Phonetics and Phonology of Speaking Styles: Reduction and Elaboration in Speech Communication

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
September 30 - October 2, 1991


The Covariation of [@] with Style in Parisian French: An Empirical Study of 'E Caduc' and Pre-Pausal [@]

Anita Berit Hansen

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The effect of speaking style has been examined for two linguistic features in French. On the one hand, the variation between dropped and maintained interconsonantal 'E caduc' in word initial and medial postion as well as in monosyllables (la s(e)maine, sam(e)di. tu l(e) connais). On the other hand, the variation between pauses preceeded by an [@] - be it etymological or not - and pauses without such a vowel (Bonjour(-e)||, Philipp(-e)||. A la fac(-e)||).

The data corpus used is recorded in 1989 and counts 24 persons who have all lived more than half of their lives in Paris or its suburbs. Three different speaking styles are defined: reading; interview; conversation at three-hand (the informant, a friend of the informant, and the researcher). The informants fit into three age groups (15 to 19, 20 to 25 and 40 to 55 years old), and are equally distributed between men and women.

A quantitative analysis shows different style patterns for the two variables studied. Whereas the 'E caduc', as stated by other studies, drops largely in the two speaking styles, and is often maintained in reading style, the final prepausal [@] shows a much more complex behaviour. The percentage of pronounced final [@]s does not seem to vary with style at first hand, but qualitatively this is certainly the case: Certain prosodic features accompanying the final [@] (especially the upwards-downwards mouvement of the intonation) are much more frequent in the conversation than in the interview, and moreover, certain phonetic realisations of the prepausal element ([@~], [a]) disappear gradually and are replaced by inoffensive variants like [(@)] when conversation style is compared to interview style, and again with reading style.

If the 'E caduc' is a typical case of reduction in speaking style as opposed to reading style, the prepausal [@] seems to be a case of elaboration of a prepausal element in speaking style, particularly salient in the most informal one of the two defined.

It should be added that the age factor interferes with the patterns mentioned: young and adults do not show exactly the same style shifting behaviour as regards the 'E caduc' and the prepausal [@].

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Hansen, Anita Berit (1991): "The covariation of [@] with style in Parisian French: an empirical study of 'E caduc' and pre-pausal [@]", In PPoSpSt-1991, paper 030.