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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 21, 2017

(l) as a sociolinguistic variable in Francoprovençal

  • Jonathan Kasstan EMAIL logo and Daniela Müller


This article argues for (l) as a sociolinguistic variable in Francoprovençal: (l) refers to variable palatalisation of /l/ in obstruent+lateral onset clusters (/kl, ɡl, pl, bl, fl/), a feature that has long been the subject of metalinguistic commentary, but no systematic analysis. Our data, which come from a larger study of Francoprovençal (FP), show significant intraspeaker variation. Sociolinguistic interviews were carried out in the Lyonnais region of France among 21 FP speakers with different acquisition routes. /l/-palatalisation is far from categorical in our sample, with increased rates of the French variant [l] over the traditional [j] variant. We interpret these data as contact-induced change: phonological leveling is underway, with convergence towards French. These findings are consistent with the language death literature, and are now widely reported in the context of other minority varieties spoken in the Hexagon. Conversely, some new speakers show different patterns with a greater range of palatalised variants. These findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggest laterals to be a locus for socio-indexical cues cross-linguistically.


The authors wish to thank Naomi Nagy and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


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A Participant demographics

#Speaker typeSexAge groupFieldwork site

B Wordlist translation task – items for (l)

SFEnglish gloss
pleurer (inf.)‘cry’ (inf.)
pleurez (2nd p. pl.)‘cry’ (2nd p. pl.)
(être) souple‘(to be) flexible’
glas‘tolling bell’
plus claire‘clear’
aveugle‘blind person’

C Example lexical items from spontaneous speech

FPSFEnglish Gloss
[gjɔ]glas‘tolling bell’
Published Online: 2017-11-21
Published in Print: 2017-12-20

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