Variation in the Use of Prepositions in Quebec French
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
In order to publish material contained in my thesis.
Using the combined approach of Variationist Sociolinguistics and Cognitive Linguistics, this thesis undertakes the classification and analysis of certain prepositions in spoken Quebec French. The study examines 21 interviews that make up part of the Corpus de français parlé au Québec (CFPQ). The aim of this thesis is to examine the use of the variables expressing the concept of ‘possession’, and those equivalent to English before/in front of and after/behind. These three variables are represented as (POSS), (ANTE) and (POST). An initial quantification of the variants is carried out, which establishes the contexts of production, and helps determine the areas of linguistic analysis to be explored. For the (POSS) variable, the data is examined in terms of linguistic factors such as the reference of the possessor, the avoidance of hiatus, and inalienable/alienable possession. Interpersonal variation is also considered, including age and gender in addition to level of education. From the Cognitive Linguistic perspective, we investigate ‘reference point theory’ and how it can shed light on the alternation between the variants. The (ANTE) and (POST) variables are studied in terms of the type of reference (i.e. locative or temporal), the locating noun category, and the age, sex, and level of education of the speakers. The Cognitive Linguistic theory of ‘subjectification’ is also considered for these two variables. For the (POSS) variable, the reference of the possessor and the level of education are seen to be important factors for the use of possessive à. In addition, the ‘reference point theory’ contributes to our understanding of the use of this variant. With the (ANTE) and (POST) variables certain variants are seen to be employed both with and without an overt complement. The variant devant is predominantly found in contexts involving narrative discourse, and the variants en avant and en avant de are preferred for locative reference. Once again, the Cognitive Sociolinguistic approach highlights the possibility that the difference in variant choice is linked to the speakers’ cognitive construal of the situation.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in French