The continuity of the vernacular

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Labov&#8217;s idea that the vernacular is the most stable variety of a language raises questions especially where languages of wider communication are concerned. Whether the vernacular practices of a language&#8217;s geographical varieties are convergent synchronically and historically can be established by looking at particular variables. One such variable is investigated in this paper on the co-occurrence of a clausal negator with a n-word (e.g. <i>I did</i>n&#8217;t<i> do </i>nothing<i>, </i>i.e. <i>anything</i>). The quantitative study of negative doubling in Quebec and France historical and contemporary vernacular sources demonstrates overall stability for France from the 14th century to the present. That negative doubling is ten-fold more frequent in contemporary vernacular Quebec French than in contemporary vernacular France French may be dues to difficulty in accessing the vernacular in France French and in the presumed lesser impact of normative pressures in Quebec. Tracking one variable over six centuries provides evidence that stability characterises vernacular varieties.


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