In language contact studies, specific features of the contact languages are often seen to be the result of transfer (interference), but it remains difficult to disentangle the role of intra-systemic and inter-systemic factors. We propose to unravel these factors in the analysis of a feature of Brussels French which many researchers attribute to transfer from (Brussels) Dutch: the adverbial use of une fois. We compare the use of this particle in Brussels French with its occurrence in corpora of other varieties of French, including several that have not been influenced by a Germanic substrate or adstrate. A detailed analysis of the frequency of occurrence, the functions and the distribution of the particle over different syntactic positions shows that some uses of une fois can be traced back to sixteenth-century French, but that there is also ample evidence for overt and covert transfer (Mougeon and Beniak, 1991) from Brussels Dutch.
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