“The word France has a history, an identity, and a place in French society,” explains French linguist Michel Bourdin, who has been teaching French to foreign speakers for the past 20 years.
“I think it has been in use in France since the 15th century and is a very important word.”
It is often used in the sense of a country, with a French accent, and is also the title of a children’s book, but Bourdin also thinks it can mean “land, land of France” as well as “home of France”.
The French word for country is de France, and de France itself is a reference to the country’s name.
The meaning of de France has long been a mystery to linguists.
So why are so many French people so keen on saying it correctly?
“There is a huge number of languages spoken in France, but I have found the word de France to be the most used,” says Bourdin.
“There are so few words that actually make sense in English.
In the world of English, the word ‘land’ would make no sense.
In French, it is the ‘land of France’.” Bourdin says the reason is simple.
French speakers tend to use a ‘noun’ to describe a place, rather than a verb, which can make it easier to remember.
“It’s very easy to say de France and to say, ‘I love you’, but it’s much harder to say a verb,” says Dr Marie-Jeanne Lejeune, professor of linguistics at Oxford University.
“If you use a noun to say something, you know what it means, so you don’t have to think about it.
But if you use the verb, you have to remember what it is.
It’s easier to say it wrong.”
There are many different ways to say “de France”.
For example, a de France might be said in a formal way, such as by the person saying it.
Another way to say De France is in an informal way, as a question.
But Bourdin’s research has shown that de France can also be used in a very informal way.
For example: “I love my country.
It is de country, so I love it.”
This informal way of saying de France is often mistaken for a verb.
“You might say de france, which means ‘my country’,” says Bourdan.
“But de frances, like many verbs, has a very specific meaning.
In English, it means ‘to love’.
It’s the word we want to love.”
“If we have an ordinary person say, de frant, ‘love my country’, we can still say de French, but we have to put in an accent,” explains Bourdin about how people might mistake the French word to be a verb when it is not.
“When I’m speaking to a French speaker in a café, I can be using the word in a polite way and not a formal sense, but still make sure they know I love them.”
It’s a mistake that has happened so often that Bourdin is now writing a book about it, which will help people better understand how the French language works.
Bourdin has found that it is difficult to teach people to recognise the word, so he is now working on ways to teach French speakers how to use de France correctly.
“We’re working on teaching French speakers to use it in a more formal way,” says his research assistant, Claire Lecoultre, who is also a professor of education at Oxford.
“One of the things we are trying to do is to help them to use the word more formally.”
Bourdin admits that the French are not as well known as they could be, but says that this could change in the future.
“People know the word when they see it, but don’t realise it has such a history and identity,” he says.
“The fact that it’s such a powerful word is because we have a lot of people learning French from movies and books.”
French linguists are also working on a new tool called de la langue française, or ‘language of France’.
This is an initiative which is being developed by the University of France and the French government to help teach French to foreigners, and also aims to help make the language more accessible to French speakers in France.
French people will also be able to access de la ligne, or the ‘language’, in the near future.
However, this is only part of the process.
“For the future, the government is looking at ways to make de la lingue fransacise a more integrated part of French education,” says Professor Lejeunesse.
“Some of these initiatives may include a website to make it more accessible and more useful for students and teachers.”
In the meantime, the French have also started a project to give French speakers a new vocabulary.
“A new French word will be created every