Vouvoiement and tutoiement: sociolinguistic reflections
Journal of French Language Studies
Cambridge University Press
This article offers a critical review of research on the T/V (tu/vous) choice in French, and an analysis of this alternation in terms of markedness, variation and change. While there is unique public interest in T/V as a sociolinguistic phenomenon, it is a subject that has paradoxically been under-represented in linguistics and sociolinguistics publications produced in France. Much of the research conducted on the topic has been carried out by scholars based in other countries, and this is characterised by a rich variety of disciplinary approaches. T/V in contemporary French is a non-probabilistic phenomenon and is therefore not a sociolinguistic variable, in the Labovian sense. Considering the various senses of ‘markedness’, discussed by Haspelmath (2006), there is a good case for considering T as the unmarked option, rather than V, as has often been suggested. The long-term historical tendency for French to lose many of its inflections suggests that, at some time in the future, it is quite possible that vouvoiement will all but disappear. Yet there is no sign in France at present of a massive and decisive shift away from V.
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009. Published version reproduced with the permission of the publisher.
Vol. 20 Issue 2, pp. 127 - 150