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Concurrent models and cross-linguistic analogies in the study of prepositional stranding in French in Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2011


RICARDO OTHEGUY
Affiliation:
Graduate Center, City University of New York rotheguy@gc.cuny.edu
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Extract

Prepositions can be found with and without adjacent complements in many forms of popular spoken French. The alternation appears in main clauses (il veut pas payer pour ça ~ il veut pas payer pour “he doesn't want to pay for [it]”) and, though with a more restricted social and geographic distribution, in relative clauses (j'avais pas personne avec qui parler ~ j'avais pas personne à parler avec “I had no one to whom to talk ~ I had no one to talk to”). In main clauses, the variant lacking the adjacent complement is said to have an orphaned preposition (il veut pas payer pour); in relatives, it is said to have a stranded preposition (j'avais pas personne à parler avec). In popular spoken French in Canada, stranding appears to be much more frequent than in other Francophone areas. Because so many French speakers in Canada are bilingual, because of the high frequency of stranding, and no doubt also because stranding violates prescriptive norms, stranded prepositions in French in Canada are widely believed to be instances of English influence (e.g. j'avais pas personne à parler avec is regarded as modeled on I had no one to talk to). But in a masterly variationist treatment, Poplack, Zentz and Dion (2011, this issue) argue that Canadian stranding is not of English origin. Stranded Canadian prepositions represent, instead, the expansion to relative clauses of the ordinary main-clause orphans. The historical source for Canadian stranding is thus analogy-induced and internal (French orphans), not contact-induced and external (not English stranding).


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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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