The word ballet, meaning the art of dance, appears in the French language in the mid-thirteenth century and has remained a staple of the modern ballet, which is now taught as a formal art form and as an effective physical exercise.
From the time of this first English-language dictionary entry, there were various interpretations, but the common consensus was that ballet was dance or “dance of the body.” From this point on, there was an effort to define its physical essence. In order to do this, the French language began an era of systematic, linguistic, and textual classification of the art.
In 1844, the author of a French-language dictionary proposed that the dance of the body and its accompaniment, the contralto, were related to the art of music. The idea was that contralto and contralto singers perform the body-part movement simultaneously, in harmony. The word contralto was introduced into the English vocabulary in 1852 to describe composers, dancers, and conductors performing together in one movement. In order to better understand the French language, it is worth reviewing a little history.
The French language was an early, hybrid language. Early French, with much of its spelling and grammar derived from Latin, was quite different from English. In order to maintain a common grammar, speakers generally adopted parts of Latin and modified or translated words to fit their purposes. For example, the term “frisson,” meaning “to dance” originally meant something like “a dance of the lips.” By the mid-c1600s, however, it had been modified from a dance of the tongue to a dance. It was at that time that the French word “français” came into being, meaning “French” in English. By about 1800 the French pronunciation of word “français” had become the “French pronunciation.” So the word “French” was defined as a language derived from Latin, which sounded different in English (or in other languages) from the “English” one.
English was a hybrid language. The British adopted French as the language of communication with their colonies and people, and French gradually acquired the status of “an official language in the United Kingdom.” As French speakers gained the ability to communicate with English-speaking populations, they began to use the “French accent” (pronunciation of the French vowel sounds) to give speakers an impression of accent. Eventually this accent developed into the “francière” (pronounced
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