Now and then: The evolution of male-female differences in the voicing of consonants in two varieties of French

The focus of this paper is on changing patterns of voicing in the phonologically voiced stops of Metropolitan French. Devoicing of voiced stops is a well-known feature of certain Oïl dialects and varieties of French, notably those where there is contact with Germanic languages, but there are many interacting factors which can cause devoicing.

Following a review of some of these factors, data are presented in turn from the Atlas linguistique de la France and from a study of contemporary speakers from Lille and Bordeaux, which confirm the expectation drawn from previous research that there have been marked changes in patterns of voicing in (at least middle-class) Lille French, a variety where devoicing in final position was a prominent local feature. The findings are discussed in the light of the complex of factors which can cause devoicing, and in relation to the distinction made by Watt and Milroy (1999) and others between supra-local dialect levelling and supra-regional standardisation.

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