This article focuses on syntactic phonemena observed in situations of language contact in the French-speaking world, where French finds itself in (usually unfavorable) competition with English. A number of cases are examined where a superficial analysis might conceivably point to a change caused by transfer from English: more specifically, in the verb system (auxiliaries, the subjunctive), the use of clitic pronouns, adjective position (preposed or postposed), certain infinitival constructions, prepositions (including preposition stranding), the use of relative pronouns and que-deletion, the particle back and the marker comme. Our conclusions draw on theories of linguistic contact and change, both with respect to French and, more broadly, the study of language.
The awareness of language that culminated in France with the French Revolution has remained dominant till the present day: a nation une et indivisible corresponds to a concept of the national language as a homogenous entity, self-sufficient and free from outside and dialectal influences. This conception is contradicted by two historical facts, however. Firstly, various waves of language contact were constitutive of the emergence and development of the French language from the very beginning. Secondly, a new structure of varieties developed through the colonial expansion of France outside Europe, in which many forms of language contact are of significant importance. The best way to capture this diversity adequately is to adhere to a broadly ecological approach (linguistic ecology) that takes into account various parameters, such as history, social context, competence, and universals. This is demonstrated with samples of transcribed speech from Togo, Guadeloupe and Nova Scotia. The linguistic ecology approach is the guiding principle of all the articles in this volume.