Phonological variation, perception and language attitudes in the (Franco-)Belgian borderland
Foxen, Sarah Elizabeth
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Unless otherwise stated, the copyright of all maps in this thesis remains with the author. Author must be attributed in any reproduction of maps.
Reason for embargo
This is the standard 18 month embargo, allowing me time to publish my research before it is available for public consultation
The subject of this thesis is the French language in the Franco-Belgian borderland. More specifically, it investigates language, linguistic perceptions and language attitudes in the French-speaking part of Belgium which borders France. The study takes a variationist approach and is grounded in sociolinguistic theory, but it also draws on theories and methodologies from elsewhere in the social sciences. Two questions are at the heart of this study: how do people speak French in the Belgian borderland and why do they speak that way? To answer the research questions, speech and questionnaire data were gathered from 39 informants living in the borderland city of Tournai and its surrounding area. With this data, a variety of analyses were performed. Sociophonetic investigations were carried out on two phonological variables, namely the vocalic oppositions /e/-/ɛ/ and /o/-/ɔ/, draw-a-map task perceptual data were analysed through a ‘visual methods’ lens, and attitudinal data were also examined. Social variation in linguistic behaviour, perceptions and language attitudes was also analysed. The notions of ‘space’, ‘place’ and ‘spatiality’ were accorded considerable importance: the interactions between language and ‘space’ as the factors of ‘mobility’, ‘media consumption’, ‘sense of place’ and ‘regional belonging’ were also examined. The findings include that French in the Belgian borderland is more similar to that in France than to elsewhere in Francophone Belgium and that this is due to a number of factors. Moreover, the French in the borderland appears to be converging on that in France, although some differences persist. It was also found that spatial factors interact with both linguistic and social ones. Finally, it was concluded that whilst there is no longer a physical barrier at the national border, it persists to an extent as a psychological one, and this has ramifications for borderlanders’ behaviour: be it linguistic or otherwise.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in French