La Section de la langue Jèrriaise

English-Jersey Language Vocabulary


English-Jersey Language Vocabulary  



The present Vocabulary is intended to serve a double purpose. As it is based entirely on the "Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français" by Frank Le Maistre, it can serve as an English Index to that major work. It will also be very useful to those who wish to translate directly from English into the Jersey Language.

This Vocabulary contains over 15,000 English words : in most cases, several Jersey words are given for the one English word, and more could often have been found. On the other hand, it has occasionally been impossible to find Jersey words for English terms, e.g. "lorry" (Fr, camion), "shutter" (Fr. volet), "sprayer" (Fr. pulvérisateur), because of the relatively recent introduction of such terms. The same, of course, applies to all other languages.

GRAMMAR.- The infinitive of the verbs is given, and in the case of irregular verbs, the past participle is often included also, e.g. done, fait; seen, veu; taken, prîns, For the other parts, the reader is advised to refer to the Conjugation of Verbs, p. ix.

The masculine singular form of the nouns and adjectives is normally given, The rules which govern the formation of the plural and feminine of French nouns and adjectives apply generally to the Jersey Language, e.g. un g'veu (a hair), pl, des g'veux; bouon (good), f bouonne, When the French rule does not apply, the irregular plural or feminine is given, e.g. un sou (a halfpenny), pl, des sou; entchi (whole), f, entchiéthe.

The gender of the nouns is usually the same in both languages, but there are exceptions : the word vitre (pane), feminine in French, is masculine in the Jersey Language.

A distinctive feature of the adjective is that it normally precedes the noun : thus a red flower is eune rouoge flieur (Fr, une fleur rouge).

THE SOUND OF H.- Precise information on the sounds of the Jersey Language is given in the "Notes Explicatives", pp. xxvii xxix of the " Dictionnaire". As for the letter h, it is preceded, in the " Dictionnaire", pp. 281-298, by an asterisk, when it is aspirate. This is the case for the following words, among others : hache, haie, haillon, haine, haler, hâler, hanneton, happer, harde, hardelle, hardi, haut, hâvre, hèrnais, héthan, honmard, honte, hors, hougue.

When the h is mute in French, it is generally mute also in the corresponding Jersey word, e.g. hôlouoge, Fr, horloge. When it is aspirate, it is heard much more in the Jersey word than in the French word. It is of Norman, not English, origin, but because it is strongly aspirated, the h of the Jersey hâte, for instance, is much nearer to the h of English "haste" than to that of the French hâte. Another sound often erroneously attributed to English influence is the th pronunciation of intervocalic r, e.g. péthe, Fr, père. This sound existed in the early dialect of the Cotentin.

HISTORY- In the early Middle Ages, the French language which was born of the Low Latin used by the Roman conquerors was not uniformly spoken throughout the French territory. It consisted of a variety of dialects classified in two groups, according to the way of pronouncing oui: oïl north of the Loire, oc in the south. In the part where the "langue d'oïl" was spoken, the dialect of Île de France had no priority over the other three : Picard, Burgundian, Norman, Jersey, being part of Normandy, shared the vernacular of the Cotentin peninsula.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, owing to the presence in Paris of the King's Court and the University (Sorbonne), the supremacy of the French spoken in Île de France and used by all writers and grammarians became firmly established; the other dialects, no longer used for literary purposes, came to be regarded, with some contempt, as "patois", as corruptions of standard French.

This attitude still prevails today in many circles : one forgets too easily that the Jersey Norman dialect, for instance, and standard French, have a common source, viz. Low Latin. The word cat, in Jersey Language, could not possibly be a corruption of the French word chat, since both words come from the Latin cattum, and since, of the two, the Jersey word is the nearer to the Latin. Similarly, the Jersey gambe, from the Latin gambam, cannot be a corruption of the French jambe. Hundreds of other examples could be found if it were necessary.

Consequently, the name "Jersey-French" is a misnomer, for it suggests a corruption of "lé bouôn français"' ; it implies that Jersey-French is nothing more than "du mauvais français", The name "Jersey Norman Dialect" is more accurate because, in the main, the Jersey and the Cotentin vernaculars have evolved on the same lines, to the extent that a Jerseyman and a Norman, speaking in their native tongues, still understand each other quite easily. The term "Jersey Norman Dialect" is unfortunately a little cumbersome. As this dialect has developed a personality of its own, owing to the Island's closer associations with England than with France, and as it has become, by the publication of Frank Le Maistre's "Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français", completely standardized, we make no apology for referring to it as a "language".

LANGUAGE.- This language, essentially a Romance language, also contains words of Gaulish, Germanic, Norse and other derivations, and it is of the utmost interest to the student of philology, morphology, dialectology and phonetics. Being originally the tongue of an agricultural and fishing community, it has a vocabulary more concrete than abstract, but extremely rich where everyday life and pursuits are concerned : we have recorded twenty-three Jersey words for the English word "din" . One would hesitate to choose it to write a treatise on history, philosophy, theology or literature, but it is eminently suited to comedy and farce, as is testified by the full audiences who attend Jersey plays.

It may be because Jersey folk are, on the whole, happy and contented, that their native language lends itself so readily to quick repartee, good-humoured conversation, lively entertainment and witty speeches, The Jersey residents who undertake its study will soon feel amply rewarded by the enjoyable experience of learning a new language : in this case, a language which they can practise at their own door.





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