The Agreement of the Past Participle in Spoken French, as a Sociolinguistic Variable: Production and Perception
Gaucher, Damien Fabien Rémi
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study represents a sociolinguistic contribution to the analysis of Past Participle Agreement (PPA) in [avoir+PP] constructions. In spoken French, this agreement is marked only for gender, and is subject to much variation in the production of speakers of French. The objectives of this thesis are twofold: firstly, to observe the variable in the context of production, by a quantitative study of several corpora. Variation in the production of PPA is tested against linguistic factors, such as the position of the participle in the verbal group where it appears. Social and stylistic factors are also considered, notably the socioprofessional category of the speaker. These analyses reveal that agreement is conditioned by a complex interaction of these factors. The second objective is the design of a Matched Guise Test, based on scripted conversations. This test was carried out with a view to measuring the extent to which the presence or absence of marked PPA, often considered a typical result of normative pressures, affects the stereotypical social representation of a speaker. Differences in informants' judgements were modest, and two issues are discussed with regard to this: firstly, the validity of the methodology, and secondly, the evaluation of PPA as a sociolinguistic marker. Both parts of this thesis reflect the methodological issues pertaining to the investigation of a rare variable.
PhD in French