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CONLANG  November 2012, Week 2

CONLANG November 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Re: and I/me in other languages

From:

Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 13 Nov 2012 08:46:15 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (69 lines)

On 12 November 2012 20:42, And Rosta <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets, On 09/11/2012 08:06:
>
>> Despite what traditional grammars tell you, and what the orthography
>> suggests, "je" isn't a separate pronoun. It's a subject agreement
>> clitic in Written French, and actually a subject agreement *prefix*
>> in Spoken French.
>>
>
> What do you see the difference between prefix and clitic as being, and
> what arguments point to _je_ being a prefix?
>
>
It's a sliding scale, so my arguments may not seem compelling to you as
they seem to me, but to me the main difference between a clitic and a
prefix is that a clitic has some lexical independence but no prosodic
independence, while a prefix lacks both. In particular, a clitic has more
freedom of position in the sentence than a prefix, which always has a
specific position on a specific type of word. Also, a clitic tends not to
be used if something else (like a noun phrase) has the same function in the
sentence (i.e. a clitic usually doesn't behave as an agreement mark). This
may naturally not always work with all languages, but it's good enough for
IE ones.

As for why _je_ is a prefix and not a clitic:
- It is mandatory, even when a subject is present (cf. the infamous _moi
je_, in which the independent 1st person pronoun _moi_ can't be used alone
as the subject of the sentence, despite fully encoding person. This was not
true just a few centuries ago), which makes it look like a subject
agreement marker rather than a subject clitic.
- It is phonologically very strongly bound to the verb it attaches to
(spelling hides the fact that its most common realisation is actually /ʒ/,
and /ʃ/ in front of voiceless consonants. It can even completely merge with
the verb, forming a single form. For instance, "I don't know", in Written
French _je ne sais pas_, sounds more like [ʃɛˈpa] in actual, informal
Spoken French), more than what I'd expect of a clitic.
- It forms a paradigm with other subject prefixes. For instance, a correct
Spoken French paradigm of the verb _être_: "to be" is:
/ʃsɥi/: I am
/tyˈɛ/: you (sg) are
/iˈlɛ/: he, it is
/ɛˈlɛ/: she, it is
/ɔ̃ˈnɛ/: one is, we are
/vuˈzɛt/: you (pl) are
/ilˈsɔ̃/: they (m, n) are
/ɛlˈsɔ̃/: they (f) are
All those forms are used as is, whether the subject is expressed or not,
and even if that subject is a personal pronoun (which is only used for
emphasis). They are also used that way in questions, despite what Leonardo
tried to show.

Naturally, things are a bit muddied by the fact that French is effectively
a diglossia, not unlike the situation in Latin or the situation in most
Arabic countries nowadays. Spoken French and Written French are effectively
at least separate dialects (with similar vocabulary but diverging
grammars), with Spoken French itself further splintered (although at least
within France the differences between the various Spoken French dialects
are usually small). Since literacy is so high, everyone uses at least a bit
of Written French in their speech, although it's usually limited to formal
registers. This makes it sometimes a bit difficult to mark the border
between Spoken French and Written French, but it doesn't mean those two
varieties don't exist. It just means code-switching is common :) .
-- 
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.

http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/

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