M.A. Theses in Linguistics at the University of North Dakota (Abstracts)
Lewis, Joëlle C. 2007
The -ing suffix in French
One striking characteristic of modern French is the increasingly large number of words that contain the English -ing suffix. This phenomenon stands in contrast to the stereotype of the French being purists with regards to language choice and use. Indeed, there is a variety of evidence that this suffix has been integrated into French as a productive derivational suffix, and does not simply occur as an accident resulting from the borrowing of English words that happen to include it. Though many studies have been carried out on loanwords in French, and certain ones have brought specific attention to the importation of -ing into French, none as of yet, have solely focused on the -ing suffix.
This paper considers four major ways in which the suffix has been integrated into French grammatical structure: phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic. It is based on a corpus of approximately 730 French words containing -ing, of which a subset of individual words were studied intensively in their use on the internet. Words containing -ing are categorized in relation to a typology, which marks a distinction between loanwords and native creations. This distinction highlights the use of -ing words in French as instances of a very productive process of borrowing from English, heavily integrated into French in all of the four areas mentioned above. In addition, the suffix appears to be acquiring the status of an independent morpheme, with both a derivational use as a nominalizer and an inflectional use to create participles. As a side-effect, the velar nasal [ŋ] has entered the inventory of French phonemes.
The suffix's infiltration into French grammar is not uniform. There is, for example, a tendency toward greater use in connection with modern trends and hip culture as well as in certain functions within the clause. This uneven penetration sheds light on patterns of language change and will be useful in the future in documenting a snapshot of current usage as the suffix continues to make its way further into the language.
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