"General French" is distinct among Romance varieties in that word-level stress is not contrastive, but is "regularly assigned to the [phrase] final full syllable" (Di Cristo, 1998a, p. 196). Penultimate prominence has been documented, however, in popular Parisian French and has become increasingly associated with language practices tied to poorer communities with large ethnic minority populations (Conein & Gadet, 1998; Fagyal, 2003, 2005). This article presents two studies targeting how this marker might cue the perception of this "Parisian urban youth vernacular." An initial study examined patterns of discrimination between varying penultimate and final syllable durations, finding that performance was typically best when final syllables had been lengthened by 50%. A second study manipulated duration and fundamental frequency to compare sociolinguistic evaluations of penultimate prominence to evaluations of the phrase-final accentual pattern of General French. Stimuli with long penultimate syllables and short finals were reliably identified with cities low in linguistic prestige and the most consistently negatively evaluated stimulus also contained a penultimate rise and a phrase-final falling F0 pattern. These evaluations appeared to be mediated by participants' experience with non-standard French, regional varieties and foreign languages. When considered together, the findings from these two studies indicate that the absence of a prosodic indicator of General French may reliably cue the perception of a non-standard pronunciation pattern.
Selected Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology
edited by Scott M. Alvord
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