FUÂŁE / bracken, fern

photo source: wikimedia

fuâłe“, pronounced [fwɑ:ʎ(jə)] 🔊, is the Sarkese word for “bracken”, or any “fern” in general. In Sark, about 12 plants which fall under the term “fuâłe” grow, most importantly “common bracken” (Pteridium aquilinum), lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina), hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) or sea spleenwort (Asplenium marinum).

origin: Gallo-Romance (?) / first recorded for Sarkese: 1889 (EE) / current status in the 21st century: preserved, in use

“fuâłe” is an uncountable invariable feminine noun (a she-word that does not change and isn’t counted). When speaking of bracken in Sark Norman, we thus prefer to use the so-called partitive, so “d’la fuâłe”, and never “une fuâłe” etc. Regarding the pronunciation, in the past the word may have been actually “fůâłe”, but due to being in contact with a long ‘-âłe’, the precedeing vowel ‘ů’ became a semi-vowel [w]. The ‘uâ’ is thus not a diphtong, like we find in French loan-words in Sarkese, but a result of a specific contact.

On the origin: Gathering winter … “bracken” ?

first mention for Sarkese from 1889

The Sarkese name for bracken, “fuâłe”, was first recorded already in 1889 by a French dialectologist E. Edmont who visited the Channel Islands to compile linguistic data for the ALF, the Linguistic Atlas of France.

The Sark Norman “fuâłe” is directly related to the Guernsey Norman word “fouaille” with the exactly same meaning, both “bracken” and “fern”. Over the water, in the Gallo-speaking part of Brittany, it means “thicket” or “bushes”.

Though the origin of these names is a little bit obscure, they are most probably related to the Jersey Norman word “fouaille”, the Old French “fouaille” and the English “fuel”, all meaning fuel, kindling etc. Intriguingly though, the word does not mean fuel or kindling in today’s Sarkese, only bracken and fern, as well as in Guernsey Norman.


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. fuâłe/bracken. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line]. https://www.bonjhur.net/sndo-vocab-flora-fuale

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