue   seue
             
Nom. Pl.   meies   to(u)es   so(u)es
Obl. Pl.   meies   to(u)es   so(u)es
             
    1st Pl.   2nd Pl.   3rd Pl.
Nom. Sg.   nostre   vostre   lor
Obl. Sg.   nostre   vostre   lor
             
Nom. Pl.   nostres   vostres   lor
Obl. Pl.   nostres   vostres   lor

With the replacement of tu- and su- by ti- and si- respectively, in analogy with mien (13th century), the declensional pattern of mien spread as well:

Declension of mien, tien, and sien, Masculine

    1st Sg.   2nd Sg.   3rd Sg.
Nom. Sg.   miens   tiens   siens
Obl. Sg.   mien   tien   sien
             
Nom. Pl.   mien   tien   sien
Obl. Pl.   miens   tiens   siens

Declension of mien, tien, and sien, Feminine

    1st Sg.   2nd Sg.   3rd Sg.
Nom. Sg.   mienne   tienne   sienne
Obl. Sg.   mienne   tienne   sienne
             
Nom. Pl.   miennes   tiennes   siennes
Obl. Pl.   miennes   tiennes   siennes
30 Possessives: Uses

Unstressed possessives are used only as adjectival elements. The stressed form, when used as an adjective, as a rule combines with a definite article, a demonstrative, or an indefinite article as well, cf.:

    la meie mort (CdR 2198)   'my death'
    la sue mort (CdR 2232)   'his death'
    par le men esciëntre (CdR 1791)   'to my knowledge'
    i metrai un mien filz (CdR 149)   'I will put a son of mine there'
    cest mien anel (Yv. 2603, this lesson)   'this ring of mine'

The stressed possessive, when used as a pronoun, generally combines with a definite article, cf.:

    Sainz Alexis la sue ... alascet (Al. 372)
    'St. Alexis let his (hand) go'
     
    ne n'ai tel gent ki la sue derumpet (CdR 19)
    'I do not have the troops capable of destroying his (army)'

Many instances in Old French include a preposition + personal pronoun instead of a possessive, cf.:

    l'ame de mei 'my soul'
    l'ame de lui 'his soul'

Old French Online

Lesson 7

Brigitte L.M. Bauer and Jonathan Slocum

During the heyday of the littérature courtoise, two important historical documents were written about the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). While the littérature courtoise presents a world of courtly ideals and magic events, the historians in their work present the real world, with its base passions.

Although Crusades primarily had an ideological motivation -- liberating the places of pilgrimage and safeguarding pilgims -- political, personal, and socio-economical reasons soon became important as well. During the Fourth Crusade the original aim, the liberation of Jerusalem, was completely forgotten when political profit and personal greed came to prevail.

The expedition was used by the doge of Venice to reinforce his political power. It established the political hegemony of Venice over the Mediterranean, and ensured its important commercial privileges. The abuse of power of the doge was based on the primordial role Venice played in the transportation of troops. The Crusade never made it beyond Constantinople, which was sacked; there one of the Crusaders, Baudoin of Flanders, was made emperor of the Latin Empire. The Empire would last until 1261.

Two participants in the Fourth Crusade have left lengthy reports about the events: one is written by a poor knight from Picardie, Robert de Clari, who was a simple warrior. The title of his work is L'histoire de ceux qui conquirent Constantinople.

The other source is the Histoire de la conquête de Constantinople, written between 1207 and 1213 by one of the leaders of the Crusade, Geoffroi de Villehardouin, who originally came from Champagne. Villehardouin relates the historical events in a sober style, but his report may not be completely impartial.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The reading for this lesson has been taken from Villehardouin's Histoire de la conquête de Constantinople, sections 345 and 346. In it, reference is made to the Greek as enemy. Having conquered Constantinople, the Crusaders took over Christian property in the area as well, because the Greek population and church were not part of the Church of Rome.

The reader will notice Villehardouin's sober style, with its simplicity and lack of artificial effects. Because of its plainness, many assume that Villehardouin's language was rather close to the spoken language of the day.

As an important representative of the medieval aristocracy, Villehardouin in his text expresses many ideals of his class, the most important of which are loyalty and faithfulness (in relation to God, promises made, and so forth) and braveness. Consequently he rejects any form of cowardice, as he does in the text selected here.

The text has an example of a vigesimal numeral: a numeral based on counting in twenties, rather than in tens. The element in question is the number VI with XX in superscript, meaning six times twenty, six-vingts 'one hundred and twenty'. Vigesimals appeared in the various Indo-European languages in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Whereas the (inherited) counting system was decimal in early Old French (e.g. huitante 'eighty'), vigesimal numbers emerged and spread starting in the 12th century. In the 16th and 17th centuries their number decreased, and modern quatre-vingts and soixante-dix (a so-called semi-vigesimal) are residues of a phenomenon that was widespread in Old and Middle French (see References in Lesson 10).

Or conte li livres une grant mervoille:
que Reniers de Trit, qui ere a Finepople,
bien .IX. jornees loing de Costantinople,
et avoit bien .VIXX. chevaliers avec lui,
que Reniers ses fils le guerpi, et Giles ses freres,
et Jakes de Bondine, qui ere ses niers,
et Achars de Vercli, qui avoit sa file.
  • or -- adverb; <or> now -- ...
  • conte -- verb; third person singular present <conter> count, relate -- relates
  • li -- definite article; nominative singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • livres -- noun; nominative singular <livre> book, inventory -- book
  • une -- indefinite article; oblique singular feminine <un> a -- a
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular feminine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • mervoille -- noun; oblique singular <merveille> what is surprising, wonder -- remarkable event
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- the fact that
  • Reniers de Trit -- proper name; nominative singular <Renier de Trit> Renier de Trit -- Renier de Trit
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • ere -- verb; third person singular imperfective <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- was
  • a -- preposition; <a, ad> to, up to, against, in, on -- at
  • Finepople -- proper name; oblique singular <Finepople> Finepople -- Finepople
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- at least
  • .IX. -- number; <.IX.> nine -- nine # numbers in Old French texts are preceded and followed by a dot
  • jornees -- noun; oblique plural <jornee> day's journey -- a... days journey
  • loing -- adverb; <loing, loin, luin, lonc> far, far away -- away
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- from
  • Costantinople -- proper name; oblique singular <Costantinoble> Constantinople -- Constantinople
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- ...
  • avoit -- verb; third person singular imperfective <avoir, aveir> have, be -- had
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- at least
  • .VIXX. -- number; <.VIXX.> six times twenty, one hundred and twenty -- hundred and twenty # numbers in Old French texts are preceded and followed by a dot
  • chevaliers -- noun; oblique plural <chevalier> knight -- knights
  • avec -- preposition; <avuec, avec, avoc> with -- with
  • lui -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- and the fact that
  • Reniers -- proper name; nominative singular <Renier> Renier -- Renier
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular nominative singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • fils -- noun; nominative singular <fil> son -- son
  • le -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object masculine <il> he -- him
  • guerpi -- verb; third person singular preterite <guerpir> abandon, leave -- abandoned
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- with
  • Giles -- proper name; nominative singular <Giles> Giles -- Giles
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular nominative singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • freres -- noun; nominative singular <frere> brother -- brother
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • Jakes de Bondine -- proper name; nominative singular <Jake de Bondine> Jake de Bondine -- Jake de Bondine
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • ere -- verb; third person singular imperfective <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- was
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular nominative singular masculine <son> his -- his
  • niers -- noun; nominative singular <nevot, neveu> grandson, nephew -- nephew
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • Achars de Vercli -- proper name; nominative singular <Achar de Vercli> Achar de Vercli -- Achar de Vercli
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • avoit -- verb; third person singular imperfective <avoir, aveir> have, be -- was married to
  • sa -- possessive; third person singular oblique singular feminine <son> his -- his
  • file -- noun; oblique singular <fille> daughter -- daughter

Et li tolirent bien .XXX. de ses chevaliers,
et s'en cuidoient venir en Costantinople,
et l'avoient laissié en si grant peril com voz oez.
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • li -- personal pronoun; third person singular indirect object masculine <il> he -- from him
  • tolirent -- verb; third person plural preterite <tolir> take off, cut off -- they took away
  • bien -- adverb; <bien> well, many, much, really -- at least
  • .XXX. -- number; <.XXX.> thirty -- thirty # in Old French, numbers were preceded and followed by a dot
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • ses -- possessive; third person singular oblique plural masculine <son> his -- his
  • chevaliers -- noun; oblique plural <chevalier> knight -- knights
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • s'en cuidoient venir -- personal pronoun; third person plural direct object <se> he + pronoun; inanimate <en> of it + verb; third person plural imperfective <cuidier> think + verb; infinitive <venir> come, go -- they thought of going
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- to
  • Costantinople -- proper name; oblique singular <Costantinoble> Constantinople -- Constantinople
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • l'avoient -- personal pronoun; third person singular direct object <il> he + verb; third person plural imperfective <avoir, aveir> have, be -- they had... him
  • laissié -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <laissier> leave, let, abandon -- abandoned
  • en -- preposition; <en> in, into, on, on top of -- in
  • si -- adverb; <si> thus, that way, that much -- such
  • grant -- adjective; oblique singular masculine <grant> great, large, tall -- great
  • peril -- noun; oblique singular <peril> danger -- danger
  • com -- conjunction; <com, comme> as -- as
  • voz -- personal pronoun; second person plural nominative <vos> you -- you
  • oez -- verb; second person plural present <oir, odir> hear -- well understand

Si troverent la terre revellee encontre els,
et furent desconfit, si les pristrent li Grieu,
qui, puis les rendirent le roi de Blakie,
qui puis aprés lor fist les testes trencier.
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and
  • troverent -- verb; third person plural preterite <trover> find -- they found
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • terre -- noun; oblique singular <terre> land, country, earth -- country
  • revellee -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular feminine <reveler> revolt -- in revolt
  • encontre -- preposition; <encontre> to, towards, against -- against
  • els -- personal pronoun; third person plural direct object masculine <il> they -- them
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • furent -- verb; third person plural preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- they were
  • desconfit -- verb; perfective participle nominative plural masculine <desconfire> demolish, defeat -- defeated
  • si -- conjunction; <si> and, and thus -- and thus
  • les -- personal pronoun; third person plural direct object masculine <il> they -- them
  • pristrent -- verb; third person plural preterite <prendre> take, take hold of, seize -- took... prisoner
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • Grieu -- proper name; nominative plural <gré, grieu, griu, gri> Greek -- Greek
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • puis -- adverb; <puis> subsequently -- subsequently
  • les -- personal pronoun; third person plural direct object masculine <il> they -- them
  • rendirent -- verb; third person plural preterite <rendre> give, return -- handed over
  • le -- definite article; oblique singular masculine <li> the -- the
  • roi -- noun; oblique singular <roi> king -- to... king
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- of
  • Blakie -- proper name; oblique singular <Blaquie> Blaquie -- Blaquie
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- who
  • puis -- adverb; <puis> subsequently -- ...
  • aprés -- adverb; <apres> after, afterwards -- afterwards
  • lor -- personal pronoun; third person plural indirect object masculine <il> they -- ...
  • fist -- verb; third person singular preterite <faire> make -- ordered
  • les -- definite article; oblique plural feminine <li> the -- their
  • testes -- noun; oblique plural <teste> head -- heads
  • trencier -- verb; infinitive <trenchier> cut -- to (be) cut off

Et sachiez que mult furent petit plaint de la gent,
por ce que il avoient si mespris vers celui
qu'i ne deüssent mie faire.
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • sachiez -- verb; second person plural imperative <savoir> know -- you should know
  • que -- conjunction; <que> that -- that
  • mult -- adverb, adjective; <molt, mult, mout> many, much, very -- very
  • furent -- verb; third person plural preterite <estre, iestre, aistre> be -- they were
  • petit -- adjective, adverb; <petit> small, little -- little
  • plaint -- verb; perfective participle nominative plural masculine <plaindre> complain, regret, mourn -- mourned
  • de -- preposition; <de> of, from -- by
  • la -- definite article; oblique singular feminine <li> the -- the
  • gent -- noun; oblique singular <gent> race, people -- people
  • por ce que -- preposition; <por> for + demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <cil> that + conjunction; <que> that -- because
  • il -- personal pronoun; third person plural nominative masculine <il> they -- they
  • avoient -- verb; third person plural imperfective <avoir, aveir> have, be -- had
  • si -- adverb; <si> thus, that way, that much -- that much
  • mespris -- verb; perfective participle oblique singular masculine <mesprendre> make a mistake, commit a crime -- been misbehaving
  • vers -- preposition; <vers> towards -- towards
  • celui -- demonstrative; oblique singular masculine <cil> that -- the one
  • qu'i -- relative pronoun; object <qui> who + personal pronoun; third person plural nominative <il> they -- to whom... they
  • ne -- negation; <ne, nen> not -- not
  • deüssent -- verb; third person plural subjunctive imperfective <devoir> have to -- should have
  • mie -- negation; <mie> not -- ...
  • faire -- verb; infinitive <faire> make -- behaved that way

Et quant li autre chevalier Renier de Trit virent ce,
qui si prés ne li estoient mie,
cum cil qui en doterent mains la honte,
si le guerpirent, bien .LXXX. chevalier tuit ensemble,
et s'en alerent per une autre voie.
  • et -- conjunction; <e, et, ed> and -- and
  • quant -- conjunction; <quant> when -- when
  • li -- definite article; nominative plural masculine <li> the -- the
  • autre -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <altre> other -- other
  • chevalier -- noun; nominative plural <chevalier> knight -- knights
  • Renier de Trit -- proper name; oblique singular <Renier de Trit> Renier de Trit -- of Renier de Trit
  • virent -- verb; third person plural preterite <veoir> see -- saw
  • ce -- demonstrative; oblique singular neuter <cil> that -- that
  • qui -- relative pronoun; subject <qui> who -- those who