An Essay on History and Linguistic Characteristics of French Language

F. Samet Aguş 1667369 İbrahim Çelik 1668243 Özgül Başaran 1667492

FLE 261.1

Linguistics II

2009-2010 20.01.2010

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Contents
20.01.2010..............................................................................................................................1 1 2 3 4 Introduction .....................................................................................................................5 The French Speaking World ............................................................................................5 Variation, Varieties and Variables ...................................................................................6 Phonology .......................................................................................................................7 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 5 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 6 6.1 6.2 7 8 Phonology and Orthography .....................................................................................7 Syllables and Stress ..................................................................................................7 Vowels and Semi-vowels .........................................................................................8 Consonants ...............................................................................................................9 Liaison, Elision and „Mute‟ (Latent) e .................................................................... 10 The verb phrase in written language ....................................................................... 11 Pronouns in written language .................................................................................. 12 The verb phrase and pronoun in the spoken language ............................................. 13 The Noun Phrase .................................................................................................... 14 Topicalising Structures ........................................................................................... 16 Focalising Procedures ............................................................................................. 18

Morphology and morphosyntax ..................................................................................... 10

Syntax and Pragmatics................................................................................................... 15

Lexicon ......................................................................................................................... 18 References ..................................................................................................................... 20

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F. Samet Aguş

İbrahim Çelik

Özgül Başaran

An Essay on History and Linguistic Characteristics of French Language

This paper is on the history and linguistic characteristics of the French language. We have chosen French, because it is one of the major languages in the world. It is used in many of the countries as official language and it has great influence on English accepted as the communication medium of the word. We will see together the specific characteristics and common characteristics with other languages.

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Abbreviations

UN EU Sg Pl Indef DObj IObj Ref

United Nations Europe Unions Singular Plural Indefinite Direct object Indirect object Reflexive

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1 Introduction
French is a Romance language derived from Latin which was spoken during the reign of Roman Empire. While the Roman Empire was breaking down, a number of major dialectic divisions developed. There are the dialects of the North and centre known as langue d’oїl, the dialects of South known as langue d’oc ( oїl and oc being the words for „yes‟), and the dialects of a smaller area in the southeast known as Franco-Provençal. The difference between the dialect of North and South is so obvious that the dialects of the South, known as occitan, was not regarded as Gallo-Romance (French), but instead they are more related to Catalan, distict from Hispano-Romance. Within these major dialectal areas, linguistic disintegration which was triggered by the lack of social cohesion during the Dark ages occurred. Francien which is one of the dialects of the langue d‟oil was emerged in this way. It is the dialect of the area where Paris is located. Moreover, this dialect created the situations which accelerated the development of the modern standard French, in other words „national language‟. During 12th and 13th centuries, while francien was accepted as a language for writing and speaking by upper class, in northern and central France, progress was slow. It was not until 19th century that French became totaly dominant within the boundaries of French, firstly among the bourgeoisie and in the cities and then in the rural areas. French being as an international language of culture and diplomacy came before its use as spoken language within France.

2 The French Speaking World
French ranks eleventh among the world‟s mostly spoken languages. However, it‟s hard to estimate the number of French speaking people in the world, but it makes sense to assume that there are between 90 and 110 million. 70 million people speak French as a mother tongue, and 20-40 million people speak French as a second language. In some countries, its position is

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more than a foreign language. For instance, it is the official language in 28 countries. It is widely used in various major international organizations and it is one of the six official languages of the UN and one of the three „working languages‟ of the EU. It is also learned as a foreign language. In Europe, for instance, 9 million study French, Within Europe, French is now spoken by some 60 million people in and by some 4 million Walloons in Belgium. In the district of Brussels, French is spoken by 80 percent of the population. The rivalry between French and Dutch within Belgium is well known. Around half a million people live in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, where the native language of most speakers is a German dialect but where French is the language of education and administration. Recent surveys suggest that in Switzerland, 20 percent of the total population is French speakers. Around 90.000 people in northern Italy, in the Aosta Valley, speak French. French speakers can be found on almost every continent. In Canada 8 million people speak. French is generally in competition not with another European language but with nonEuropean languages and with French-based creoles in former French colonies. For example, French is found in Haiti and on islands such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. French is generally not in a good position as a first language. However, in many countries where it is used for a variety of purposes, its future as a second language seems comparatively secure.

3 Variation, Varieties and Variables
Like all languages, French is not a single entity. In the different areas where it is spoken, its status related to its frequency of use and its speakers‟ degree varies. In the countries which are the members of la Francophonie, its use is encouraged like in Lebanon, and Romania. French also varies due to the geographical differences, speakers‟ status (social status, education, sex, age, and urban or rural dweller), and usage. Concepts referring to social variation in French are français familier and français populaire. The first refers to the

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informal way of speaking of elite, while the second is seen as typical of the uneducated people. Although uneducated people live in the countryside as well as in cities français populaire has largely been attributed to the Parisian working classes. Both français familiar and français populaire are part of everyday language. There is a difference between everyday French and formal varieties of the language in terms of phonology, grammar and lexicon. Therefore, the differences between the written and oral form of language is important. Recently, scholars have begun to put great importance on the spoken language. There is also an increasing interest in urban forms of French as those spoken in the slums of large French cities.

4 Phonology

4.1 Phonology and Orthography
French has undergone radical changes since Vulgar Latin was brought to Gaul by Roman conquerors. These changes have urged to use the 26-letter Latin alphabet along with other means The French Orthography has been a controversial issue over the centuries. There have been many attempts to reform French orthography, most of which have led to small changes. In the following part, when we transcribe the sounds of French, we will use the symbols of the International Phonetic Association (IPA) to represent them.

4.2 Syllables and Stress
The functional spoken units in French are phrases, not single words. The tendency in French is to have what is called enchaînement: that is, not to make word boundaries within tightly bound groups of words (e.g. the noun phrase, the verb phrase). For example in On leur

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a offert | une aide immense | „one offered them = they were offered | tremendous help |‟, only the two phrasal boundaries (marked by | in the examples) are perceived. Stress in French is on the vowel in the last syllable of the phrasal group, whether it is a single word or a sequence of tightly bound words. Therefore, we may say that modern French is a final-stress, phrase-stress language.

4.3 Vowels and Semi-vowels
Vowels are formed with no major obstacles in the vocal tract. They are formed by several moving speech organs, the so-called articulators, that „shape the mouth‟ into different resonance cavities giving a characteristic „color‟ (acoustic quality) for each vowel. The size and shape of the vocal tract is varied primarily by positioning the tongue and the lips. Besides the vibration of the vocal folds placed in the larynx, which creates voicing (most vowels are voiced), the raising and lowering of the velum (soft palate or uvula) is responsible for the closing and opening of the nasal passage, and thus creating a difference between oral and nasal vowels. The tongue, the lips, the glottis, and the velum are referred to as active (moving) articulators. There are several points to be noted about this system. The most complex part of the vowel system is the series of higher mid (close, tense) and lower mid (open, lax) vowels (/e/ vs /ε/, /o/ vs /ø/ vs /æ/). This is a common pattern in the languages of the world and is shared with Italian; however, few languages have the /ø/ vs /æ/ opposition. Another feature of French is its four nasal vowels, /ε/, /ǽ/, and /ã/. Nasal vowels are not so common in the languages of the world, and are common only with Portuguese. The series of front rounded vowels, /y, ø, æ, ǽ/ is another uncommon aspect. In addition, the difference between front /a/

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and more backed /ǽ/ is obscure, for some speakers it is replaced by a length opposition, as in pâte „paste‟ /pa:t/ vs patte „paw‟ /pat/, whereas for others it is lost. In addition to these vowels, French has three semi-vowels „/j/ (cf. /i/), /Ч/ (cf. /y/), /w/ (cf. /u/)‟. The most interesting of these vowels is the front rounded [Ч], and it is rare in the languages of the world. Only /j/ can occur in syllable-final position (as in paye „pays‟ /pεj/). There is a high functional link between the vowels and semi-vowels such that /i/, /y/ and /u/ can be /j/, /Ч / and /w/ before another vowel: e.g. tuer „to kill‟ /tЧe/ vs tue „kills‟ /ty/.

4.4 Consonants
The consonantal made. Phonemes of the French norm are shown in Table 1.1 Among the nasals, the /ŋ/ is unstable for many speakers, who instead use [nj]. In addition, /ŋ/ exists, for certain speakers, in words borrowed from English (camping /kãpiŋ/). Consonant Phonemes of the French Norm: Table 1.1 Labial Stop (Occlusive, Plosive) Unvoiced/tense Voiced/lax Fricative Unvoiced/tense Voiced/lax Nasal Liquid (Approximant) Dental (Alveo) Palatal Velar Uvular

P B F V M

T D S Z N L ∫ ŋ

k g

ʁ

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4.5 Liaison, Elision and ‘Mute’ (Latent) e
As noted above, in French, syllabification and stress function according to phrases, not according to words. There are also two sandhi phenomena that result in the pronunciation or non-pronunciation of some latent sounds within phrases in certain conditions. These conditions are liaison, when a latent consonant is pronounced; the other is elision, when a latent vowel is not pronounced. Liaison, elision, the loss of latent e, enchaînement, and syllabification produce many homophones, not only at the level of the word, but also at the level of the phrase or even the sentence. These lead to ambiguities and a host of word games. Il est tout vert, il est ouvert „it‟s all green, it‟s open‟. And all of this, in addition to the issue of the relation between sound and letter have led to the famous dictée „dictation exercise‟ of French classrooms, which has even found its way into popular culture through the media, which often engage the French nation innational dictées contests.

5 Morphology and morphosyntax
French was not the same language in the past as it is now. It has many alterations in its morphosyntactic features. For instance, it has lost the neuter gender, and case structure. It had a tendency towards subject-verb-object (SVO) word order. Grammatical morphology in French is divided between the verb on the one side, and the noun, adjective and determiners on the other side. We will also examine the pronouns and as it is obvious in French that there is a difference between the morphology of the written language and the morphology of the spoken language, we will take into account the differences of pronouns and verb phrases in written and spoken language.

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5.1 The verb phrase in written language
Only obligatory constituent of the verb phrase is a verb, of course. But it can be accompanied by other elements such as noun phrases or their pronominal equivalents. There are some verbs that it is necessary to use another element than verb. For example, it is necessary to use a direct object with transitive verbs like laver (tu laves la ta voiture „you wash your car‟) and it is necessary to use prepositional phrases with the verbs taking preposition like aller ( il va à Ankara ‘he goes to Ankara‟) French has three types of conjugation. The first type is –er type ( parler ‘speak‟, penser ‘think’). Second type is –ir type ( avertir ‘warn‟, choisir „choose‟ ) and the last type is –r/re type (venir „come‟, rompre „break‟). Furthermore, there are some irregular verbs such as être, aller, avoir and faire. Most of the verbs belong to –er type and new verbs are generally derived by this type. However, some verbs are derived by the second type (e.g. alunir ‘to land on the moon’ and atterrir ‘to land on earth’).1 French has four tenses as the present, the past, the imperfect and the future. The compound tenses tepms composés are constructed with the auxiliary avoir „to have‟ and the past passive participle participe passé (Il a oublié acheter le livre de Samet). A few intransitive verbs such as mourir „to die‟, naitre „to be born‟, aller „to go‟ and all of the pronominal reflexive verbs are conjugated in the compound tenses with être „to be‟ ( Leur parent sont mort en France l’année dérniere and Özgül s’est lavée le visage a sept heures). The simple past tense is used only in highly formal written language. So, the compound verbal forms have more than one meaning, that is, they mean both present perfect and past tense. For example, ıl a dit que means both „he said that‟ and „he has said that‟. In addition, French has five moods: indicative, subjunctive, imperative, infinitive and conditional mood. By using the verb demander „ask‟, we will show all the conjugations of tenses in the table 1.2 and the table 1.3

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Table 1.2
Present Indicative Je Tu Il-Elle nous vous Ils-Elles Demande Demandes Demande Demandons Demandez Demandent Imperfect demandais demandais demandait demandions demandiez demandaient Simple Past demandai demandas demanda demandâmes demandâtes demandèrent Subjunctive Present que je demande que tu demandes qu‟il demande que nous demandons que vous demandez qu‟ils demandent

Table 1.2
Future je tu Il-Elle nous vous Ils-Elles Demanderai Demanderas Demandera Demanderons Demanderez Demanderont Conditional demanderais demanderais demanderait demanderions demanderiez demanderaient Perfect ai demandé as demandé a demandé avons demandé avez demandé ont demandé Demandons ! demandez ! demande ! Imperative

5.2 Pronouns in written language
When we examine the pronouns in French language, we can see two different kinds of pronouns in general. They are dependent (clitic, conjunctive) pronouns and independent pronouns. The clitics cannot be alone and cannot be stressed and they normally only used with the verb. In the table 1.4, the pronouns are divided into three persons and two numbers.

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They also divided into genders in the third singular and third plural persons. There becomes a difference between the direct object pronouns and indirect objects pronouns of the third singular and plural persons. Table 1.4 Clitic Su je, j‟ Tu Il Elle On Nous Vous Ils Elles DObj me, m‟ te, t‟ le, l‟ la, l‟ IObj me, m‟ te, t‟ lui lui y, en 1pl 2pl 3pl m. f. 3sg/pl ref. nous vous les les se, s‟ nous vous leur leur se, s‟ nous vous eux elles Soi, lui, eux,elle(s) other Independent moi toi

1sg 2sg 3sg m. f. İndef.

lui elle soi

5.3 The verb phrase and pronoun in the spoken language
As it is doesn‟t have a standard form, the spoken French has some changes. Some of them exist for centuries and some new ones are emerging. For instance, the word on started to be used as a personal pronoun and mainly, it is used instead of nous „we‟. In addition, the relationship between tu and vous is not only a singular plural person relationship. Vous is used to address to a person if the speaker means to be polite or if he addresses to a hearer from a higher status. However, this situation started to change. Tu „2sg you‟ started to gain ground in all places as the word „you‟ has in English. Another point is that the clitic subjects are tending to be prefixes to the verb. Moreover, all of the clitics can be shortened by elision even before the consonants. For example, je deteste can be j’deteste „I hate‟. The pronoun il can be omitted totally if t is used in an impersonal expressions (il y a…‟there is‟ can be just /ja/).

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The loss of preverbal negation element, ne, is another characteristic of the spoken language. If we look at the written language, we can see that there is to components of making negative form. They come after and before the verb. Ne comes before the verb and the other element, mostly pas comes after the verb. But in the spoken language, ne can be ignored. Je ne sais pas, for example, can be said as /ʃepa/. So, from all these differences between the written and the spoken language, we can say that in the spoken language there is an attempt to simplify the structure as much as possible. In addition, it has a tendency towards being a prefixal language.

5.4 The Noun Phrase
In terms of morphology, main components of a noun phrase are the noun, adjective and determiner, because they show the gender and the number. All of the nouns, regardless of being animate or inanimate, have gender. There are some nouns that gender is determined by the determiners such as une enfant „a female child‟ and un enfant „a male child‟. Pluralization in the nouns are mostly done by putting an –s at the end of the noun, but there are some nouns made plural by –x such as journal „newspaper‟, journaux. As for determiners, there are a lot of determiners, but all of them based on the masculine feminine and singular plural forms. We will give these determiners in the tables 1.5-1.9 Table 1.5 Definite Articles Singular Plural Masculine le,l‟ le chien „the dog‟ les les homes ‘the men’ Feminine la, l‟ la femme „the woman‟ les les voitures „the cars‟

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Table 1.6 Indefinite articles Masculine Singular un un chat „a cat‟ Plural des des livres „books‟

Feminine une une maison „a house‟ des des femmes „ women‟

Table 1.7 Partitive Articles Masculine Singular du, de l‟ du pain „some bread‟ Plural des cheese‟ des fromage „some

Feminine de la, de l‟ pizza‟ des cherries

de la pizza „some des cerise „some

Table 1.8 Demonstrative Articles Masculine Singular ce cet cet ami „this friend‟ Plural Ces ces livres „these books‟ Table 1.9 Possessive Adjectives Owner 1sg 2sg 3sg 1pl 2pl 3pl Masculine Mon Ton son notre votre Leur

Feminine cette house‟ ces houses‟

cette maison „this ces maisons „these

The Thing Possessed Feminine Masculine Feminine Pl ma mes ta tes sa ses notre nos votre vos leur leur

6 Syntax and Pragmatics
Sentences can be examined syntactically according to their categorical components. These categories are NP and VP. Semantically, sentences can be examined in terms of their verbs and their function. They can also be examined pragmatically. This level is concerned with the type of information being transmitted. This information is said about someone or something. Normally the order (SVO) reflects the information order. Therefore in the sentence Le président n’a pas répondu au journaliste „The president did not answer (to) the journalist‟, the NP subject le président is the topic, while the other part of the sentence is the

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comment. One important point is that generally the topic is represented by a substantially determined NP. However, the word order can be bothered in order to have a pragmatic meaning. In “Au journaliste, le président n’a pas répondu – au journaliste“ „to the journaliste‟ is the thème. Because the French language cannot emphasize sentential elements in the phonological level or by morph syntactic level, it leans upon only structural strategies to communicate pragmatic meaning. By Tradition, a number of these unordered structures were referred to as “syntaxe expressive” „expressive syntax‟. Lately they have come to an end to be behaved as stylistic variations and are now studied as part of the core syntax of the language.

6.1 Topicalising Structures
French has a number of topicalising structures, i.e. constructions that bring into initial sentence position verb arguments that are not necessarily prototypical. Some of them are common in every speaker‟s speech; however, still not considered as part of the norm. The main topicalising structures are listed below:

a. focus fronting (placement of non-subject complements to the front of the sentence):

Les montagnes, j’aime „Mountains, I like‟. b. segmentation by clefting: in cleft sentences the focus is extracted from the

sentence and stressed with c’est + qui/que/dont, etc. (Relative pronoun forms), while the other part of the sentence constitutes the idea. For example C’est la philosophie qu’il étudie „It‟s philosophy that he studies‟, in this sentence the focus is la philosophie. Subjects can be focalized by clefting when they signify significant or new information: C’est Pasteur qui a mis au point ce vaccine” „It‟s Pasteur who perfected this vaccine‟. Pseudo-cleft sentences Ce qu’il étudie, c’est la philosophie „What he

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studies is philosophy‟ have the inverse effect and transmit new information to the end of the sentence. c. ‘presentative’ segmentation: in everyday language, indefinite subjects are seldom found exactly in the beginning of sentences. To Quelqu’un a téléphoné „Someone called‟ or Des gens ont tout perdu „Some people lost everything‟ speakers prefer Il y a quelqu’un qui a téléphoné; Il y a des gens qui ont tout perdu, where the indefinite subjects are arranged with il y a … qui „there is … who/which‟; as said above, il y a is often pronounced /ja/). d. left dislocation: NPs can be transferred to the left side of the sentence and replicated by clitic pronouns/prefixes within the base of the sentence. Clitic means the function word that is unstressed and pronounced as part of the neighboring word, word which has no independent accent and comes only in combination with another word (e.g.:'m in I'm; 'em in we see 'em ) (this resumption is called double marquage in French Language): Pierre, cette fille, il n’arrête pas de lui téléphoner „Peter, this girl, he doesn‟t stop calling her‟. Right dislocations are also possible, the dislocated NP being sometimes referred to as „antitopic‟: Alors tu l’achètes, cette maison? „So you‟re buying it, this house?‟ The dislocated NP cette maison takes up a position previously significant in earlier everyday language. e. passive constructions as topicalising: passive structures put forward to the beginning of the sentence an argument which is not a common word order theme, and these passive structures relegate or even withdraw the subject/agent of the active sentence. For example Le sénat a voté la loi hier „The senate passed the law yesterday‟is an active sentence and paralleled by the passive sentence La loi a été votée (par le sénat) hier „The law was passed (by the senate) yesterday‟. Passive sentences are not frequently used in French. When the agent is unknown or

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unimportant, active sentences that begin with “one” or “they” are used. For example: On a voté la loi hier.

6.2 Focalising Procedures
The word order in French is SVO if, however, the speaker wants to stressed information, the word order can be changed and verb comes before subject. This is called focus or rhyme position. There are two main focalizing ways in French: a. simple inversion (VS): Vint la nuit „Came the night‟, i.e. „Night came‟. In this structure a prepositional or adverbial phrase comes before the verb. The only rule of this structure is that the verb must be intransitive or transitive with no expressed object. Dans le champ poussaient des oliviers centenaries „In the field were growing hundred-year-old olive trees‟. (b) impersonal constructions (Il VS): The impersonnel sentence Il arrive toujours à mon frère des aventures incroyables corresponds to Des aventures incroyables arrivent toujours à mon frère „Incredible adventures always happen to my brother‟. In an impersonal construction, the subject comes after the verb, but its gap is packed with impersonal pronoun/prefix il, and there is an agreement between it and verb.

7 Lexicon
The main vocabulary of French comes from the Latin spoken in Gaul; the lexical items have changed over the centuries and become sharply different from any language that based on Latin. COLAPHUM and CHORDAM are the basic source of Christian vocabulary and with the expanding borders of Roman Empire other languages such as Celts words became source of vocabulary for Latin and so French. After The Roman Empire, Gaul was invaded by Germanic tribes and this had a significant effect on French and German became one of the

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most important sources of vocabulary for French and now of the 1000 most frequently used words in contemporary French, 35 are from this source. The greatest influence on the French lexicon; However, is from Latin The main reason of it that from the time of the very earliest texts and even more during the Renaissance. The main part of the vocabulary of French was inherited directly by means of spoken language from Latin and in the process of enrichment many words were borrowed and learned technically so they have not undergone phonological changes. However, the most important source in present day language is English. Because of the cultural, industrial and fashionable interaction, English is the most important source for French in Today. Another source for French vocabulary is Argot. It was formerly a secret jargon used by thieves and other criminals. They could communicate with this jargon secretly but over the years some words have been used in everyday French e.g. flic means policeman and mouchard for police informer. The lexicon is the element of language that gets changed the most rapidly. It is estimated that currently about 25,000 new words come into French every year. Moreover, usage develops persistently, words become out of date while others widen their meanings, and synonyms emerge. Lexical variation determined by social and register/ style factors is therefore complex. One characteristic feature of twentieth-century and present-day current French is indeed that it is permeable to unconventional usage, even in written forms of the language. In conclusion, as one of the major languages of the world, French has many specific features and as it belongs to romance languages, it has many common features with Italian and Spanish. We have examined and described many of the linguistic characteristics of it and while doing this, we got the great help of the book World’s Major Languages. For example, we used the heading system of this book with slight differences. Maybe this language will not be a “universal language” again, but it will always be one of the greatest languages.

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8 References
Monville-Burston, L. R. (1987). French. In B. Comrie, The World's Major Languages (p. 182). New York: Routledge. Zsuzsanna Fagyal, D. K. (2006). French A Linguistic Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press. http://lerc.educ.ubc.ca/LERC/courses/489/worldlang/french/frenchsyntaxmorphology.html

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