Variable Analyses of a Verbal Inflection in (mainly) Canadian French
This chapter discusses the evolution of the third‐person plural present‐tense verb‐ending ‐ont in Acadian and Québécois French. Extensions of this form are arguably due to a rule of referral involving the homophonous first‐person plural. According to dialect, forms in ‐ont may be analysed by native speakers as consisting of a stem and an ending ‐ont or treated as unanalysable units. Since the distribution of ‐ont is sensitive to sociolinguistic factors, the data demonstrate that the concept of sociolinguistic variability must encompass analyses as well as forms – it is not merely the inflection or stem which is the variable, but more abstract or underlying notions, such as segmentation, paradigm structure, and morphomic patterns.
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