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Review of A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French
Date: Mon, 7 Mar 2005 08:10:54 +0000 From: Emmanuelle Labeau Subject: A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French
AUTHOR: Lodge, R. Anthony TITLE: A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2004
Emmanuelle Labeau, Aston University, Birmingham (UK)
[This review was originally submitted in July 2004, but not received. We apologize to the reviewer, author and publisher for the delay in posting it. -- Eds.]
Anthony Lodge undertakes here a project that is both innovative (a diachronic description of French sociolinguistic diversity) and ambitious (the period spans from medieval times to the twentieth century).
Before embarking on the study itself, the author devotes his first part to some "preliminaries". The first chapter deals with the difficulty of identifying "the French of Paris" because of its confusion with standard French in traditional approaches. To obtain a more accurate and subtle description, Lodge suggests to apply the concepts and techniques of modern sociolinguistics to past states of the language as past states of French must have known variability as it does now; he pays special attention to the phenomena of dialect contact and dialect mixing and explores Trudgill's concepts of dialect-levelling, koinéisation and "reallocation". However the researcher encounters a shortage of data for early periods. On the assumption that speakers change the language, Lodge builds his book on the three-stage process of European urbanisation identified by Hohenberg and Lees (1985): the pre-industrial, the proto-industrial and the industrial phases.
In the second part devoted to the pre-industrial city, the author first describes the "demographic take-off" of Paris in the twelfth century that went far above contemporary urbanisation due to dramatic immigration from the densely populated hinterland. This led to an unprecedented development of Paris' functional complexity and the social and demographic changes allow to assume significant influences on the language. Lodge then proceeds to attempt a description of "the beginnings of Parisian French". On the basis of modern dialectology, he argues that French standard language originates in a spoken koiné developed in the 12th and 13th centuries as a result of demographic growth. He rejects the idea that colloquial Parisian speech be a corruption of the standard that was elaborated later. To test this hypothesis, Lodge studies "the medieval written evidence", a corpus of administrative texts. Some variability in the Parisian writing system may correlate to some variation in speech. However, if anecdotal evidence shows an awareness of local speech-norms from the late twelfth century, there is no evidence of social differentiation in the speech of Parisians. At the time, the most significant divide separated Latin, the language of the university, and the vernaculars.
The third part deals with the proto-industrial city, over a period spanning from the 15th to the 18th century. The first chapter starts with an overview of demographic and social evolution before focusing on the sociolinguistic process of "reallocation", the recycling of variants left over from the konéisation as social-class dialect, stylistic... variants as it is shown by limited direct evidence and also by contemporary literary representation. "Variation in the Renaissance city" shows that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there was a growing awareness of social differentiation between the honnête homme and the paysan de ville and some salient variants were stigmatised. However, fragments from personal correspondence reveal that the separation was not clear- cut. "variation under the Ancien Régime" shows that during the 17th and 18th a growing gap developed between high and low varieties. In "Salience and reallocation", Lodge studies extracts of texts imitating low-class Parisian speech as representative of the most salient variants.
The last part focuses on the industrial city and starts with a description of the industrial growth between 1750 and 1950 (the date at which the study stops) and its influence on language development. Then are discussed the concepts of standardisation induced by the new political situation in the 19th century, and of dialect-levelling due to the contact of increasingly different varieties as in-migration expands from Paris hinterland to further afield. The part closes on a reflection on lexical variation throughout the periods covered in the book and focuses on non standard varieties such as 'jargon' or 'argot'.
Lodge's study is remarkable in many ways. First it offers a very unconventional history of Parisian French far from the traditional standard-oriented work: it uses the tools of modern sociolinguistics to shed light on the principles of language variation in diachrony. Then the study is firmly rooted in the demographic and socio-economic background that has directed the book's structure. It also shows an impressive mastery not only of the traditional reference works on the history of French and modern sociolinguistics, but also of indirect sources such as popular literature, correspondence, songs...
One may question some structural points. Although the book claims to cover the period up to the 1950s, little is said on the 20th century. Also there are some discrepancies between chapters: while some are "easy-reading", presenting sociolinguistic developments, others are more "hardcore" philological discussion and will only appeal to a more specialised readership. It must be said however that each part provides a very readable introductory chapter and chapters end on a clear summary of the matters covered.
Lodge's book proves fascinating in many ways and will appeal not only to language specialists but also historians and indeed Paris lovers willing to understand better the Ville-Lumière's making!
Hohenberg, P.M. and Lees, L.H. (1985) 'The Making of Urban Europe 1000- 1950'. Cambridge, Ass. :Harvard University Press.
Trudgill, P. (1986) 'Dialects in Contact'. Oxford: Blackwell.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Emmanuelle Labeau is a lecturer in French at Aston University, where she teaches electives on the history of the French language and Contemporary French. Her main research interests are the development of tense and aspect in French; she works both on language description and language acquisition.