Accent Levelling in the Regional French of Alsace
Pipe, Katharine Joanna
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The aim of this study is to investigate the process of accent levelling in the Regional French of Alsace and its relationship with the social variables of age, gender, social class, urban or rural origin of speakers and feelings of regional attachment. Accent levelling, which can be defined as the process of speakers abandoning local phonological forms in favour of supralocal variants, has been the focus of much recent sociolinguistic research on British English, French and other languages. Since knowledge of Alsatian (a Germanic language spoken in Alsace) is decreasing, it is possible that the resulting lack of interference between Alsatian and French is leading to levelling of the traditional accent features of Alsatian Regional French. In order to provide data for this research project, sociolinguistic interviews were conducted and written questionnaires used in Strasbourg and in the village of Helsheim (a fictional name used for reasons of confidentiality) with 56 informants. The data obtained were then subjected to quantitative analysis with regard to the linguistic variables of aspirate h (which can be realised as a supralocal zero variant or as a regional [h] variant) and the devoicing of canonically voiced plosives and fricatives (for example, sage pronounced [saʃ]). The results of the data analysis revealed that the regional variants of both linguistic variables are used more frequently by older than younger, working class than middle class, rural than urban speakers and that level of regional attachment correlates with use of the linguistic variables, as predicted in the research hypotheses. However, the relationship between levelling and gender proved to be more unexpected, with no clear pattern emerging for the (h) variable and a complex one involving the acquisition of supralocal patterns of sociolinguistic variation as well as the supralocal phonological variant in the case of consonant devoicing.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in French