Brussels French une fois: Transfer-induced innovation or system-internal development?

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Treffers-Daller, J. (2005)

This paper appeared in a special issue of Bilingualism, Language and Cognition. Treffers-Daller is the first editor of this special issue and she acted as the principal guest editor for this special issue. It resulted from a Colloquium on the role of transfer in language variation and change: the case of French, which she organised with Raymond Mougeon (York University Toronto) at the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism in Arizona. \ud In language contact studies, specific features of the contact languages are often seen to be the result of transfer, but it remains difficult to disentangle the role of intra-systemic and inter-systemic factors. In this article I propose to unravel these factors in the analysis of a feature of Brussels French which many researchers attribute to transfer from (Brussels) Dutch: the adverbial use of "une fois" (lit. "once"). I compare the use of this particle in Brussels French with its occurrence in corpora of other varieties of French, including several that have not been influenced by a Germanic substrate or adstrate. A detailed analysis of the frequency of occurrence, the functions and the distribution of the particle over different syntactic positions shows that some uses of une fois can be traced back to 16th century French, but that there is also ample evidence for overt and covert transfer (Mougeon and Beniak, 1991) from Brussels Dutch.
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