Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

New from Wiley!


We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Review of  La variation grammaticale en géolinguistique

Reviewer: Philippe Leblond
Book Title: La variation grammaticale en géolinguistique
Book Author: David Heap
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 19.1427

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting
AUTHOR: Heap, David
TITLE: La variation grammaticale en géolinguistique
SUBTITLE: Les pronoms sujet en roman central
SERIES: LINCOM Studies in Romance Linguistics 11
YEAR: 2007

Philippe Leblond, M.A. student, Département de linguistique et de traduction,
Université de Montréal

It is well known that Standard French treats subject pronouns syntactically,
which makes their presence obligatory in an utterance. Except in the case of
imperative and participial clauses, verbs cannot be used alone in Standard
French: the subject pronoun must be pronounced because verbal inflexion is no
longer audible. In Standard Italian, on the other hand, subject pronouns are
treated on a morphological level and are not obligatory. Verbs can stand alone
because verbal inflexions are still clearly pronounced. Subject pronouns are,
however, sometimes also used with a verb.

Variations of these two premises can be found within non-standard varieties of
French and Italian. In this study, David Heap examines pronominal subject
variation (more precisely, finite verb clitics) within the linguistic continuum
of non standard varieties spoken in southern France and northern Italy. His goal
is to analyze variations between and within varieties in order to explain the
presence or absence of a pronominal subject in utterances.

Heap bases much of his work on a study done by Renzi & Vanelli (1983), in which
they examine subject pronouns in several Romance varieties. Heap establishes a
typology of eight morphosyntactic factors taken into consideration for the
study, namely: verb position; verb tense and mood; verb type and auxiliary;
grammatical gender of the verb subject; presence of a negation mark; presence of
an interrogation mark; presence of oblique clitics; and subject type and
position. He also considers the interaction among these eight factors to
comprise a ninth factor.

Heap's study does not take into account the phonological form of pronouns, but
rather looks exclusively at the presence or absence of the subject pronoun in
every possible syntactic context. For this study, he analyzed every chart found
in the _Atlas linguistique de France_ [ALF] (Gilliéron & Edmont 1902-1908), as
well as in the _Sprach- und Sachatlas Italiens und der Südschweiz_ [AIS] (Jaberg
& Jud 1928-1940). He then focused on charts that occur in ''pairs'', i.e. charts
having a more or less exact correspondence in the other atlas. More precisely,
he selected specific utterances having an equivalent form in each atlas. From a
total of 101 pairs of charts, Heap selected 172 geographical points from ALF
(the vast majority in southern France, with others in French-speaking
Switzerland and the border regions of Italy) and 266 points from AIS (most in
northern Italy, with the rest in Italian-speaking and Rheto-Romance-speaking
Switzerland or in the border regions of Croatia). In all, this yielded 39,703
utterances for analysis. Following a lengthy introduction to the various
scientific fields addressed in the study (accounting for three of the
monograph's five chapters), Heap finally presents the results of his analysis.

In the first chapter, Heap defines basic concepts such as geolinguistics,
grammar (from a linguistic point of view), varieties, and sociolects. Following
these definitions, he describes the concept of clitics and then examines their
place within syntactic and morphological models. He goes on to explain the four
formal cliticity tests applicable to the French language, as established by
Kayne (1975). Finally, he summarizes the Wackernagel and Tobler-Mussafia laws
and explores in detail the null-subject parameter and grammatical variation.

In the second chapter, Heap distinguishes between inter-grammatical variation as
understood by generativist structuralism (i.e., grammatical variation among
different linguistic communities) and the intra-grammatical variation of
variationist sociolinguistics (i.e., variation within a linguistic community,
known as ordered heterogeneity). He then explains the concepts of linguistic
continuum and transition zones, citing the well-known case of Franco-Provençal.
He uses this example to demonstrate the importance of studying transition zones
because of the extensive variation found among speakers who live in them. Heap
then describes the zones he selected for his study, i.e. the linguistic
continuum of Romance varieties found in southern France and northern Italy,
specifically the southern regions analyzed in ALF and the northern territories
covered by AIS.

The third chapter of Heap's study looks at the seven pronominalization aspects
established by Renzi & Vanelli (1983) in their study. He explains the structure
of his database and then describes how the nine-fold typology mentioned above
influences the presence or absence of pronominal subjects in utterances.

The fourth chapter presents the results of the study. Using charts and
statistics, Heap analyzes the use of pronominal subjects for each grammatical
person, as well as for meteorological and impersonal verbs. The findings lead
him to observe that for every geographical point in the two linguistic atlases
where a pronoun exists for at least one grammatical person, the different
varieties tend towards the obligatory use of a pronoun for the second person.

Drawing on the results of his analysis, Heap makes two generalizations. The
first is that in systems where the subject pronoun paradigm is incomplete, i.e.,
varieties that have between one and five grammatical persons, the 2nd, 3rd and
6th grammatical persons are used systematically, while the 4th, 1st and 5th
grammatical persons are not.

The second generalization is that in systems using more than one pronoun in a
categorical or primarily categorical manner, the pronoun of the 2nd grammatical
person must be present.

Heap presents then the results for the nine factors that can influence the
presence or absence of pronominal subjects.

The fifth chapter is reserved for study conclusions. Following approximately the
same structure as in chapter four, Heap goes into greater detail in again
describing his two generalizations, as well as the nine factors that can
influence the presence or absence of pronominal subjects. He concludes his study
by affirming that no one formal theoretical framework, either generativist or
functional, can currently explain all the utterances examined, i.e. all the
morphosyntactic variation found in this linguistic continuum. His two
generalizations serve only to clarify that where varieties use pronominal
subjects, certain grammatical persons are privileged.

He also observes that the ''Italian'' varieties display considerable
morphosyntactic diversity, a phenomenon explained by the relatively recent
presence of a central state and normative linguistic pressure in the regions
where these varieties are spoken. The vast majority of individuals questioned
for AIS were elderly and therefore used their local variety. The comparative
lack of diversity among French varieties can be explained, however, by a
''leveling'' phenomenon resulting from a process of political and administrative
centralization that began much earlier in these older dialectal areas.

The monograph concludes with three appendices followed by a list of references.
The first two appendices contain tables referring to ALF and AIS, respectively,
that include information such as the source chart, the grammatical person of the
utterance, and the French or Italian lemma. The final appendix is a table of the
geographical points studied, which also includes the chart number and name of
the village or town.

This study is both well done and of particular interest. David Heap addresses
the substantial problem of morphosyntactic variation in the use of pronominal
subjects within non-standard varieties of southern French and northern Italian.
While undoubtedly time-consuming, the background research and analysis have
yielded convincing statistics. Moreover, the monograph is well presented, for
the author takes the time to explain basic concepts for readers who have an
interest in geolinguistics but are not overly familiar with the field. One might
even say that this monograph serves, to some extent, as an introduction to the

The only real shortcoming is a lack of sample utterances, especially for the
nine morphosyntactic factors. There are numerous examples of clitics from
Romance varieties in the first three chapters, but not in the last two. Heap
explains what does and does not influence the use of pronominal subjects, but
fails to illustrate his conclusions through the use of sample utterances.

Gilliéron, Jules & Edmond Edmont. (1902-1910). _Atlas linguistique de la
France_. Paris: Champion.

Jaberg, Karl & Jakob Jud. (1928-1940). _Sprach- und Sachatlas Italiens und der
Südschweiz_. Zofingen: Ringier.

Kayne, Richard. (1975). _French Syntax: the transformational Cycle_. Cambridge:
MIT Press.

Renzi, Lorenzo & Laura Vanelli. (1983). I pronomi soggetto in alcune varietà
romanze. _Scritti linguistici in onore di G.B. Pellegrini_, Pisa: Pacini. pp.

Philippe Leblond recently finished his M.A. thesis in Linguistics at Université
de Montréal. His M.A. research was on the consequences, from a diachronic point
of view, of the linguistic contact between French and Franconian in the French
département of Moselle (French region of Lorraine). He is currently a research
assistant at the Groupe de recherche en histoire du français under the direction
of Mr. Yves-Charles Morin.