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

Geographical distribution

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

In the Channel Islands, the Norman language has developed separately, but not in isolation, to form what are recognized as Jèrriais (in Jerseymarker), Guernésiais or Guernsey French (in Guernseymarker) and Sercquiais (or Sarkese, in Sarkmarker). 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 Alderneymarker, died during the 20th century, although some rememberers still exist. The dialect of Hermmarker 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 Belgianmarker border). 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.

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

The Anglo-Norman dialect of Norman was a language of administration in Englandmarker 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 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").


Le Coup d'œil purin is a polemical satire in verse published in Rouen in 1773

Among representative writers of the early Anglo-Norman literary tradition, the Jersey-born poet and chronicler Wace is considered as the founding figure of literature in Jèrriais.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the workers and merchants of Rouenmarker established a tradition of polemical and satirical literature in a form of language called the parler purin. La Fricassée crotestyllonnée of 1552 and La Farce des Quiolards of 1735 are notable texts.

David Ferrand (1589–1660) published La Muse Normande, an anthology of writings in the dialect of the Pays de Cauxmarker. Pierre Genty (1706–1821) represents the Perche dialect. In Calvadosmarker, a text entitled L'agréable conférence de deux normands was published around 1650. In 1773 Le Coup d'oeil purin protested against the suppression of the parlement of Rouen.

Surviving vernacular literature after 1650 in Calvados is sparse, with only a few texts appearing around the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century (authors Bernardin Anquetil 1755–1826 from the Bessin, and Nicolas Lalleman 1764–1814 from Viremarker).

At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century a new movement arose in the Channel Islands, led by writers such as George Métivier (Guernsey, 1790–1881 — dubbed the Guernsey Burns) and writers from Jersey. The independent governments, lack of censorship and diverse social and political milieu of the islands enabled a growth in the publication of vernacular literature — often satirical and political.

Most literature was published in the large number of competing newspapers, which also circulated in the neighbouring Cotentin Peninsulamarker, sparking a literary renaissance on the Norman mainland.

The work of Jersey poet Sir Robert Pipon Marett (1820–1884, Bailiff of Jersey) was highly regarded, being quoted in François-Victor Hugo’s La Normandie inconnue. Marett’s work also advanced the standardisation of Jèrriais orthography according to basic principles of the French writing system.

In exile in Jersey and then Guernsey, Victor Hugo took an interest in the vernacular literature, associating himself with island writers and introducing Norman expressions to the wider French-speaking readership.

The boom in insular literature in the early 19th century encouraged production especially in La Hague and around Cherbourgmarker, where Alfred Rossel became active.

Literary production revived in Calvados in the late 19th century, under the influence of Arthur Marye.

The typical medium for literary expression in Norman has traditionally been newspaper columns and almanacs — the topicality and satirical nature is typical of the proverbially deadpan Norman character. Poems, songs and tales often appeared in chapbook form between around 1870–1939.The novel Zabeth by André Louis which appeared in 1969 was the first novel published in Norman. Some works originally published in periodicals have been collected in book form, but the ephemeral nature of the publications in which the bulk of Norman literature appears has led to comparative inaccessibility of much of the oeuvre of important writers. The destruction during the Battle of Normandy of departmental and municipal archives meant the loss of many sources of Norman literature from the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

However, the Norman literary tradition places high value on the written text, as opposed to other cultures (for example, neighbouring Gallo and Breton) which have a livelier tradition of oral performance and spontaneous storytelling. The song tradition is also much less evident than in neighbouring cultures.

An annual festival of the Norman language brings together enthusiasts and performers from insular and continental Normandy. The festival alternates between the islands and the mainland.


Here is a list of significant writers in Norman (and published works) of more recent times (for Channel Island authors, see Jèrriais literature and Dgèrnésiais) :

Alfred Rossel (1841-1926, from Cherbourgmarker)
Author of songs, including the Cotentin anthem Sus la mé
Bon-Prosper Lepesqueur (6 August 1846 – 31 January 1921, from Digulleville)
Wrote under the pseudonyms of Boûnnin Poulidot and P. Lecacheux. His prose stories appeared regularly in Le Phare de la Manche 1899–1905, and he was also the author of a number of songs published in sheet form in Cherbourg signed P. Lecacheux.
Charles Lemaître (1854–1928, from Saint-Georges-d'Aunay)
Author and performer of monologues, published in sheet form and later collected in volumes Les Joyeux Bocains (1917), Hélas qu'c'est drôle (1924), Eiou qui va lés trachi (1912), Bonnes gens de Normandie
Octave Maillot (1861–1949, from Tinchebray)
One of the less-numerous authors writing in southern Norman (below the ligne Joret), two volumes of his prose stories in Norman were published under the title Contes normands in 1937 and 1948.
Arnould-Désiré Galopin (9 February 1863 – 9 December 1934, from Marbeuf)
Best known as a prolific author in French of popular fiction: adventure stories, historical novels, travel writing and detective fiction, Galopin also wrote the article Le Patois normand published in Le livre du Millénaire de la Normandie, 911–1911 (Paris 1911) and is known to be responsible for the authorship of a small number of poems in the La Haguemarker dialect of Norman.
Louis Beuve (1869–1949, from Quettreville-sur-Siennemarker)
Poet, follower of Rossel and friend of Frédéric Mistral, co-founder of Le Bouais-Jan with Enault, manager of Le Courrier de la Manche, collection published in 1950 Œuvres choisies by Fernand Lechanteur
François Enault (1869–1918, from the Cotentin)
Born in Varenguebecmarker 28 May 1869, the eldest of twelve children. Went to Paris in 1887 to study for a legal career, but followed his inclination for the visual arts. He became a cartoonist under the pseudonym Mob for a number of publications. In 1900 he drew and wrote for La France Illustrée and, using the pseudonym Jean Frinot, contributed texts in Norman for the Journal de la Manche published in St-Lô. Founder of Le Bouais-Jan with Louis Beuve. He became chief editor of La France Illustrée in 1911. His health suffered during the First World War and he died as a result 24 November 1918. A collection of his stories Les propos de Jean Frinot was published in 1930. His stories about the characters Pierre and Catheraine Loustalot continue to be republished nowadays, notably by the Almanach de la Manche.
Henri Ermice (1870–1958)
Born 17 September 1870 in Saint-Germain-sur-Ay. After working as a teacher in Vire, he became a bookseller and publisher of postcards on which he printed Gallicised versions of verses in Norman — Monologues humoristiques en patois normand of which more purely Norman forms also exist, but the more French-influenced texts were considered to have wider commercial appeal. Some more purely Norman pieces were published in a collection Choix de poésies normandes et de monologues en patois de notre pays in 1956.
Joseph Mague (1875–1940, born in Brittany of Norman parents but raised in the Bessin)
Active in literary societies, published Les Chansons du Bessin in 1912 in postcard form for commercial sale.
Louis Gouget (1877–1915)
Collection Au Val d'Orne (1922)
Maurice Le Sieutre
Maurice Le Sieutre (1879–?, from Le Havre)
Poet and sculptor, who also set his own words to music; songs and poems published in Vie normande, Bulletin des parlers normands, Bulletin des parlers populaires.
Charles Birette (1878–1941)
Born in Montfarville in the Val de Saire, he published a collection of stories in Norman A l'Entoue de la Cremillie and a number of historical studies. He is best known for his Dialecte et Légendes du Val de Saire. He died in Dinan 18 June 1941.
Charles Le Boulanger (1880–1929)
Born in Cerisy-la-Salle 20 January 1880, published two collections of poetry in 1908 and 1920 both entitled Ciz nous. He also performed his poems and monologues in public at local fairs around the Cotentin. A friend of Louis Beuve. He died in Touques 29 June 1929.
Alfred Noël (1883–1918, from Valognesmarker)
A writer and performer of songs.
Gaston Lerévérend (1885–1962, from Calvadosmarker)
Collections of poetry include L'hus entrebâyei (1919), Mei-j'vo-l'dis, and L'hus bâyi (1955)
Gaston Demongé (1888–1973, from the Pays de Caux)
Wrote under the pseudonym Mait' Arsène, published a collection of poetry and prose Les Terreux in 1925 prefaced by a brief overview of Norman literature. A collection of histoires cauchoises titled Aux Gars de Normandie appeared in 1917.
Pierre Gueroult (1890–1962)
Born in Pont-l'Abbé at Picauvillemarker 11 June 1890, worked as a teacher, and served as deputy mayor of Cherbourg. Published his first pamphlet En Tisounants around 1920. Author of poems, monologues, dramatic works and prose works. Published works include: Vûles gens, vûs métyis (1948), collections Théâtre normand (1972), Poésies et chansons (1974), Contes et récits (1978 and 1980). His dramatic verse monologue La pouore vuule folle du Bouon-Sâoveu is considered a classic of modern Norman literature; it tells of a woman driven to madness waiting years for her soldier son to return from the war in which he died.
Gabriel Benoist
Cauchois author of Thanase Pequeu stories of which three volumes were published in the 1930s
Jean-Baptiste Pasturel (1895–1962, from Périers)
Collection Histouères de tchu nous (1968)
Jean Tolvast (Auguste Toullec 1898–1945, from Cherbourg)
Wrote regular columns in newspapers Le Réveil and Le Journal de Valognes. Collections of his stories were published as Chroniques normandes (1934 and 1941)
Marceau Rieul (Marcel Sorieul 1900–1977, from Bolbecmarker)
Author of Arseine Toupétit
Jehan Le Povremoyne (Ernest Coquin 1903–1970, from Le Havre)
A Cauchois author who wrote mostly in French, but frequently employed dialogue in Norman to a greater or lesser extent in his writings.
Gires Ganne (Fernand Lechanteur 1910–1971)
Author of La Normandie traditionnelle, a collection of articles on language and traditions, his poetry (Es Set vents du Cotentin, 1972) only became widely known after his death. He worked to unify the orthography of the Norman language, proposing reforms. In 1968, he founded an association Parlers et Traditions Populaires de Normandie. A Viking-boat-shaped stone monument to his memory was erected after his death near the seashore of his native Agon.
Christian Lambert (1912–2000, from Livarotmarker)
Wrote regular pieces in Norman for the Lisieuxmarker nespaper L'Éveil de Lisieux under the title of Radotages de Maît' Jules (collected for publication 1984)
Côtis-Capel (Albert Lohier 1915–1986, from Cherbourg)
Priest and fisherman, highly influential poet in La Hague, Rocâles (1951), A Gravage (1965), Raz Bannes (1971), Graund Câté (1980), Les Côtis (1985), Ganache (1987); winner of the Prix littéraire du Cotentin in 1964
Aundré-Joseph Desnouettes (André Dupont 1920–200?, from Equeurdreville)
Winner of the Prix littéraire du Cotentin in 1970. As a historian, published a history in French of the département of Manche. His literary career in Norman started in 1952 with the publication of a collection of comic poems En Ritounaunt. A cycle of a hundred sonnets were published as Sonnets cotentinais en parler populaire du pays in 1958 and 1961 in Études normandes. In 1968, he published L'Épopée cotentine, an epic poem of 4628 lines inspired by the models of Wace and other Anglo-Norman poets. His poetry frequently evokes Norman history, but also treats daily life.
Hippolyte Gancel (born 1920)
Flleurs et plleurs dé men villâche (1982 and 1986), winner of the Prix littéraire du Cotentin in 1984
André Louis (1922–1999 from Octeville)
Born 6 February 1922, he was a teacher by profession, wounded in the French Resistance during the Second World War, became president of the Société Alfred Rossel, and president of the Fédération de l'Ouest des Groupes Folkloriques de France. Worked with Fernand Lechanteur on the reform of Norman orthography and became a founder member and secretary of Parlers et Traditions Populaires de Normandie which developed into the magazine Le Viquet. He wrote a novel Zabeth (1969), untypically for Norman literature, a rural love story rather than a light-hearted satire. He was awarded the Prix littéraire du Cotentin in 1971. He died 27 December 1999.
René Saint-Clair (born 1923)
Poet from the Cotentin
Marcel Dalarun (born 1922)
Poet from the Cotentin has produced poems for children and to be set to music, collection A men leisi (2004) and other, published by the group Magène


See also: Old Norman.

When Norse invaders arrived in the then province of Neustria and settled the land which became known as Normandy, they adopted the Gallo-Romance speech of the existing populations — much as Norman rulers later adopted in England 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
bel [court, yard (cf. bailey?) bǿli cour (cf. bal)
bète bait (borrowed from Norman) bæita appât
canne can (borrowed from Norman) kanna cruche
cat cat (Germanic cognate) kattʀ chat
gardîn garden garðʀ jardin
guernotte, guénotte, jarnotte earth nut jorðnotr terre-noix
gradile, gradelle, gadelle (black)currant gaddʀ cassis, groseille
graie prepare græiða préparer
griller, égriller slide, slip skriðla glisser
hardelle girl hóra (whore) fille (cf. hardi)
hèrnais cart (cf. harness) járnaðʀ (shod (horse)) charrette (cf. harnais, harnâcher)
hommet/houmet islet (diminutive of hou) hulmʀ îlot
hou islet ( cf. holm, mainly in placenames) hulmʀ îlot
hougue mound ( cf. howe, high) haugʀ monticule
mauve seagull mávaʀ (pl.) gaviote (Pre-Norman) /
mouette (Post-Norman)
mielle dune mjalʀ dune
mucre damp (cf. muggy) mygla humide
nez headland or cliff (cf. Sheernessmarker, etc.) næs falaise (cf. nez)
pouque pouch, bag (cf. north of England poke
, proverb "pig in a poke"; also pocket)
puki sac (cf. poche)
viquet wicket (borrowed from Norman) víkjas guichet (borrowed from Norman)

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.

Following the Norman conquest of 1066, the Norman language spoken by the new rulers of England left traces of specifically Norman words which 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) = chaussée
catch cachier (now cachi) = chasser
cater acater = acheter
cherry (ies) cherise (chrise, chise ) = cerise
mug mogue/moque = mug, boc
poor paur = pauvre
wait waitier (old Norman) = gaitier (mod. guetter )
war werre (old Norman) = guerre
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.

There is also some influence from the Breton language, perhaps via Gallo. That is because Gallo is spoken on the border of Normandy and Brittany, south of Mont Saint-Michelmarker and was the language (at least, an earlier form) spoken in the March of Neustria.

Norman immigrants to North America, also introduced many "Normanisms" to Quebec French and French in Canada generally. Joual, a working class sociolect of Quebecmarker particularly exhibits strong Norman influence.

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.


  • 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.

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