A corpus-based study of French interrogatives in SMS messages

Posted on April 25, 2016 by

Tomorrow (Tuesday 26th April) there will be a one-off Langwidge Sandwidge talk featuring Neuchâtel’s Alexander Guryev. The talk will be at 1pm in Samuel Alexander A112 and is on A corpus-based study of French interrogatives in SMS messages. Here’s the abstract:

The French language is well known for the considerable variety of its interrogative structures. In the case of European French, one finds at least 3 variants for Yes/No questions and no fewer than 10 variants for Wh- questions (Coveney 2015, Quillard 2001). A possible explanation to account for this variability would be to consider French interrogatives in terms of stylistic factors. Hence, intonation or in situ questions SV(Q) Tu vas (où)? would be informal, whereas subject-clitic inversion (Q)VScl Où vas-tu? or stylistic inversion QV NP Où va ton frère? would be formal, and questions with est-ce que (Q)ESV (Où) est-ce que tu vas? rather neutral. Indeed, if one considers Yes/No questions in informal European French (Coveney 1996, Hansen 2001), one observes that SV is the preferred variant (more than 80%), followed by ESV, whilst VScl is almost absent from ordinary speech. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if this situation is the same with respect to other types of informal interactions that are different from an ordinary face-to-face conversation but still, however, represent an informal and spontaneous form of communication. Therefore, this study seeks to address this question and considers French interrogatives in SMS data (Short Message Service), with the primary focus on the key parameters that trigger the variability in their use. The study is based on 1,658 Yes/No interrogative structures extracted from the French sub-corpus (4,619 text messages) of the Swiss SMS Corpus (nearly 26,000 text messages), thus providing insights into how exploring this kind of data may enhance previous results that are mainly based on the analysis of oral corpora.

Join us there! This talk is in addition to the previously announced talk by Hilary Wynne at 4.15pm.

Featured image: people texting, by Garry Knight, from Wikimedia Commons.