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Reference Guide

French Linguistics - Reference Guides

Computer Science
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Linguistics is the general or comparative
science (or study) of a language; linguists
observe, rather than prescribe, the way a
language works
• A common attitude towards a language is that
it is immutable (that is, there is a “proper” way
of speaking); however, linguistics has repeatedly
demonstrated that this is not true, and that
languages change over the course of time
• French began as a local dialect (patois) based
on vulgar (street-level) Latin imported to Gaul
by the Romans; it emerged and evolved from a
particular patois that succeeded over others
• The French linguistic system is made up of 6
levels of language: sentences (phrases), clauses
(propositions), words (mots [about 50,000]),
syllables (syllabes [a few hundred]), phonemes
(phonèmes [36]), and small units of sound
(traits [7 major units])
Normative grammar (la grammaire normative)
explains how the language works as a system,
so as to teach the usage (sometimes referred to
as proper usage [bon usage]) of the language
• Normative grammar includes all the grammar
rules (parts of speech, verb conjugation, and so
Reasoned grammar (la grammaire raisonée)
explains structure and functioning of the
language from historical, psychological, and
linguistic viewpoints
• Communication transfers information from a
speaker to a listener (and vice-versa)
• This process consists of production (la production;
encodage), transmission (la transmission), and
reception (la réception; décodage)
• The information being transferred is referred to
as signal (signal); the language being used is
referred to as code (code)
• The code consists of communicative units
(unités) and rules (règles)
• R. Jakobson (1963) proposed these linguistic
components and functions
Component Function
contexte context referentielle referential
destinateur addresser emotive emotive
message message poetique poetic
destinataire addressee conative effective
contact contact phatique phatic
code code metaling- metaling-
uistique uistic
• The context component is made up of both
extralinguistic factors (for example, entities,
concepts of the external world) and linguistic
• The addresser component is the person
initiating the production of the message
• The message component is the particular form
taken by the information; the same message
can be expressed in different ways/tones of
voice (for example, sarcasm)
• The addressee component is the person
receiving the code
• The contact component is the physical
connection between communicators
• The code component consists of the rules and
linguistic units used in such a way as to ensure
• The referential function provides the
information transferred by the message in a
linguistic or extralinguistic context
• The emotive function is based on the person
initiating the production (for example, a person
may speak in different tones for different
moods, such as fear)
• The poetic function is based on the message
and all the different forms it can take; a speaker
has varying degrees of choice
• The effective function is based on the person
receiving the message, and the means utilized
to convince (or elicit a response from) this person
• The phatic function verifies whether contact is
maintained during communication
• The metalinguistic function is based on the
code itself (for example, repeating someone’s
instructions, directions or words to ensure
Phonetics (la phonétique) is
the study of the sounds of
the language in their
concrete (physical) realities,
independent of linguistic
• Phonetics allow us to
describe how sounds are
produced and perceived;
it studies the physical,
physiological or articulatory
aspects of language
Articulation (la phonétique
articulatoire) describes the
human phonetical
production system from a
biological standpoint (for
example, how we make
Acoustics (la phonétique
acoustique) studies the
propagation of sound and
its physical characteristics,
the sound of speech, and
so on
Auditory phonetics
(La phonétique auditive)
describes the human
hearing apparatus and the
decoding of the sounds of
• The human phonetical
production system consists
of 2 sub-systems
• The vocal system
(le système phonatoire)
allows us to vocalize/
produce a basic sound
(the voice) and the
articulate system
(le système articulatoire)
allows us to modify that
basic sound so as to
produce a variety of
different sounds
Phonology (la phonologie)
is the branch of phonetics
concerned with the sounds
of a language and their
function within the
language (for example, the
minimal sounds that allow
us to distinguish between
words and syllables)
• Phonology analyzes the
distinctive or differentiative
function of language
• The smallest units of sound
are called phonemes
(phonèmes); they have no
semantic meaning on their
• Phonemes consist of 16
vowels, 17 consonants (plus
one for borrowed words),
and 3 semi-consonants
Oral (spoken) French is a series of sonorous
signals that are understood as a means of
communication; written French is a series of
visual signals that are understood as a means of
• Oral language is much older and more widely
used than written language; the oral code
(language) changes more or less rapidly
(depending on social and economic factors), but
it is always evolving
• The written code (language) usually slows
down the process of change of the oral
language; it serves as a norm, and includes all
the grammar rules (parts of speech, verb
conjugation, and so on)
• The degrees of oral language include literary,
current, familiar, and vulgar; the degrees of
written language include artistic, literary, and
• Since language is composed of sounds, words,
and constructions, reasoned grammar consists
of several parts
Phonetics (la phonétique) is the study of the
sounds of the language
Syntax (la syntaxe) is the study of constructions
(that is, the way words are put together to form
a sentence) (verb/subject agreement, functions,
and so on)
Lexicology (la lexicologie) is the study of words
Example: Traffic lights, gestures, and picture
signs are visual signals of communication
French Linguistics
French Linguistics
FRENCH LINGUISTICS • 1-55080-822-21© 1997-2012 Mindsource Technologies Inc.
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