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Nous and On in Semi-formal French: Pragmatic Uses of Institutionality and Distancing

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Nous and On in Semi-formal French: Pragmatic Uses of Institutionality and Distancing

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Title: Nous and On in Semi-formal French: Pragmatic Uses of Institutionality and Distancing
Author: King, Deborah
Abstract: French linguists have long noted the substitution of the indefinite pronoun on for the 1st person plural pronoun nous, in both formal and informal situations. Studies of informal conversation have found this replacement to be nearly categorical (Laberge and Sankoff 1980; Coveney 2000). By contrast, this study found a much higher percentage of nous compared to on in interviews and speeches with political or business-related themes (roughly 60% nous to 40% on). The data suggest that many speakers use nous and on in pragmatically distinct ways: nous for institutionality, on for distancing. However, nous can underscore institutionality even in potentially face-threatening situations, while on can distance despite the institutionality of the referent. This study indicates that both style and conversational implicature play a role in pronoun choice.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10106/5190
Date: 2010-11-16

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