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Noun Phrases in mixed Martinican Creole and French: Evidence for an Underspecified Language Model

Abstract : The contact between French and Martinican Creole — a French-lexified Creole language spoken in the Lesser Antilles island of Martinique — takes place in a society where bilingualism is the standard, among people who are in majority fluent in both languages, and this situation leads to constant language mixing. French and Martinican Creole are historically related (which is acknowledgeable from the vast common lexical stock), and this might be a factor promoting language mixing, while possibly also blurring the distinction between the languages at the lexical level. Interesting questions arise from the fact that despite this relatedness, the two languages show significant typological divergences on some specific features. Some of those differences lie in the order between noun and definite determiner in the noun phrase (DN in French, ND in Creole), and in the use of a preposition to mark a possessive embedded noun phrase (compulsory in French, reputedly absent in Martinican). In the present paper, we are exploring the possible combination of the different values of these different features in mixed noun phrases occurring in corpora that exhibit a degree of language mixing. We inquire about the possible parameters which may influence the outcome and explain the relative frequencies of the different combinations. It appears that the prolonged contact with French has created a situation where both systems are present at the same time in the bilingual speakers minds, leading to a partially common pool of elementary structures. Many utterances fall into the category termed by Muysken (2000) " congruent lexicalization ". We also observe that apparent complex double embeddings have an internal logic, as they result from adjunction of multi-word modifiers. Finally we propose a model which accounts for the observed occurrences by postulating a level, in the speech generation process, where language itself is underspecified, and where it is in a position to be specified on the fly by contextual factors, coming either from the lexicon or from the constructional frame.
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Contributor : Pascal Vaillant <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - 9:42:08 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, December 8, 2020 - 11:02:39 AM


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  • HAL Id : hal-01451392, version 1


Pascal Vaillant. Noun Phrases in mixed Martinican Creole and French: Evidence for an Underspecified Language Model. 2016. ⟨hal-01451392⟩



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