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En réponse à Joe :


>Ok, I've heard you refer to this...can you explain it to me?

OK, I'm gonna try.

Basically, French writing gives you the impression that French is
analytical, like English is (but more synthetic with all its conjugations
and such). It also gives you the impression that words mark plural on the
ending, conjugate their verbs in the ending, have compound tenses (i.e.
with an auxiliary which is a separate word from the main verb), articles
that are separate words, ajectives that are separate to the noun and agree
with it, word order is quite strictly SVO, etc...

Well, scrap all that! Spoken French has no such structure. It is a
topic-comment structured language with prefixed inflections and
polysynthetic tendencies. The main proof is the stress: stress in French is
not word-based (in the sense of words as in writing), but *phrase*-based.
Also, unstressed words are phonetically (and phonemically) unseparable from
the main word of the phrase, and change form with it, and as such are
better described as affixes with multiple allomorphs, just like
polysynthetic languages do. Let's give you an example. A written sentence
like "je n'ai pas regardé le film hier" would usually be in Spoken French
more like ["mwa ZlEpaRgaR"de "lfilm i"jER] (transcribed "moi, j'l'ai pas
r'gardé l'film hier"). Here is an interlinear:

"mwa    Z-       -l-     -E-  -pa- -RgaR"de l-         -film i"jER
1sg.ind 1sg.subj 3sg.obj PAST NEG  watch    def.art.sg movie yesterday

As you see, we have a topic comment structure ("mwa, the independent first
person singular pronoun, is topic of the sentence), with a verb agreeing
through prefixes with both the subject and the direct object (they also
agree with the indirect object when it's present, like in Basque). As for
nouns, they mark definiteness, gender and number mostly through a prefix.
["lfilm] is singular for instance, while in the plural it would become
[lE"film].

The polysynthetic character of the language comes also from the fact that
the grammatical affixes can have various allomorphs depending on the
phonetic but also grammatical environment. For instance, the PAST marker
has different forms depending on the subject: [E] is first person singular,
[a] 2nd.sg, 3rd.sg and 1st.pl, [ave] 2nd.pl and [O~] 3rd.pl. The nominal
prefix with definite plural meaning can be [lE] or [lEz].

Another thing is that adjectives are affixes in Spoken French too (IIRC it
is the same in Inuit languages), and object incorporation does happen :) .


>Wait, so what would French people use instead of 'nous'.  I wish they'd
>teach us actual spoken French in school...

We use "on" instead, with agreement in the third person singular. Actually,
in Spoken French, the independent form of the pronoun is still "nous"
(which is why I said "nous" had not completely disappeared. It is used when
in topic for instance), but the subject prefix is [O~], and the verb form
is the same as the third person singular form.

Of course, because of the polysynthetic nature of Spoken French, it is
difficult to describe, because of all the allomorphs the different affixes
and roots can take. In this way, it's not so different to polysynthetic
languages like Inuit either (nor to Basque by the way, which despite being
mostly agglutinating is more polysynthetic in its synthetic conjugations).

Christophe Grandsire.

http://rainbow.conlang.free.fr

You need a straight mind to invent a twisted conlang.