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French 3310

Phonology and Morphology of French

If you can make sense of the sentence « Ce keum est un reud »;, then you’ve figured out one of the most intriguing language games in French. It’s called Verlan, and it involves turning words around backwards, and more - sounds are added, lost, and adjusted, and all this happens in a systematic, ordered, predictable way. French 3310 will help you appreciate the rules of the language game known as Verlan, and will show you that these and other rules apply, in slightly different ways, to ordinary spoken French.

Course Content

Phonology is the study of sound patterns in language: 3310 looks at the conspiracy of individual events involved in the production of single sounds, and in the patterning of groups of sounds. Students learn how and where sounds are produced, how the sounds fit together in permitted orders, and what adjustments are made when sounds become neighbours, within and across words. When groups of sounds are attached to a meaning, then we talk about morphology, the study of units which may be smaller than a word - like endings - or word-sized. Their formation, through borrowings, invention, and regular processes which affect the shape and sound of words, is what students investigate in the second half of the course.

French 3310, which is cross-listed with Linguistics 3310, builds on the knowledge of phonetic symbols and transcription acquired in a previous course in phonetics, normally French 2300. French 3310 starts with details of the mechanics of sound production; it goes on to describe sounds in terms of their features and their variants. Regional versions of the language, such as Southern French and Québec French, provide illustrations of systematic variety in local pronunciations of vowels and consonants. If you’re interested in finding out why the vowel sound in ‘roue’ is the same as in ‘route’ in Paris, but is quite different in Montréal, then you’ll find 3310 provides the answers. The course also examines what happens at the edges of words - enchaînement, liaison, and the so-called aspirate ‘h’- the conditions under which silent consonants are pronounced. An apparatus is provided for describing these phenomena: students can use formal means to express very general and wide-ranging observations about what happens to sounds, and under what conditions. Through a set of readings, students also investigate how the spelling system of French used to be a fairly faithful representation of how people spoke, and how over the years spelling has drifted away from its original simplicity and become a sometimes difficult code to crack. Other readings illustrate how French grammar, noted for its rigidity, can be made to bend in order to represent gender in a balanced way.

Prerequisites

15 credit hours in French and/or Linguistics at the 2000 level or permission of the instructor.

Textbook

The most recent text used was a pre-publication version of Introduction aux fondements de la linguistique, by Robert Papen. A set of required readings, such as La forme écrite, dealing with the spelling system, and Guide de la rédaction non-sexiste, providing advice on gender balance in writing, are made available as reserve readings in the library.

Assessment

In the Winter semester of 2000, the assessment consisted of the following: a series of small, frequent quizzes (7 or 8) throughout the semester, worth 20%; a mid-term test (25%); two assignments on the readings (20%); and a final examination worth 35%. In other semesters, a longer written assignment based on the readings has replaced the series of quizzes.

Frequency

French 3310 is normally offered every Winter semester.

After 3310

The natural companion course to 3310 is 3311, which, despite the numbering, may in fact be taken before or after 3310.

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