3.2. Rôle and Status of French

The basic purposes of Latin-vernacular lexica were to assist in translation and teaching the meaning of Latin words to students and to clerics whose knowledge of Latin was weak. It is the primacy of Latin which informs every aspect of bilingual dictionary production. It is: a) the source of the nomenclature around which the dictionary is structured, b) the principal language for grammatical and other metalinguistic information, c) one of the languages of definition, and d) the foundation of most French forms, whether in definitions or metalanguage.

3.2.1. Use of French in definitions

The Abavus and the Aalma are essentially bilingual collections, where Latin is the entry language and French the exit language. Even so, there are a number of articles in which the glosses are entirely in Latin. The quantity of such cases varies from one manuscript to another. A8 and A14, for example, contain more Latin glosses than does A1. In letter-section 'F' of A1 we find twenty-three articles with only a Latin gloss; in the same section of A8 we find thirty-nine such articles. Some of this difference is accounted for by new articles which do not appear in A1; others are articles which are glossed in Latin in A8, but are glossed in French in A1.

It is not uncommon to find definitions containing both languages, often expressing different meanings of the lemma:

At times, a definition begun in one language is completed in the other: MP contains more Latin text than Aalma, but it is basically a bilingual dictionary. The quantity of Latin is chiefly accounted for by the fact that the author included a substantial amount of grammatical and other information from his source text. In addition, fifty-five of the 232 entries edited in Nobel 1986 are glossed entirely in Latin. (More research is needed to be conclusive, but from a brief survey it appears that the entries lacking a French gloss are drawn mainly from Papias.) However, in most articles the compiler substituted French glosses for the Latin terms in his sources. An important contribution of MPST is that the manuscripts are proving to be sources of new attestations of form and new attestations of meaning (Nobel 1986: 165f.)

The influence of Latin is inescapable in GGL. We have already remarked in 2.5.5. that Latin affects the ordering of the French entries. Its influence is even more noticeable in the number of syntagms and paraphrases, for which no single French equivalent is given: Mouche qui fait le miel - apes, apis; Areur de terres - arator oris.

The DLV is entirely different from the other lexica containing French forms. Although we have called it 'bilingual', the DLV should rather be called a Latin-Latin/French dictionary (Merrilees/Edwards 1989: 39). Latin lemmata are supported by a principally Latin metalanguage and glossed mainly by Latin definitions. French equivalents or definitions may or may not be included in individual entries, and French is not often used in the metalanguage (see 3.2.2.). However, the character and originality of French in DLV are far more important than its quantity. Rather than annex French forms mot-à-mot to Latin lemmata, Le Ver endeavours to translate the underlying concepts into the vernacular. Moreover, the quantity of neologisms and first attestations in the DLV gives ample evidence of Le Ver's linguistic awareness (id. 1989: 47f.; Merrilees 1994a: xxvi f.).

The principal importance of the French forms in bilingual lexica lies not in their quantity but in their variety, as they record Middle French in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. To use just one example:

For murmur, murmuris we find murmuremens, murmurement, noise, noaise, and for murmurare we find murmurer and noaiser.

3.2.2. Use of French in metalanguage

The Abavus manuscripts contain little metalanguage, and Latin is the language for that small amount: vel, id est, scilicet, verbum impersonale, etc.

There is a greater quantity of metalanguage in the Aalma series, although the extent varies among the manuscripts. Latin, of course, is its primary language but there are some examples of the use of French. In MPST the metalanguage is entirely in Latin, although the quantity is greater in MP than in ST. The most extensive metalanguage is found in DLV, with a small but important percentage of it in French.

The definitional connectors vel and aut found in Abavus, are generally replaced by ou in the later collections. As a result, ou fills two functions: it is part of the language of definition, e.g. fasceuma. me. cloture de bois. palis environ chastiaus ou citez (A1), or it is part of the metalanguage, e.g. faselus. li. petite nef ou une yle ou une maniere de lun (A1). Other French definitional connectors are signifie, aussi and vault autant a dire:

The definitions of parts of speech are almost entirely in Latin in our corpus. The exceptions are prepositions, which are often described in French in Aalma and DLV: and conjunctions, which are occasionally identified as such in French in Aalma: The most striking fact is that all of the French grammatical and similar information pertains entirely to Latin:

3.3. Conclusion

The linguistic and lexicographical heritage from Greek Antiquity consisted (apart from the conviction that Greek was a superior language) of the technique of glossing texts and the principles of grammar, of etymological theory and of alphabetical order. The study of grammar and the origin of words became part of the Latin tradition, while first-letter alphabetical arrangement is found in grammatical and lexicographical works from Varro to Isidore. Glossing of texts, long considered to be a part of literary activity, passed into Roman Antiquity and the glossing of literary, Biblical and Patristic writings continued throughout the Middle Ages. Isidore of Seville, Hrabanus Maurus, Bede and other early medieval scholars preserved the Latin grammatical and lexicographical inheritance in their writings. It was read, rearranged and expanded by the grammarians of the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries: Papias, Peter Helias, John of Garland, Alexander of Villedieu, Eberhard of Bethune, Hugutio of Pisa and John Balbi of Genoa, among others. They were the most important scholars of their day and in ensuing centuries their works were copied, abridged and translated, but little original material was added to their productions.

The late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century lexicographer, who was no longer necessarily a cleric, stood at a turning-point in European technological and intellectual history. His legacy from the Middle Ages included presentation techniques which would adapt well to printing, [72] but also included a nomenclature dating from the thirteenth century and a microstructure imbued with scholasticism, neither of which was in accord with humanist thought. The creator of a bilingual dictionary inherited as well a framework based entirely on Latin, which would hamper efforts to respond to growing nationalism through creation of dictionaries focused on vernacular languages. These vestiges of medieval Latin lexicography influenced European dictionary-making for at least a century.

[Next] -- [Table of Contents]