Norman language

Norman language
Spoken in



 England(See: Norman England)
  Ireland(See: Norman Ireland)
 Canada(used to a certain degree in eastern Canada)

Blason sicile famille Hauteville.svg Kingdom of Sicily(used in a limited degree)
Armoiries Bohémond VI d'Antioche.svgPrincipality of Antioch

now defunct in area
Region Normandy and the Channel Islands
Native speakers  ?  (date missing)
Language family
Writing system Latin (French alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List fra-nor
  xno (Anglo-Norman)
Linguasphere 51-AAA-hc & 51-AAA-hd
Normandy map.png
Areas where the Norman language is strongest include Jersey, Guernsey, the Cotentin and the Pays de Caux.

Norman (Normandy: normaund, Guernésiais: normand, Jèrriais: Nouormand) is a Romance language and one of the Oïl languages. Norman can be classified as one of the northern Oïl languages along with Picard and Walloon. The name Norman-French is sometimes used to describe not only the Norman language, but also the administrative languages of Anglo-Norman and Law French used in England. For the most part, modern French and Norman are intercomprehensible.


Geographical distribution

Norman is spoken in mainland Normandy in France where it has no official status, but is classed as a regional language. It is taught in a few colleges near Cherbourg.

In the Channel Islands, the Norman language has developed separately, but not in isolation, to form what are recognized as Jèrriais (in Jersey), Guernésiais or Guernsey French (in Guernsey) and Sercquiais (or Sarkese, in Sark). Jèrriais and Guernésiais are recognized as regional languages by the British and Irish governments within the framework of the British-Irish Council.

Sercquiais is in fact a descendant of the 16th century Jèrriais used by the original colonists from Jersey who settled the then uninhabited island.

The last native speakers of Auregnais, the Norman language of Alderney, died during the 20th century, although some rememberers still exist. The dialect of Herm also lapsed, at an unknown date.

An isogloss termed the ligne Joret separates the northern and southern dialects of the Norman language (the line is from Granville to the French-speaking Belgian border in the province of Hainaut and Thiérache-France). There are also dialectal differences between western and eastern dialects.

Three different standardized spellings are used: continental Norman, Jèrriais, and Dgèrnésiais. These represent the different developments and particular literary histories of the varieties of Norman. Norman may therefore be described as a pluricentric language.

The Anglo-Norman dialect of Norman was a language of administration in England following the Norman Conquest. This left a legacy of Law French in the language of English courts (though it was also influenced by Parisian French). In Ireland, Norman remained strongest in the area of south-east Ireland where the Hiberno-Normans invaded in 1169. Norman is still in (limited) use for some very formal legal purposes in the UK, such as when the monarch gives Royal Assent to an Act of Parliament using the phrase, "La Reine/Le Roy Le Veult" ("The Queen/King Wills It").

The Norman conquest of southern Italy also brought the language to Sicily and the southern part of the Apennine Peninsula, where it has left a few traces in the Sicilian language. See: Norman French influences in Sicilian.

Literature in Norman ranges from early Anglo-Norman literature through the 19th century Norman literary renaissance to modern writers (see List of Norman language writers).

Today, the Norman language is strongest in the less accessible areas of the former Duchy of Normandy: the Channel Islands and the Cotentin Peninsula (Cotentinais) in the west, and the Pays de Caux (Cauchois) in the east. Ease of access from Paris and the popularity of the coastal resorts of central Normandy, such as Deauville, in the 19th century led to a significant loss of distinctive Norman culture in the central low-lying areas of Normandy.


When Norse invaders arrived in the then-province of Neustria and settled the land that became known as Normandy, they gradually adopted the Gallo-Romance speech of the existing populations – much as Norman rulers in England later adopted the speech of the administered people. However, in both cases, the élites contributed elements of their own language to the newly enriched languages that developed in the territories.

In Normandy, the new Norman language inherited vocabulary from Norse. The influence on phonology is more disputed, although it is argued that the retention of aspirated /h/ and /k/ in Norman is due to Norse influence.

Examples of Norman words of Norse origin:

Norman English Old East Norse French Modern Swedish
bel court, yard (cf. bailey?) bǿli cour (cf. bal) böle
bète bait (borrowed from Norman) bæita appât bete
kanne can kanna cruche kanna
guernotte, guénotte, jarnotte earth nut jorðnotr terre-noix jordnöt
gradile, gradelle, gadelle (black)currant gaddʀ cassis, groseille vinbär (a neologism)
greyer prepare græiða préparer greja (to fix things)
griller, égriller slide, slip skriðla glisser skrida (to skate)
hardelle girl hóra (whore) fille (cf. hardi) hora (prostitute)
hèrnais cart (cf. harness) járnaðʀ (shod (horse)) charrette (cf. harnais, harnacher) järnad
hommet/houmet islet (diminutive of hou) hulmʀ îlot holma
hou islet ( cf. holm, mainly in placenames) hulmʀ îlot holm
hougue mound ( cf. howe, high) haugʀ monticule hög
mauve seagull mávaʀ (pl.) gaviote (Pre-Norman) /
mouette (Post-Norman)
mielle dune mjalʀ dune dyn
mucre damp (cf. muggy) mygla humide mögel (mildew)
nez headland or cliff (cf. Sheerness, etc.) næs falaise (cf. nez) näs
pouque pouch, bag (cf. north of England poke
, proverb "pig in a poke"; also pocket)
puki sac (cf. poche) påse
viquet wicket (borrowed from Norman) víkjas guichet (borrowed from Norman) wicket (re-borrowed from English)

In some cases, Norse words adopted in Norman have been borrowed into French – and more recently some of the English words used in French can be traced back to Norman origins.

A bar named in Norman

Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Norman language spoken by the new rulers of England left traces of specifically Norman words that can be distinguished from the equivalent lexical items in French:

English Norman French
fashion < faichon = façon
cabbage < caboche = chou (cf. caboche)
candle < ca(u)ndelle = chandelle, bougie
castle < castel (now catè) = château, castelet
cauldron < caudron = chaudron
causeway < caucie (now cauchie)[1] = chaussée
catch < cachier (now cachi)[2] = chasser
cater < acater = acheter
cherry (ies) < cherise (chrise, chise ) = cerise
mug < mogue/moque[3] = mug, boc
poor < paur = pauvre
wait < waitier (old Norman) = gaitier (mod. guetter )
war < werre (old Norman) = guerre
warrior < werreur (old Norman) = guerrier
wicket < viquet = guichet (cf. piquet)

Other words such as captain, kennel, cattle and canvas introduced from Norman exemplify how Norman retained a /k/ from Latin that was not retained in French.

Norman immigrants to North America also introduced some "Normanisms" to Quebec French and French in Canada generally. Joual, a working class sociolect of Quebec in particular exhibits a Norman influence. Some expressions that are currently in use in Canada are: abrier for [y faut s'abrier, y fait frète!], barrure for [barre], ber for [berceau], bers for [ridelles d'un chariot ou berceau], bleuet for [myrtille], boucane for [fumée], boucaner for [fumer ou quereller] (also available in modern French), champelure (Norm. campleuse) for [robinet], croche for [tordu], fricot for [festin], gourgannes for [fêves de marais], gourgane for [bajoue de porc fumée], gricher (Norm. grigner) for [grimacer], grafigner for [gratter légèrement et sans cesse], graffigner for [égratigner], ichite or icite or iciitou for [aussi], jouquer or juquer for [jucher], maganer for [malmener], mitan for [milieu], marganner for [déganer], maganer for [maltraiter ou malmener], mi-aout for [quinze août] (also avaible in modern french), pigoche for [cheville], pognie for [poignée], pomonique for [pulmonique],quasiment for [presque] (also avaible in modern french), racoin for [recoin], ramarrer for [rattacher], ramucrir, for [devenir humide], mucrerancer for [avoir la respiration gênée et bruyante, lever, pousser avec un levier], ressoudre for [réveiller, activer], relever,roteux,euse for [qui rote, roteur], tasserie for [lieu où l'on tasse la récolte des gerbes de blé, d'orge, ou d'avoine], train for [être ivre], train de for [être occupé à] (also avaible in modern french), sacraer for [sacrer (arrête de sacrer!)], v'lin for [venin], vlimeux for [velimeux], v'lo for [voilà], y for [il, ils, elles (qu'est-ce qu'y fait ?)] zius for [yeux].[4]

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Causeway"
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Catch"
  3. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary. entry on "Mug¹" states that the origin of this word is uncertain—it may have been a borrowing from Norman, or it may have come from another source, and been reinforced through Norman.
  4. ^ [Clapin] Dictionnaire canadien–français (1894) de Sylva Clapin (1853–1928)[1], [Decorde] Dictionnaire du patois du pays de Bray (1852) de Jean-Eugène Decorde (1811–1881)[2], [Dunn] Glossaire franco-canadien (1880) d'Oscar Dunn (1845–1885)[3], [GPFC] Glossaire du parler français au Canada (1930) de la Société du parler français au Canada [4]


  • Essai de grammaire de la langue normande, UPN, 1995. ISBN 2-9509074-0-7.
  • V'n-ous d'aveu mei? UPN, 1984.
  • La Normandie dialectale, 1999, ISBN 2-84133-076-1
  • Alain Marie, Les auteurs patoisants du Calvados, 2005. ISBN 2-84706-178-9.
  • Roger Jean Lebarbenchon, Les Falaises de la Hague, 1991. ISBN 2-9505884-0-9.
  • Jean-Louis Vaneille, Les patoisants bas-normands, n.d., Saint-Lô.
  • André Dupont, Dictionnaire des patoisants du Cotentin, Société d'archéologie de la Manche, Saint-Lô, 1992.
  • Geraint Jennings and Yan Marquis, "The Toad and the Donkey: an anthology of Norman literature from the Channel Islands", 2011, ISBN 978-1-903427-61-3

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