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Saturday, October 12 • 10:30am - 10:55am
Dountsop et al.: A real-time analysis of the variable use of expletive il in Montréal French

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A real-time analysis of the variable use of expletive il in Montréal French

This paper studies the variable use of expletive il ‘it’, realized as [i] in Montréal French, over 40 years. Based on two corpora of interviews collected in 1971 and 2012, the analysis of the expletive’s use with the three most frequent verbs (falloir ‘be necessary’, sembler ‘seem’ and rester ’remain’) shows an ongoing change towards omission. Omission of il is favored by falloir, main clauses,, and negative pas ‘not’, but disfavored by the presence of an auxiliary, and the complementizer que ‘that’. While the use of il is subject to the same linguistic constraints in 1971 and 2012, the steepest increases in rates of omission are found in the least favorable contexts, indicating a change towards categorical expletive omission. Our results confirm that French is a semi-prodrop language in which morphosyntactic factors affect the expression of the expletive pronoun. This contrasts with English, where phonology plays a crucial role.


Claire Djuikui Dountsop

University of Montreal

Mireille Tremblay

University of Montreal

Julie Auger

University of Montreal

Saturday October 12, 2019 10:30am - 10:55am PDT
EMU Crater Lake S
  T: Grammatical variation
  • Session type Talk
  • Chair: Sali Tagliamonte