Member of the Romance branch of the Indo-European language family, spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Switzerland in Europe; also in Canada (principally in the province of Québec), various Caribbean and Pacific Islands (including overseas territories such as Martinique and French Guiana), and certain North and West African countries (for example, Mali and Senegal).
French developed from Latin as spoken in Gaul and was established as a distinct language by the 9th century. Varieties used north of the River Loire formed the Langue d'oil
) while those to the south formed the Langue d'oc
, according to their word for yes. By the 13th century the dialect of the Île de France was supreme and became the official medium of the courts and administration of France 1539. Its literary form still serves as the basis of le bon français
(correct French), which is officially protected by the Academie Française (founded 1635 at the behest of Cardinal Richelieu) and by occasional legislation in both France and Québec. From 1991 a government-approved commission has approved changes to the language, such as the abolition of the circumflex accent in many words, and some simplified spellings.
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