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  • A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French
  • Angelo Metzidakis
Lodge, R. Anthony. A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. XI + 290. ISBN0-521-82179-7

In his book entitled A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French, R. Anthony Lodge proposes to create a "multidimensional" history of the language of the French capital from medieval times to the twentieth century. His intention is to break away from the traditional form of the history of the French language that has tended to be "unidimensional" and "standard-oriented" in order to reconsider – to the extent possible – the extant linguistic data in their original social and demographic context. Lodge has succeeded in producing a carefully crafted, well-documented study that will be of interest not only to sociolinguistics specialists but also to academics interested in the history and development of Paris and its language.

In Part 1 of his study, which is appropriately entitled Preliminaries, Lodge surveys the previous research on the language of Paris and lays the theoretical foundation for his sociolinguistic history of Parisian French. It is here that the organizing principles of this book are found. Lodge uses the theoretical analyses put forth in Hohenberg and Lees' The Making of Urban Europe 1000-1950 for the framework of the social and demographic context of his study. Consequently, he divides his book into three parts dealing with the "pre-industrial," the "proto-industrial" and the "industrial" city, which correspond very approximately to the following time periods for Paris: 1000-1350, 1350-1750 and 1750-1950. Finally, each of these phases of industrialization in Paris is paralleled by three linguistic processes, to wit, koinéisation, reallocation and dialect-leveling. While Lodge stresses that those processes constantly occur in all speech communities, he claims, with respect to his analysis of Parisian French, that "they have proceeded at [End Page 148] different rates of intensity at different times" (249).

The rest of the book is logically structured according to the various phases of industrialization mentioned above and their related linguistic processes: "Part 2: The pre-industrial city" contains the following three chapters: "The demographic take-off," "The beginnings of Parisian French" and "The medieval written evidence;" "Part 3: The proto-industrial city" contains the following four chapters: "Social and sociolinguistic change, 1350-1750," "Variation in the Renaissance city," "Variation under the Ancien Régime" and "Salience and reallocation;" and finally, "Part 4: The industrial city" contains the following three chapters: "Industrial growth, 1750-1950," "Standardization and dialect-leveling" and "Lexical variation." A succinct conclusion, an appendix on "literary imitations of low-class speech," an extensive bibliography and a detailed index round out the book.

One of the fascinating aspects of this study is the presentation of "the data problem" while trying to reconstruct "everyday, listener-oriented speech of 'ordinary speakers'" (17) from the past. Lodge relies in part on some of the types of sources that Gerhardt Ernst categorized in 1980 for the history of spoken French, namely, historical transcriptions of the spoken language, model dialogues of fictitious speech in didactic texts, fictitious direct speech in plays, fictitious direct speech in narrative texts, metalinguistic texts and developments of spoken French in geographical areas outside of France. Lodge, then, goes on to present a chronological review of the data available from these bibliographical sources (18-24). Later, throughout the rest of his book, Lodge presents and analyzes various texts that convincingly illustrate the sociolinguistic history of Parisian French so carefully developed in his book. In general, Lodge critically evaluates each type of data source he uses and shows the reader to what extent each source can be useful in the elaboration of a valid theory.

In the concluding paragraph of his book, Lodge characterizes the results of his research in the following way, which I consider to be a masterful understatement:

This book has shown, if nothing else, how the speech of Paris has evolved hand in hand with demographic and socio-economic change, how social differences and dialect-mixing have had a crucial role to play in language change, and how the development of the standard language in the city can only be understood in the context of the...


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