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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 7, 2013

Syntactic variation in French Wh-questions: A quantitative study from the angle of Bourdieu's sociocultural theory

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From the journal Linguistics


This paper deals with the issue of social variation at the level of syntax, investigating wh-movement and subject-verb-inversion (stylistic inversion) in wh-constructions in European French. It proposes an analysis of the subjective side of social structure, in terms of the sociocultural theory of Bourdieu and the lifestyle concept. Furthermore, this work shows that acceptability judgments do represent a valid and insight-providing source of evidence in sociolinguistics. Statistical analyses of variance are first calculated with (language-)internal, and then with both internal and (language-)external variables. This two-step strategy reflects the transition from a perspective of a commonly shared system of syntax to one of social variation. The results show that lifestyle is a very prominent element of the variable set. It can be fruitfully applied even when a sample is less diverse from a sociodemographic point of view. These findings underline that a more sophisticated social structure analysis can reveal salient patterns of sociolinguistic variation that would otherwise remain undetected.

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Philosophische Fakultät II, Institut für Romanistik, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany

Published Online: 2013-05-07
Published in Print: 2013-05-13

©[2013] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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