Why does French have so much redundancy and elision?

I’ve long been curious about the fact that French seems to have developed grammatically redundant constructions at the same time it has lost many terminal sounds that may or may not be reflected in the spelling. For instance:

Qu’est-ce que c’est? = “What is it?”, but if it were literally parsed into its morphemes (if that’s the right word), it would be, “What is that what it is?”

Or the word aujourd’hui meaning “today”. I assume the hui particle initially meant “today” all by itself, descended from Latin hodie and a cognate of Spanish hoy. But for some reason, the language today uses an expression which parses into, “to the day of today”.

On an unrelated note, where does jamais (“never”) come from? The earliest document considered to be in French, the Oaths of Strasbourg, still has numquam for “never”, so when and why did jamais supplant numquam or a similar word?

Do these peculiarites of French have anything to do with the Gallic language spoken there before the Romans took over? Or with the Germanic Franks who ruled after the end of the empire?

Hmmm…I just looked at Babelfish and found that Italian has mai for “never”. Must be related to jamais, though it doesn’t answer my original question.

To prevent confusion: “hui” sounds very much like “oui.” Thus, if you asked, in French, “When are you going to the store? Tomorrow?,” the answer might sound the same if the person said, “today” or “yes,” which mean different things. To avoid confusion, “aujourd’” was added.

The peculiarities of French were part because it was two languages (“La lange d’oil” and “la langue d’oc,” so named for their different words for “yes.”) and part because it changed very rapidly in the middle ages.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus writes:

> I’ve long been curious about the fact that French seems to have developed
> grammatically redundant constructions at the same time it has lost many
> terminal sounds that may or may not be reflected in the spelling.

This is exactly what you expect to happen in a language. When a language goes through phonological changes that cause phonemes to be lost or to be merged, the speakers run the risk of having different words or phrases sound the same, which would make it hard to make distinctions. To avoid this, the language gains redundancy, which means that the words or phrases no longer sound alike.

For instance, “ne” was the word for “not” in French. “Ne” began to be no longer pronounced in some situations. To prevent the positive and the negative version of a sentence from being pronounced alike, French speakers began adding “pas” in negative sentences. “Pas” meant “step”. In sentences about motion, this meant that instead of just saying something like “I will not move”, they would say, “I will not move a step”. Eventually this got generalized to sentences that were not about motion, so “ne . . . pas” meant “not”, although people mostly don’t pronounce the “ne”, so really just “pas” means “not”. It’s as though in English people had begun to not pronounce the “not” in the sentence “I will not move”, so it came out sounding like “I will move”. To prevent any confusion, they began always saying, “I will not move at all”. Even if the “not” isn’t pronounced, people will be able to hear the “at all”, so it would almost be like the “at all” now means “not”.

*Chuck et Wendell, les explications que vous avez fournies aux questions posées par l’interlocuteur initial au sujet de cette idée se rattachant à la rédondance sont sont assez complètes que je ne saurais y ajouter un seul mot.

Je vous prie d’agréer, Messieurs, l’expression de mes saluatations les meilleurs.*
Now if you want to translate that literally it says: Chuckand Wendell, the explanations that you have furnised to the questions asked by the original poster on the subject of this idea related to redundancy are sufficientloy complete that I would not know hoy to add to it one single word.

Now, French is not really all THAT redundant (I am putting it on a bit thick there) but as a trasnalator I can tell you that French likes to specify a lot of things where English does not.

For example, where English would say, “Questions from the audience” French would prefer to say “Les questions posées par les membres de l’auditoire.”, in other words, the questions asked by members of the audience.