The French Jespersen’s Cycle and Negative Concord

  • Marie LabelleEmail author
Part of the Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory book series (SNLT, volume 95)


French is a classical example of Jespersen’s cycle. The term cycle suggests that the endpoint of the cycle is identical to the initial point. By discussing the various historical changes underlying the French cycle, we will show that the evolution is more spiral-like than cyclic: the language that seems to have completed the cycle has properties different from that of the initial language. We will also argue that, while a number of authors view the evolution as linear, going from Old French to Standard French, then to Colloquial French, Quebec French illustrating the end of the cycle, the facts rather suggest that a split between two dialects had occurred during the 16th century One dialect corresponds to Standard French, the other one led to Quebec French. We will propose an analysis of the facts.



We thank the reviewers of this paper for their comments on previous versions.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada

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