Article published in:The locus of linguistic variation
Edited by Constantine Lignos, Laurel MacKenzie and Meredith Tamminga
[Linguistic Variation 16:2] 2016
► pp. 183–220
An extension of the comparative sociolinguistics approach for sociosyntax
Comparing a single linguistic constraint across multiple sociolinguistic variables
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.
Keywords: future temporal reference, yes/no question, negation, polarity, French, variation, comparative sociolinguistics, Acadian French, Laurentian French, sociosyntax
Published online: 27 January 2017
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