First-person plural in Prince Edward Island Acadian French: The fate of the vernacular variant je...ons
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In Atlantic Canada Acadian communities, definite on is in competition with the traditional vernacular variant je . . . ons (e.g., on parle vs. je parlons “we speak”), with the latter variant stable only in isolated communities, but losing ground in communities in which there is substantial contact with external varieties of French. We analyze the distribution of the two variants in two Prince Edward Island communities that differ in terms of amount of such contact. The results of earlier studies of Acadian French are confirmed in that je . . . ons usage remains robust in the more isolated community but is much lower in the less isolated one. However, in the latter community, the declining variant, while accounting for less than 20% of tokens for the variable, has not faded away. Although it is not used at all by some speakers, it is actually the variant of choice for others, and for still other speakers, it has taken on a particular discourse function, that of indexing narration. Comparison with variation in the third-person plural, in which a traditional variant is also in competition with an external variant, shows that the decline of je . . . ons is linked to its greater saliency, making it a prime candidate for social reevaluation.
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