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Apparent phonetic approximation: English loanwords in Old Quebec French1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2008

CAROLE PARADIS*
Affiliation:
Laval University
DARLENE LACHARITÉ*
Affiliation:
Laval University
*
Authors’ address: Département de langues, linguistique et traduction, Université Laval, Québec, G1K 7P4, Canada. E-mail: carole.paradis@lli.ulaval.cadarlene.lacharite@lli.ulaval.ca
Authors’ address: Département de langues, linguistique et traduction, Université Laval, Québec, G1K 7P4, Canada. E-mail: carole.paradis@lli.ulaval.cadarlene.lacharite@lli.ulaval.ca

Abstract

A key debate in loanword adaptation is whether the process is primarily phonetic or phonological. Is it possible that researchers on each side are viewing equally plausible, but different, scenarios? Perhaps, in some language situations, adaptation is carried out mainly by those without access to L2 phonology and is, perforce, perceptually driven. In other situations, adaptation may be done by bilinguals who actively draw upon their knowledge of L2 phonology in adapting loanwords. The phonetic strategy would most likely be favored in situations where the vast majority of the population did not know the L2, thus having no possible access to the L2 phonological system. The phonological strategy, on the other hand, is most likely to be favored in situations where there is a high proportion of speakers who are bilingual in the L1 and L2. This possibility is tested by comparing the adaptations of English loanwords in 19th- and early 20th-century Quebec French, when bilinguals were few, to those of contemporary Quebec French, in which the rate of bilingualism is far higher. The results show that even when the proportion of bilinguals in a society is relatively small, they determine how loanwords are pronounced in the borrowing language. Bilinguals adapt loanwords on the basis of phonology, not of faulty perception of foreign sounds and structures. However, in a society where bilinguals are few, there is a slight increase in non-phonological influences in loanword adaptation. We address the small role played by non-phonological factors, including phonetic approximation, orthography, and analogy (true or false), showing that false analogy, in particular, may give the impression that phonetic approximation is more widespread in a loanword corpus than is actually the case.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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Footnotes

[1]

This article develops the first part of the talk that we presented at the second North American Conference in Phonology at Concordia University in Montreal (Paradis & LaCharité 2002). This article is also an augmented and considerably revised version of the presentation that we made at the colloquium Des représentations aux contraintes/From representations to constraints at University Toulouse-Le Mirail (Paradis & LaCharité 2003). We are grateful to these audiences for their comments and questions, especially to Mike Kenstowicz, Jean-François Prunet, Marie-Hélène Côté, Jacques Durand, Elsa Gomez-Imbert, Jerzy Rubach, Laurence Labrune, Phil Carr and David Odden. We would also like to thank our colleague Claude Poirier for his help with Old Quebec French and our colleagues Pierre Martin, Jean-Guy Lebel and Conrad Ouellon for their help with the phonetics of Quebec French. Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to our research assistants, who were deeply involved in the construction of the Old Quebec French corpus. We would also like to thank the JL anonymous referees for their many constructive comments and questions and the JL editors for their painstaking editorial work. We remain solely responsible for the views expressed here as well as for any remaining errors or omissions. Research for this article was made possible by SSHRCC grant #410-2000-0337 to C. Paradis and D. LaCharité and by SSHRCC grant #410-2003-1459 to C. Paradis.

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