What is Linguistics in French?
Linguistics is the study of language. It includes an investigation of the formal structures of language (sound system, internal word structure and representations of meaning), as well as language universals, variation across languages, and historical language change.
Students majoring in French & Linguistics typically satisfy some or all of the BU Hub requirements through coursework for the major and cocurricular activities. Learn more about the Hub requirements here.
A lot of people think they can learn a new language simply by accumulating vocabulary and conjugating verbs. But it is also important to understand the way a sentence is built. For example, French sentences are usually structured in the following way: Subject + Verb + Complement. There are some exceptions but this is the general rule.
In addition, there are some things unique to french that might not be obvious in english – for example, the fact that French nouns have a grammatical gender, and that these grammatical genders determine how adjectives end (e.g., a male singer is un chanteur, while a female singer is une chanteuse).
The course will introduce you to structure 3 and show you how easy it is to manipulate this structure and create your own sentences. The lessons are designed in three minute chunks so that you can work through them easily despite your busy schedule. You will be able to practise your newly acquired structures as often as you wish, to help you progress to fluency and become a natural speaker without having to think about it.
The linguistic variable under study here is variation in the French rhotic, which varies from one form to another in different communities. We use a program called GoldVarbII (Rand and Sankoff 1990) to conduct a multivariate analysis of data, which allows us to determine which extra-linguistic and linguistic factors are most strongly correlated with the variant in question.
This data set, collected in 2012 in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood of Montreal, complements previous corpora on sociolinguistic variation, making it possible to compare community trends spanning over four decades. It also allows for the investigation of intra-individual variation over time, a dimension that has received little attention in studies of French varieties.
Similarly, we have used GoldVarbII to examine the variation within each of our students, comparing their use of formal variants such as on and nous with that of their L1 Canadian French-speaking peers in semi-directed interviews. We have found that, unlike their L1 counterparts, our immersion students do not automatically acquire the linguistic constraints observed by their peers.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the French standardized their language, which largely replaced regional dialects. Standard French is used around the world today, including by 49 million people in Francophone Africa and Canada.
Language change can occur for a variety of reasons. It may be a result of social differentiation (the development of distinct slang or jargon), a consequence of contact with other languages (e.g. through borrowing), or through natural processes in usage.
Some of these changes are not immediately noticeable, but can have a long-term impact on the way the language is spoken. For example, the loss of the sound /r/ in words such as “roue” (wheel) has led to a lengthening of vowels before this consonant. Similarly, the disappearance of the circumflex accent has led to the word for picnic becoming simply “picnic”. This is all part of the ongoing process of language change. Although this can often be frustrating, it is a natural part of human language evolution.
Our faculty members conduct research in a wide variety of topics including syntax, semantics, phonology and morphology, history of language, sociolinguistics, dialectology, creoles and second language acquisition. The French lab supports a variety of research methodologies including moving window silent reading experiments, cross-modal priming experiments and word monitory.
One interesting observation that has emerged from these studies is that cL2 learners do not rely on systemic knowledge of grammatical gender, even after more than 24 months of exposure. Some, like Sara and Marika, do provide determiners consistently as soon as they start using them (although not yet at 10 ME), but others exhibit considerable variability. Jana, for instance, omits many determiners at ME 16/15 but then produces more of them in later recordings; and Ludwig combines masculine and feminine forms when marking his/her own name and others.
Similarly, cL2 children do not succeed in reliably attributing gender to nouns using their phonological or morphological properties. Rather, formal properties seem to override semantic ones when the two offer conflicting evidence.