GŮVRENEUŘ / governor

l’Gůvreneuř d’Ǧérnezý
Richáṙ Jǎn Cripwell

photo source: the LT’s office

gůvreneuř, s.m., pronounced [gʊvr(œ/ə)nœ:] 🔊 in FSP, is the Sarkese word for “governor”, as well as for “lieutenant-governor”, as in the title of the British Crown’s personal representative used in the two Bailiwicks of the Channel Islands, known in Sarkese simply as “gůvreneuř“, or “gůvreneuř d’Ǧérnezý“, lit. “governor of Guernsey”, and “gůvreneuř d’Jêrý“, lit. “governor of Jersey”, respectively. The hypothetical term “lyeutenân-gůvreneuř” is never used. The current lieutenant-governor of Guernsey is HE Lieutenant-general Richard John Cripwell, CB CBE (appointed in 2022).

origin: Gallo-Romance / first recorded for Sarkese: 1979 (AM-FPB-29) / current status in the 21st century: fully preserved, in use

“gůvreneuř” is a masculine multi-variable countable noun (a he-word that changes in plural and on contact). As the word belongs to the euř-nouns (with e.g. “pêčeuř“, fisherman, “tracteuř“, tractor, etc.), it standardly changes on the orthography level in number. We write “un gůvreneuř”, for “one governor”, with a ditched weak ‘ř’, but “deù gůvreneur”, for “two governors”, with a simple stark ‘r’. The final pronunciation of the word, however, follows rather complex rules.

Firstly, the word contains an example of the so-called “Monkey E“, “l’E d’Génǎn“, a weak ‘e’, which isn’t always pronounced as a standard [ə]. Due to specific conditions (following a consonantic R-cluster, in which the ‘r’ is not the primary consonant), it may and often does retake the quality of a subsequent vowel – in this case [œ] or [ø], as if the word were written “gůvreuneuř” – similarly as in “Londreneuř“, Londoner, etc. with which “gůvreneuř” forms a subgroup within the euř-nouns, being its model representative noun.

As for the singular form’s ending ‘-euř’, in FSP, it is pronounced as a long [œ:], with the ‘ř’ completely silent. Nevertheless, if a vowel follows directly after the word, especially in a nominal syntagma, ‘-euř’ is pronounced as a short [œr̥] with the ‘ř’ pronounced fully, i.e. written still the same, but pronounced as the plural ending “-eur” with the stark ‘r’. On the other hand, the plural ending ‘-eur’, which differs from the singular ‘-euř’ by the lack of diacritics, is automatically pronounced as short [œr̥], with ‘r’ always fully pronounced.

On the origin – ‘vre’, not ‘vér’!

The Sarkese “gůvreneuř” is related to the Jersey Norman “gouvérneux” and the Guernsey Norman “gouvernaeux”, as well as the French “gouverneur” or the English “governor” etc., all originating in older Gallo-Romance forms, issued from the Latin “gubernator”, meaning “governor”.

Interestingly though, there haven’t been, in the three Insular Norman languages, standard terms for “lieutenant-governor”, the title held by the two currently highest representatives of the Crown in the bailiwicks, and the respective words for “governor” are therefore actively used for the two lieutenant-governors (apart from recent neologisms) – in Sarkese, “gůvreneuř d’Ǧérnezý” for the lieutenant-governor of Guernsey and “gůvreneuř d’Jêrý” for his counterpart in Jersey.

Wikimedia: photo, flag

The reason is purely historical, as originally, the head of a bailiwick on the Channel Islands, would have indeed hold the title of “governor”. Nevertheless, due to these positions becoming over the centuries purely ceremonial, with the deputies, called “lieutenant-governors”, having become the actual heads of the government, the positions of “governors” were abolished with “lieutenant-governors” becoming the actual “governors” all but in name. This formal change, however, hasn’t been reflected in the common tongues, and even today in local English, the two lieutenant-governors are informally referred to as “governors”, as in the Norman languages.

From the linguistic perspective, the more intriguing matter is the actual form we have today in Sarkese, “gůvreneuř”, which deviates from the Insular Norman standard, not only for conserving the older evolutionary form of the ending ‘-euř’, which is still semi-variable, but also for the sound “shuffle”, from ‘-ver-‘ to ‘-vre-‘, so “gů-vre-neuř”, and not “gů-vér-neuř”.

Firstly, as for why, consonantic shifts in favourable conditions were not at all uncommon in Old Norman or Old Sarkese, see for example the entry on “pyeuvre” or “fantaxe“. Nevertheless, similar forms, based on an identical shuffle from “ver” to “vre” in the case of the word for “governor”, have been identified in medieval texts from the 14th and 15th century France, meaning that the Sarkese form, though unusual today, wasn’t unique in the past, but actually rather common on the Gallo-Romance level in general.

Wikimedia: photo, flag

It is therefore possible that the Sarkese “gůvreneuř”, rather than being a result of some unique evolution, simply conserves another ancient alternative form, which was, most probably, eradicated by grammarians in French, and later on, under the influence of Modern French, also in the Norman languages of Jersey and Guernsey.

If, in the future, it were, for some reason, necessary to establish a term different from “gůvreneuř” for lieutenant-governor, for example in order to stress the subordinance of a “lieutenant-governor” to a “governor”, it is recommended to follow the rule of adopting old Anglo-French terminology in titles, rather then adopting a complete neology. In such case, an acceptable term would be “lyeutenân-gůvreneuř”.


The lieutenant-governor of Guernsey, known in Sarkese as “l’gůvreneuř d’Ǧérnezý“, commonly referred to simply as “l’gůvreneuř“, lit. the governor, is appointed by the reining monarch on the recommendation of the representatives from the three main islands which form the Bailiwick of Guernsey, including the loosely attached island of Sark, represented in this matter, by the Seigneur, known in proper Norman as “l’Siňeǔ“.

The very first known case of a lieutenant-governor of Guernsey being present while Sarkese was spoken, was when a newly laid bridge over “l’Vivẏ d’la Siňeurrî, the pond of “la Siňeurrî, was ceremonially christened in the presence of HE John Cripwell in May 2023.


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. gůvreneuř/governor. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line]. Published: 04. 09. 2023. https://www.bonjhur.net/sndo-vocab-guvreneur

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