La jonction interpropositionnelle à l'oral et à l'écrit en français langue étrangère

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The boy sleeps. The frog escapes.
The boy sleeps and the frog escapes.
The frog escapes while the boy is sleeping.

Clause linking is inextricably bound to language production. The examples cited above indicate that clause linking can be operationalized in various ways - through juxtaposition, coordination or subordination, with these general mechanisms encompassing various structures. The acquisition of clause linking mechanisms is a complex and crucial part of language acquisition, not only in the L1, and even more so in the L2.

This exploratory doctoral thesis aims to investigate the development of clause linking mechanisms (mécanismes de jonction interpropositionnelle) in the language production of Dutch learners of French as a foreign language (1st, 3rd and 6th year of secondary education). Oral (Frog Story, Mayer 1969) and written (a letter and an argumentative text) language samples were collected and analysed in order to obtain a detailed overview of the language production of those groups of Dutch learners of French as a foreign language. These language samples were also compared to those of French native speakers of the same age (n=30 per group). This comparative design is reflected in the doctoral thesis: the first chapter of each results section describes the developmental changes observed in the language production of the language learners; the second chapter details the productions of the native speakers. Each results section ends with a comparative overview of the clause linking mechanisms employed by the learners and the native speakers.

We opted for a detailed classification of the clause mechanisms involved so as to describe language production in as much detail as possible. The development of the various clause linking mechanisms constitutes the focus of this research, but two additional parameters were also taken into account, i.e. degree of packaging (degré d'empaquetage), or the number of clauses per T-Unit, and the degree of subordination (degré de subordination). The quantitative analyses were completed with more specific observations concerning the structures used (such as conjunctions, pronouns, etc.) and are richly illustrated with examples from the corpus.

The basic hypothesis found in the literature is that clause linking mechanisms show a developmental cline from paratactic structures to hypotactic structures: learners should demonstrate a decreasing level of paratactic structures (juxtaposition and coordination) and an increase of subordination as their proficiency develops. On a more qualitative level, the diversity of structures should also increase as language acquisition develops (e.g. a wider range of connectives, pronouns, verbs, etc.).
Learners are also claimed to produce more linear and analytic structures than native speakers, resulting in more juxtaposition and coordination, less subordination and a lower degree of packaging. The structures used by the learners are also said to be less diverse than what is observed in the production of native speakers.

This doctoral thesis refines these basic hypotheses, showing an undeniable development concerning the clause linking mechanisms used by the learners. Those developments do not only concern subordination, however, and they also show that an increase of subordination does not lead to the disappearance or systematic reduction of juxtaposition and coordination in general. These observations prevail not only for the language production of learners, but also apply to that of the native speakers. Additionally, the rich and detailed array of structures distinguished in this doctoral thesis allows us to uncover complex and dynamic developmental patterns, not only when considering the language learners' production, but also that of the native speakers. The comparisons between language learners and native speakers show both resemblance and divergence, mapped out in great detail.

This doctoral thesis thus not only contributes to a thorough insight in the use of clause linking mechanisms by Dutch learners of French as a foreign language, but also enriches our knowledge about French as used by native speakers. The comparison between learners and native speakers also provides a unique, quantitatively supported overview of the differences - and similarities -between both types of language users.
Date of Award26 Oct 2012
Original languageFrench
SupervisorMichel Pierrard (Promotor)


  • clause-linking
  • juxtaposition
  • coordination
  • subordination
  • language acquisition
  • French L1
  • French L2

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