Back to list

Detail of contribution

Auteur: Elisabeth STARK

Co-Auteur(s): Aurélia ROBERT-TISSOT, University of Zurich, Switzerland

The grammar of text messaging

Abstract/Résumé: Subject drop in French text messages As it is known, modern Standard French does not allow null subjects in finite clauses: (1) Je/(*)Ø suis bien arrivée. ‘(I) arrived without problems’ Nevertheless, in our French corpus of 1000 French text messages (cf., we find many examples with similar subject omissions: (2) […] Hier Ø suis allée chez le docteur qui m a attribué une bronchite infectieuse! […] (19357) […] ‘Yesterday Ø went to the doctor who diagnosed me an infectious bronchitis!’ […] Yet, subject omission in our data is not completely free (cf.the hypothesis of the ‘telegraphic style’, e.g. in Fairon et al. 2006: 43), but it is constrained by register-specific syntactic restrictions. Thus we do not find convincing instances of subject drop in subordinate clauses in our data nor expletive drop with other preverbal clitics (cf. Kaiser 2008: 315), but we do find subject drop after adverbials (cf. (2)), out also in informal registers of spoken French, cf. Weir 2009 for similar observations on English). These findings let us assume that we are dealing with a register-related phenomenon, like diary drop described by Haegeman (2007). As in our data, subject omission does not obligatorily entail auxiliary drop, occurs only in matrix clauses and affects also and primarily expletive subjects (cf. (3)), we cannot classify it TP truncation, pro-drop or topic drop (cf. Sigurðsson 2011). (3) […] Demande à tes parents Ø faut que je sache demain matin. Ciao (9659) […] ‘Ask you parents Ø is necessary that I know it tomorrow. Ciao’ The question arises of how to analyze these data compared e.g. to diary entries, headlines or recipes. Our task will be to describe exactly the conditions under which subjects may be omitted and the underlying syntactic regularities and to embed the findings into a theory of register variation. References Fairon, Cédrick / Klein, Jean / Paumier, Sébastien (2006), Le langage SMS, Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain. Haegeman, Liliane (2007), “Subject omission in present-day written English: on the theoretical relevance of peripheral data”, Rivista di Grammatica Generativa 32, 91–124. Kaiser, Georg A. (2008), “Zur Grammatikalisierung der französischen Personalpronomina”, in: Romanische Syntax im Wandel, Elisabeth Stark / Roland Schmidt-Riese / Eva Stoll (eds), 305-325. Tübingen: Narr. Sigurðsson, Halldór Ármann (2011), “Conditions on Argument Drop”, Linguistic Inquiry 42-2: 267-304. Weir, Andrew (2009), Subject pronoun drop in informal English. Richard M. Hogg Prize winning essay, in: <10.01.2013> Website: