This study is based on a sociophonological investigation of the French of adolescents in their final year of collège in Perpignan, in south-west France. Perpignan is the cultural and administrative centre of three inter-related areas: the French département of Pyrénées-Orientales, the region of Roussillon and the region within greater Catalonia referred to as Catalunya-Nord. It is a meeting point of languages and cultures from both Europe and North Africa.
The thesis proposes that, within the context of Meridional French and Catalan, the spoken French of Perpignan adolescents is susceptible to standardisation and levelling processes. Through the in-depth analysis of three phonological features, in correlation with three social variables – gender, ethnolinguistic origin and socio-economic status – it aims to describe aspects of the contemporary variation and change of the speech of younger speakers.
The introductory chapter addresses the context and objectives of the study and the scope and parameters of the investigation.
Chapter 2 presents firstly, a brief summary of the historical evolution of the region of Roussillon and the city of Perpignan, and secondly, an overview of the linguistic situation and a discussion of the relative status and interaction of the three major linguistic influences present: Standard (northern) French, Meridional French, and Catalan.
Chapter 3 gives a detailed account of the development of the project from initial concepts and in the light of discussions with significant interested researchers in Perpignan, and a description of the methodological processes employed, including the selection of social variables, the process of identification of a representative sub-group of informants as the focus for a detailed analysis and the question of transcription.
Chapter 4 offers a presentation and discussion of the preliminary analyses of the Perpignan corpus and a brief overview of the issues surrounding the limitations of auditory accuracy.
There follow three chapters presenting an in-depth analysis of each of the three phonological variables under investigation, with discussion of issues appropriate and specific to each variable. Chapter 5 is concerned with the realisation of schwa in word-final and phrase-final sites. Chapter 6 considers nasalisation processes and the related issue of phonemic assimilation before focussing on the nasalisation or non-nasalisation of vowels in Standard French nasal vowel sites. Chapter 7 discusses the realisation of the phoneme /R/, leading into a brief consideration of the notion of “terminality”.
Chapter 8 presents an idiolectal synthesis of the individual informants within the sub-group, including features beyond the three linguistic variables specifically under investigation. This leads into the correlation of idiolectal features with the social variables. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the notion of “meridionality”.
The concluding chapter draws together the significant issues raised by the investigation and considers directions and areas of potential further study.
This study offers a contribution to a wider field of recent and current French regional phonological studies.