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On the Socio-Indexicality of a Parisian French Intonation Contour1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2011

University of Texas–Arlington
Address for correspondence: Christopher Stewart, University of Texas at Arlington, Department of Modern Languages, Box 19557, 701 Planetarium Place, Arlington, TX 76019, USA e-mail:


This study examines how intonation contours prevalent in a Parisian French urban youth vernacular (Conein and Gadet, 1998; Fagyal 2003, 2005) index sociolinguistic meanings for Parisian French listeners. In a web-based experiment, listeners placed recordings with stress patterns ranging from clearly penultimate (‘non-standard’) to clear phrase-final (‘standard’) in cities whose linguistic correctness they had previously evaluated. Stimuli with the most numerous and strongest cues to penultimate prominence were reliably identified with cities low in linguistic prestige. Sociolinguistic experience was shown to predict stimulus evaluations. The conclusions reached speak to the socio-indexicality of certain Parisian intonation contour types and the methodology used herein may lend itself to future studies of socially sensitive language variation.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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Acknowledgements: For their copious assistance with this project, I would like to thank Zsuzsanna Fagyal and Peter Golato. Special thanks to Zsuzsanna Fagyal whose recordings were used to construct the stimuli for the perception experiment documented herein. All errors are my own.


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