Palatalized/affricated plosives in Paris French. A sociophonetic production-perception study of a dynamic working-class and/or language contact phenomenon among middle-class speakers


  • Anita Berit Hansen University of Copenhagen



A long tradition of attracting work forces to Paris from outside countries has produced a high proportion of inhabitants using other languages than French (Gadet 2008). Geographically, most of the immigrants and their descendants are housed in cheap residential areas in the northern and eastern parts of the capital and its surrounding suburbs - zones that were historically the home of working-class Parisians. Recently, sociolinguists have observed that a specific way of speaking French in these areas has emerged (Fagyal 2010; Gadet 2017), and might be spreading. There is agreement that part of the lexical phenomena in this “multiethnolectal French” is due to language contact between French and the immigrant languages, but as for phonetic features, diverging claims exist. Are the palatalized and affricated plosives (qui [kji]), voiture [vwatʃyr]), the strongly articulated /r/’s, and the frequent drops of phonetic material an effect of contact with Arabic or are they features of working-class Parisian French that have been boosted through an identity-based process of reallocation? Regardless of the answer to this complex question, we seek here to grasp the potential of the palatalized/affricated plosives to spread socially upwards to non-multicultural, middle-class speakers outside the area in question. On the basis of our recordings with upper- and lower-middle-class Parisians (Hansen ms.) and of the attitudinal data we have gathered from a listening experiment among 235 predominantly middle-class French speakers (Hansen 2015, Hansen ms.), we conclude that the phenomenon in question does show signs of active adoption and social spread upwards, while being intriguingly little salient for our participants according to the perception results, as compared to other phonetic phenomena. Only when occurring with other features (in casu strongly articulated /r/’s, with which it shares the ambiguity of being both a popular French and a possible French-Arabic language contact feature), a few listeners comment overtly on its presence and associate its users to Maghreb and/or poor suburban descent.