Varieties of French dialects

The French language was not the main language of communication in France until the last two centuries. It became the language of the state only during the rule of Napoleon.

Today, the main French varieties are:

Before this period, the regional varieties of French dialects like Picard-Walloon, Norman, Champenois and Meridional were mainly spoken in the territory of France. Out of these, the Picard-Walloon dialect is said to have dominated for a longer period and was considered as the main dialect of the northern regions of France. The other dominant regional dialect that is even found today in modern France is the Meridional dialect. This dialect is highly influenced by all features of the Occitan language that include but are not limited to morphology, syntax, vocabulary and phonology.

Apart from these different varieties of French dialects found in France, one can find other varieties of French dialects in countries where there is high concentration of French speaking people and others where French is one of the official languages. These international varieties of French dialects include but are not limited to the African French, American French dialects (more precisely Louisiana French dialects), Cajun, Napoleonic and Colonial French dialects. The other prominent varieties of French dialects include Quebec dialect, Acadian dialect, Newfoundland dialect and Metis dialect spoken in Canada. In Switzerland one can find a French dialect with a more peculiar and distinct vocabulary than that of Standard French.

African French dialects

There are more than 100 million French speaking people in Africa who speak French either as a primary or secondary language. Though the dialect spoken by this African population is quite different from the Standard French dialect spoken in France. African French is a more general term, as there are several varieties of French dialects that are spoken in diverse regions of Africa. There are three types of African French dialects that include: 1) The one spoken by the Arabs and Berbers mostly in the Northwest regions of Africa (some call this as the Maghreb dialect), 2) the other spoken in Eastern and Central regions of Africa and 3) spoken in countries like Mauritius and Seychelles. The Abidjan city of West Africa is said to have the highest concentration of French speaking people and has its own varieties of French dialects.

These African French dialects differ from each other mainly in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation. The pronunciations are more influenced by those of the local African languages and that’s the reason why one can observe that the French words pronounced in Morocco are completely different than those spoken in Senegal. Similar to the pronunciations, the African French vocabulary has considerable inclusions of the regional African languages, making them differ from each other.

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