The Department of French and Italian

FIGSO Working Paper Series

Monique Murphy, Ryan Swankie, and Stephanie Russo to present

Tue, April 16, 2013 | HRH 2.118

3:30 PM

FIGSO Working Paper Series

Monique Murphy – French Linguistics

Sociophonetic Convergence in Native and Non-Native French Speakers

Previous sociophonetic research on monolingual speakers has indicated that there are numerous unconscious shifts in an individual's phonetic space depending on social context. However, second language accent is generally assumed to be a static entity. The facts of phonetic shift in monolinguals should cast doubt on this system of accent evaluation in bilinguals. This study attempted to pinpoint the extent ofsociophonetic convergence by examining F1 and F2 values of Standard French's 10 oral vowels in native French speakers and non-native learners. Participants were paired in French conversation with both a native and a non-native interviewer in two sessions.  Overall measurements indicated significant differences in vowel space solely dependent on interviewer, with varying shift patterns depending on proficiency. This provides evidence that both natives and non-natives use similar strategies to collapse social distance through their speech, though to varying degrees. The findings of this study should compel non-native accent judges to always consider to whomlearners are speaking when rating speaking proficiency.


Ryan Swankie – French Studies

A critique of moral authority through a simulation of intertextuality

DAF de Sade's Justine within Jean Genet's Le Balcon

 In the second tableau of Le Balcon, Genet theatricalizes themes and scenes from de Sade's Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu. This thorough intertextuality reinforces a critique of moral authority. For Sade, the judgment of moral authority is a hypocrisy and abuse of despotic power. For Genet, moral authority is an illusion performed in a “maison d'illusions.” This intertextuality is important for several reasons. It provides textual evidence of Genet's relation to Artaud's theater of cruelty. Moreover, when examined in the historical context of the play's first publication in 1956, the critique of moral authority could represent Genet's satirical indictment of the French judicial system related to the court case against Sade's work published by J.J. Pauvert. One could argue even further that this criticism of moral authority, in the context of the court case against Sade, Genet's kindred criminal spirit, explains why Genet returned to the theater after a period of crisis.


Stephanie Russo – French Linguistics

Dialect Leveling in Lorrain

The current investigation charts the historical decline of a remoteness distinction in Lorraine, France. The study reveals two major findings. First, leveling of the remoteness distinction did not take place across all of Lorraine. More specifically, it appears that the remoteness distinctions never reached northern parts of Lorraine and therefore leveling is relevant only to central and southern areas of this region. Secondly, leveling in Lorrain supports the ‘contact and learnability hypothesis’ that suggests in high-contact settings, more “learnable” forms over more complex ones will win out (Hornsby, 2006). Thus, the contact and learnability hypothesis can account for the decay and eventual loss of the remoteness distinction in eastern France.


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  • Department of French and Italian

    University of Texas at Austin
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