The regularization of verbal paradigms in Newfoundland French
This article is about Newfoundland French, a variety of Acadian French spoken in the peninsula of Port-au-Port in Newfoundland (Canada). The corpus is made up of recordings of interviews made between 1981 and 1998, with 53 native speakers, all bilingual, who had had no exposure to French as a taught language, and were then aged over 40.
The verb morphology of Newfoundland French (present indicative, imperfect, future and present subjunctive) is used to throw light on the more or less successful attempts at systemic regularization of a variety of French, far from normative pressure, within the theoretical framework of Chaudenson, Mougeon and Beniak (1993). Certain rules are tentatively described and it is shown, for example, that the commonest verbs are also the most irregular.
The underlying tendency of Newfoundland French, under the influence of syntactic and phonetic factors, towards a system potentially presenting a single form for each verb tense, does not however eliminate the many exceptional forms, which are presented here. The multiplicity of forms encountered among the speakers seems to represent a transitory phase in language development preceding normalization. This situation is a result of the maintenance of older diachronic stages within a variety transmitted in purely spoken form up to the present day, and not to the disorder which precedes language death, as the small number of speakers may also lead one to suppose.
Keywords : Acadian French, Newfoundland French, verb morphology
Langage et société n° 127 – mars 2009
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