Outremer French loanwords in Cilician Armenian: Phonetic issues
The political and cultural relations between the Armenian Principality and, later, Kingdom of Cilicia (1198-1375) and the Crusader States were particularly intense and produced a not small number of innovations in the Cilician Armenian lay elites. The high prestige of the French speaking elites of the Crusader States induced the Armenian nobles to import many western cultural innovations in the Armenian society. Among these innovations it is worth to be mentioned that, during the kingdom of Hethum II (1289–1301), the royal chancellery of Sis, in addition to Armenian and Latin, begun to use French as well. A clear trace of the circulation of French among the Armenian cultivated lay elites is represented by the many loanwords attested in Armenian documents and literary works written in the Kingdom of Cilicia. These loanwords are of outstanding interest for the history of French, especially for the French variety usually labelled as Outremer French, which was spoken in the Crusader States. Thanks to the richness in sounds of the Armenian phonological inventory and in letters of the Armenian alphabet, the phonetic shape of the Outremer French loanwords is well preserved and faithfully represented in Cilician Armenian texts. So, the French loanwords in Cilician Armenian can offer valuable information about the phonetics of Outremer French, otherwise scantly documented. The article discusses the Outremer French loanwords in Cilician Armenian, paying particular attention to their dialectal features. The vocalism and the consonantism of these loanwords confirm the non-Francien character of Outremer French and, in addition, show some slightly conservative features. Such phonetic archaisms can be explained in different manners, but in any case they seem to detach Outremer French from some important streams of linguistic innovation that were spreading in France.