Edited by Constantine Lignos, Laurel MacKenzie and Meredith Tamminga
[Benjamins Current Topics 97] 2018
► pp. 33–70
This paper integrates aspects of both generative theory and variationist sociolinguistics. To compare the structure of two varieties of French (Acadian French and Laurentian French), I adapt the comparative sociolinguistics approach to compare the syntactic structure of these varieties. Specifically, I focus on the effects of a single linguistic constraint across multiple sociolinguistic variables. I argue that such a comparison provides insights into the underlying grammatical structures of the varieties under comparison, differences that may have remained hidden otherwise. To illustrate the approach, I focus on a single constraint, sentential polarity, and I analyze its effects on two sociolinguistic variables, yes/no questions and future temporal reference. Results show that the polarity constraint is operative in Laurentian French for both variables, but inoperative in Acadian French. To account for this difference, I argue that Laurentian French negative structures involve a negative head above the tense phrase while Acadian French does not.