William J. Ashby
[Studies in Language Companion Series 226] 2023
► pp. 133–150
Negation in French can be marked redundantly – since a pre-verbal particle ne ‘old not’ may accompany a second, usually post-verbal, marker of negation. However, the pre-verbal particle is often deleted in spoken French. This deletion may be inconsistent with the usual typological characterization of French as an SVO language. In this paper, the use of ne ‘old not’ by 37 speakers from the region of Tours is evaluated, and the data are judged by the Sankoff Variable Rule Program (Varbrul 2). The negative particle is found to vary with a complex of linguistic, stylistic, and social factors. The historical record and the data presented here suggest that ne ‘old not’ is being lost. This on-going syntactic change may be dependent on another, as yet uncompleted, change: the fusion of the subject clitic and verb.