The French wh interrogative system [chapter]

Sandrine Tailleur
2014 Current issues in linguistic theory  
This thesis revisits the variation inherent to the French wh interrogative system. In La[urentien]F[rench], there are many ways to ask wh questions, all of which are said to have the same general interpretation. By looking at different types of data, historical as well as contemporary, this thesis puts forward three main findings/proposals: i. the high degree of variation is due to the use of wh est-ce que, which appeared in Old French as an interrogative cleft (Rouquier 2003); ii. between Old
more » ... ); ii. between Old and Modern French, wh est-ce que has gone through a typical cycle of grammaticalisation (as described by Roberts & Roussou 2003 , van Gelderen 2008a , while the free relative of the Old French cleft remained unchanged; iii. today's LaF wh system is dominated by the wh est-ce que and variants (over 98 percent of use -Elsig 2009), which lack traditional wh movement. It is proposed that wh est-ce que and variants appear in a construction containing an atrophied clefted CP adjoined to a main clause containing a wh operator, whereas the variant traditionally called wh in situ is generated in a structure in which the wh element is interpreted and spelled-out in the position of Merge. In addition to its theoretical contribution, this thesis helps to bring together theoretical and applied linguistics, since it makes use of different types of data, both historical and synchronic (oral and written corpora, experimental studies and grammaticality judgements). Moreover, the iii conclusions raise important questions about the realities of diglossia in the French diaspora: wh interrogative variants are divided according to fundamental structural differences; some have wh movement (high, formal register) and others do not (vernacular and neutral register). Finally, this thesis also contributes to the theories of oralité (Gadet 1992), since it sheds light on a complex system of variants found exclusively in vernacular speech. iv Acknowledgments First and foremost, I would like to thank Yves Roberge for his good words, his help, his patience, which were constant for the three years during which he was my supervisor. Diane Massam and Ileana Paul were also always very encouraging and supportive; all three members of my committee were extremely helpful, and I am convinced that I could not have finished without them. I am also very grateful for the Linguistics Department at the University of Toronto. The atmosphere, created by both faculty and students, contributed to a working environment that is both stimulating and most motivating. A special thanks to Elizabeth Cowper, Jack Chambers, Keren Rice, Alana Johns and Elaine Gold for their special contribution to my well-being as a grad student. Anne-Marie Brousseau, Susana Bejar and, most of all, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, have also showed me anything but encouragements and kindness. My student colleagues; their constant presence in our lounge has been the excuse for many hours of serious and challenging, but also light and entertaining, conversations. A special thanks to who each helped in their own ways, and were all equally important to me. Merci à ma famille : mom, dad, Karl, Francine, Guillaume, et surtout Annie-Jo, qui ont toujours été là pour moi, même loin, même sans toujours comprendre ce que je faisais qui me rendait si nerveuse... Le sentiment de les avoir derrière moi, me soutenant peu importe mes décisions, est irremplaçable.
doi:10.1075/cilt.333.21tai fatcat:z24jkh6l3zdefplpeddexzad5q