rate of language change

Larry Trask larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk
Tue Jan 26 16:49:46 UTC 1999

On Mon, 25 Jan 1999, H. Mark Hubey wrote:

[on the recent rapid change in French]

> Has there been any syntactic change?

Has there?  Has there ever!  Amazing things are happening to French

In standard French, `John has bought the car' is this (sorry; no

	Jean a achete la voiture.

But what you'll probably hear in France is this:

	Jean, il l'a achetee, la bagnole.

Literally, it would seem, `John, he's bought it, the car.'

French is becoming ever more like a native North American language, with
massive verbal agreement.

In standard French, a sentence can't end with a preposition.  But, in
spoken French, the following sort of thing is common:

	Paul, Marie a couche avec.

	`Paul, Marie has slept with.'

With a nice big fat preposition <avec> `with' at the end of the

In standard French, `There's the woman whose bag was stolen' is this:

	Voila la femme a qui on a vole le sac.

But what people say in Paris is often this:

	Vla la meuf qui s'est fait peta son keus.

With an utterly different construction.

A few years ago, a linguist who works on French was astonished to hear
somebody say this:

	Paul, Marie, elle a couche avec.

	`Paul, Marie, she has slept with.'

Only a minority of my French students regard this as acceptable when
they are asked directly, but clearly some people are saying it and
others find it acceptable.  And you won't find this construction in any
reference grammar of French.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk

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