Journal of French Language Studies

The influence of linguistic and social factors on the recent decline of French ne

Nigel Armstrong a1 and Alan Smith a1
a1 University of Leeds


In this article we present some results showing the decline in radio speech in the use of the French negative particle ne over the last forty years or so. These results derive from a comparison of two radio corpora: an archival corpus recorded by Ågren (1973) in 1960–61. The second, contemporary corpus was recorded and analysed by one of the present authors (Smith) in 1997. Having described the variable in question, we present these corpora in turn and analyse results deriving from them. We then examine some of the linguistic constraints that endorse the progressive decline of ne in some contexts while hindering the process in others. Finally we consider some elements of the social context within which the decline of ne has been occurring.

(Received July 2000)
(Revised March 2001)