The French language is quite logic and has a fairly efficient morphological system. For example, it can create nouns meaning 'the place where something takes place' using the forms -erie and -oir, and it often keeps the same 'root' in the nominal and adjectival form (fer/ferré).

Similarly, the adjectives royal and loyal have been derived from roi and loi respectively. It seems like French likes this form. But the noun noyau reverts back to the Latin root in the adjective nucléaire instead of noyal -e -aux. This seems odd, particularly as the masculine plural form would be identical to the plural of the noun.

And yet, compared to English, French has quite a tendency to chose French roots over Greek/Latin. Note the pairs éteindre/extinguish, presqu'île/peninsula or foyer/focus. I'm not saying noyal exists now, I'm asking if it conforms to the aesthetics and logic of the French language.

  • What you are asking is not clear at all, can you clarify your question? What's this "gap" you are talking about ? – None Jul 21 '14 at 15:46
  • In deed, I´ve seen noyal replace nucleaire in scientific publications (One I´m sure of, in an acronym, and the other one was on the Internet but I cant find it, I remember I was looking to translate something about nebula stars). I had never seen it before though I studied physics and electronics extensively (but not in France). Maybe the publications came from Quebec, I dont remember. However the French language always (since the 16th cent.) privileged neologisms based on etymology, like aqua -> eau -> aqueux (a word from the 16th cent.). So nucleus -> noyau -> nucléaire. – Yves Jul 21 '14 at 19:06
  • I´ll add that this pattern of privileging the Greek/Latin radical has been used extensively in medicine and chemy (some would say it was created for it) with the establishment of the College de France, and the Edit de Villers-Cotterêts forcing the use of French and the invention of new words. – Yves Jul 21 '14 at 19:11
  • One of the problems with considering the French language (particularly in relation to neologisms) is that everyone studies it through the lens of English, only comparing these two languages. In Arabic the same three-lettered root is used throughout (for example ṣ/w/r for picture, photography, photographer, imagination). – haut français Jul 21 '14 at 19:50
  • I added a line in my answer to say that an adjective noyal from the noun "noyau" would not conform to the logic of the French language. That's what I'd been trying to explain... – None Jul 21 '14 at 21:34

You seem to have the wrong assumptions.

"Royal" and "loyal" are adjectives derived from nouns. "Noyau" is a noun derived from a word that was an adjective in Latin. And no parallelism can be drawn in the origin and history of those words.
An adjective noyal from the noun "noyau" would not conform to the logic of the French language.

"Royal" derives from latin regalis and loyal from latin legalis. The derivation from rex and lex was done in latin before the words existed in French, so no law can be inferred about all French nouns ending in "oi" having adjectives derived from them ending in "al".

"Noyau" is a noun that happens to end with au in the singular. This "au" ending of the noun has nothing to do with the rule that says that in French most adjectives (but not all, lots of exceptions) ending with "al" in the singular will end with "aux" in the plural.
There's no such noun as noyal, and there's never been. The only occurrence of "Noyal" in French is for some place names in Brittany*. And this « noyal » is said to come from Latin novale or novalium designating some recently cleared piece of land.

The noun "noyau" comes from Late Latin adjective nucalis itself derived from latin nux (→"noix"). Nucalis meant "having the size of a nut". The adjective nucalis and its diminutive nucleus gave old French noielnoiaux that gave the noun noyau (1530) to designate the stone of a fruit.

It started being used in a figurative sense in the 16th century.

Two adjectives are derived from "noyau". "Nucléaire" and "nucléal", they're roughly synonyms (but a scientist might explain a difference in use), nucléaire being by far and large the most used.

* Which could lead us to think the name could be of Celtic origin.

  • Amazing answer, says everything and thoroughly explained. +1 – Sifu Jul 21 '14 at 18:28
  • +1 (would it be only for mentioning nucléal) – RomainValeri Dec 28 '14 at 1:03

Pour noyale le TLF donne : "Toile de chanvre écrue très résistante, utilisée autrefois pour la confection des voiles des navires. Noyales à quatre, à six fils (Ac. 1835, 1878)."… et le correcteur d'orthographe ne le connait pas. Conclusion : l'oreille francophone du XXIe siècle ignore ce mot.

Les multiples influences subies par les mots ne permettent pas de dériver une loi de quelques exemples.

Laure vous donne une explication grammaticale, mais intuitivement un noyau n'a pas de comportement humain, donc, bien que vivant il ne peut être noyal, d'autant plus qu'il est caché ; la notion de noyau s'est d'abord rattachée au fruit.

C'est la science qui a apporté le terme nucléaire, qui, sauf erreur de ma part, n'est pas employé dans l'arboriculture.

Pour l'homme on emploie parfois le mot cœur pour renvoyer au noyau de son être, mais noyau et nucléaire ne renvoient pas aux mêmes imaginaires.

  • "Noyale is a noun", and there's no such adjective as noyal (without an "e" in the end). The name of this type of cloth comes from one of the towns of Noyal and has nothing to do with the"noyau". – None Jul 21 '14 at 17:03
  • @Laure Bien sûr - C'est seulement un essai pour indiquer que la sonorité noyal ne peut rien invoquer comme entité en français ; j'essaye d'utiliser l'approche intuitive pour indiquer que les règles ne sont pas réversibles et qu'il est risqué de construire des raisonnements en essayant de rapprocher les résultats de ces dernières. L'évolution du mot noyau est le résultat de l'évolution de la langue parlée qui fait référence à un objet perceptible à l’œil nu , celui de nucléaire un choix scientifique, savant et précis qui recouvre un concept qui nécessite des instrument pour être perçu. – cl-r SO rendez confiance en FL Jul 21 '14 at 20:27
  • Et pourtant 'noyau' s'utilise dans le domaine de l'atomique. – haut français Jul 21 '14 at 21:24
  • @hautfrançais bien sûr. Noyau est un terme scientifique, utilisé pour la première fois avec un sens scientifique en biologie (19e siècle), puis en météorologie, en géologie, en physique, etc. C'est toujours la "partie centrale" de quelque chose, comme le noyau au milieu du fruit. – None Jul 21 '14 at 22:15
  • "Noyale" a ici plus de liens avec le mot "noeud" (les noeuds des mailles du tissu) qu'avec le mot "noyau". – air-dex Jul 24 '14 at 0:57

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