University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Since at least the mid 19th century, the inflected future (IF) in affirmative clauses has steadily declined in Québécois French (Poplack & Dion 2009). Indeed, Wagner and Sankoff (2011) reported that in the Montreal French 1971 corpus (Sankoff & Cedergren 1972), decreasing age was correlated with decreasing use of affirmative IF. However, they also found that a panel of 59 speakers had significantly increased their use of IF between 1971 and 1984. They proposed that this be interpreted as a case of age grading rather than retrograde community change.

The current paper reports on a trend study undertaken to test Wagner and Sankoff's proposal. 34 speakers recorded in 1971 were matched for social characteristics with 34 speakers recorded in 1984 (N=68 unique speakers). There was no significant difference (p < 0.5) in the rate of IF use between the two years (for affirmative uses only, 13.2% [N=112/847] in 1971 and 15.6% [N=194/1247] in 1984). Since this finding effectively rules out the "retrograde change" interpretation of the panel results, our trend study confirms Wagner & Sankoff's proposal.