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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

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Academic Paper

Title: Low vowel variation in three French-speaking countries
Author: Janine Berns
Linguistic Field: Phonology
Subject Language: French
Abstract: It is commonly noted that standard French is losing the contrast between its two low vowels /a/ and /ɑ/, due to the fronting of the back vowel. The difference in length, which accompanied the qualitative difference of this pair, is affected as well. In mainland France, this tendency can be found to various degrees across the country, and is spreading throughout the speech community. This article further develops the picture of the current status of the low vowel contrast by investigating Belgian and Swiss French, where length is known to play overall a far more prominent role in the vowel inventories than it does in standard French. Are Belgian and Swiss French also affected by the merger of the two low vowels? To what extent can a difference in length and/or timbre still be found? And how do the patterns of contrast neutralisation/preservation relate to the developments in France?

Il est communément noté que le français standard est en train de perdre le contraste entre ses deux voyelles basses /a/ et /ɑ/, en raison de l'avancement de la voyelle arrière. La différence de longueur, qui a accompagné la différence qualitative de cette paire, est également affectée. En France métropolitaine, cette tendance peut être constatée à des degrés divers à travers le pays et se répand dans toute la communauté linguistique. Cet article met au point l'image de l'état actuel du contraste de voyelle faible en étudiant le français belge et le français suisse. Contrairement au français standard, on sait que la longueur joue globalement un rôle beaucoup plus important dans les inventaires vocaliques de ces variétés. Les français belge et suisse sont-ils également affectés par la fusion des deux voyelles basses? Dans quelle mesure peut-on encore trouver une différence de longueur ou de timbre? Et comment les schémas de neutralisation/préservation des contrastes sont-ils liés aux évolutions en France?


This article appears IN Canadian Journal of Linguistics Vol. 64, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .

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