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The acquisition of four adverbs in a learner corpus of L2 French

Victorine Hancock et Anna Sanell

Résumé

This empirical study of a learner corpus of 40 interviews, investigates the acquisition of the four adverbs aussi, peut-être, seulement and vraiment (also, mayby, only and really). Although these four adverbs are non-obligatory elements in the utterance, they seem to have two fundamental modifying functions, namely enhancement (aussi and vraiment) and mitigation (peut-être and seulement). They also appear at early stages of acquisition. The study concentrates on the positions and discourse functions of the adverbs in a developmental perspective. Each adverb is characterized with respect to these two parameters across six developmental stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004) and a “near-native” learner variety. We combine a functional framework for acquisition (cf. Klein, Perdue 1997; Benazzo 2000, 2005) with earlier observations from corpus studies concerning the positions and the semantics of the adverbs (Schlyter, 1977; Chanet, 2004; Bilger, 2004). We expected that the number of functions of the adverbs would increase with the stages and we focus on the very advanced levels (stages 5-6). The study is to our knowledge one of the first to cover learner production from beginners to very advanced and “near-native” speakers. One hypothesis generated by the study is that frequency patterns of the target language could be acquired earlier than positional patterns. As a result of the study, we propose an order of acquisition of the four adverbs.

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1. Introduction

1This study investigates the acquisition and use of adverbs in the spontaneous speech by Swedish learners of L2 French. We focus our analysis on four adverbs: vraiment, peut-être, aussi and seulement (really, perhaps, too/also, only), which are all non-obligatory elements in the utterance structure. Their use can affect other constituents by modifying the propositional content (vraiment, peut-être) or including/excluding alternatives to the propositional content (aussi, seulement). In this way, they seem to correspond to the central communicative needs as enhancement/addition and moderation/restriction; vraiment and aussi function as intensifiers, peut-être and seulement as mitigators of linguistic constituents. With the exception of seulement they are also frequent adverbs in native speech production (Bilger, 2004; Chanet, 2004; Hancock, 2007; Sanell, 2007).

2The analysis focuses on the relation between the use of the adverbs (placement and function) and developmental routes as defined by Bartning and Schlyter (2004, see section 4.2 below), and Klein and Perdue (1997, for basic varieties). A number of adverbs that can appear in multiple positions change their meaning or function following their position in the sentence (cf. inter alia Schlyter, 1977: 239). We will illustrate the development of syntactic placement and discourse functions at different levels of acquisition. We pose the question whether an order of acquisition can be inferred from our data. In particular we aim to describe late L2 discourse use of these adverbs. Syntactically, they differ with respect to their placement during the course of acquisition: while aussi and seulement move into the utterance from peripheral positions, left dissociation seem to be a late feature of vraiment and peut-être (Benazzo, 2000, 2005; Sanell, 2007; Hancock, 2007). Given the hypothesis that the use of these adverbs develops throughout acquisitional stages, we expect to find an increasing number of functions as learners progress through the stages. Although the focus of our analysis is on the very advanced stages, all acquisitional levels are included in the study for comparison. Stages 1-3 are contrasted with more advanced stages and we make a fine-grained analysis of advanced stages beyond stage 4 which is the advanced low stage. The acquisitional stages defined by Bartning and Schlyter (2004) are presented below. With the group of “near-native” informants we hope to demonstrate advanced pragmatic/discourse functions and thus contribute to the knowledge on late features in SLA. To our knowledge there are thus far no studies on French L2 use of adverbs that cover learner productions from beginners to “near-native” level.

2. Previous studies

3The studying of adverbs has interested a large number of researchers with different approaches. Along with the investigation of different adverbs in native production, there is also a range of studies examining adverbs in L2, and some comprising both L1 and L2 such as Cinque (1999) and Schlyter (2005). The latter argues that, while the L1 learner develops his/her use of different adverbs over time, the L2 learner has access to all adverbs from the beginning. However, with the exception of peut-être, the adverbs of our study are not included in these two studies. The present review of previous studies focuses on the adverbs relevant to this study starting with corpus studies of form/function frequencies in native production (Bilger, 2004; Chanet, 2004). Pragmatic functions of adverbs in L1 have been studied by Nølke (1983) and König (1991) among others, and in L2 by inter alia Watorek and Perdue (1999), Dimroth and Watorek (2000) and Benazzo (2000).

4Bilger’s (2004) study of French –ment adverbs shows that vraiment is by far the most frequent adverb in the oral corpus she investigates (Corpus de référence de français parlé, CRFP). It is three times more frequent than the second most common –ment adverb (16 occurrences/10 000 words in the sub-corpus “Parole Privée” of CRPF). In contrast, Seulement does not even appear among the 10 most frequent adverbs –ment adverbs. In the same article, Bilger observes that vraiment seems to be a highly multifunctional adverb, modifying adjectives, adverbs, verbs and nouns. Among the three possible syntactical positions, before, after or in the verbal construction, the latter is by far the most common in CRFP.

5Chanet (2004) treats the methodological and theoretical difficulties with tracing and categorizing discourse markers in a corpus. Their form is certainly not sufficient for categorizing since they take on different functions in discourse. Among the adverbs that may function as discourse markers are, among others, aussi, seulement and vraiment. Aussi appears to be about 10 times more frequent than seulement in CORPAIX and CRFP (see Table 3, Appendix). We will thus regard these adverbs as potential discourse markers, and their pragmaticalization (= pragmatic development) in the learner language should in some way be a process parallel to the development of syntactical/morphological features.

6The pragmatic function of various adverbs has been described by Nølke (1983) who analyzes adverbs that relate to other constituents in the phrase as well as to the context, thus functioning as focus particles (adverbes paradigmatisants) like même, aussi, surtout, seulement among others (even, also, especially, only). The author shows that these adverbs cannot be separated from the focalized constituent without completely changing the meaning of the utterance. Nølke’s study (1983) does not address acquisitional aspects.

7However, there are also a number of studies of adverbs in SLA. Dimroth and Watorek (2000) investigate the use and syntactic placement of additive particles in the basic variety (Klein, Perdue, 1997). Their results could not confirm the hypothesis that the additive particle would preferably be placed in an initial position. In a comparative cross-sectional study Watorek and Perdue (1999) propose a three level analysis: syntactic, semantic and pragmatic. On the pragmatic level, the authors show that the additive particle is used to insure coherence: « dans cette 3ème rue il y a des rails de tramway, il y aussi trois voitures » (in this third street there are tramway rails, there are also three cars) (1999, p. 304). The authors also observe that the learners’ utterances tend to be more “iconic” than those of native speakers in the sense that learners structure their utterances more transparently than natives. In L2 production, the particle is often placed next to the constituent with which it associates, whereas the native speaker prefers a nonadjacent position (idem, p. 309). The emergence of focus adverbs in L2 French, English and German has been analyzed by Benazzo (2000). She examines inter alia the structural integration in the utterance and discursive functions of also, only, still/yet and already and their equivalents in French and German. Her results show that the additive (also etc.) and restrictive particles (only etc.) appear prior to the others due to the discursive functions that these adverbs possess. Benazzo suggests that the learners use them to establish an anaphoric bond with a preceding statement.

8In summary, these studies have shown that the adverbs of our study are frequent in L1 production (with the exception of seulement), multifunctional and may function as discourse markers. Whereas the most common syntactic position of the adverbs in L1 is in the verbal phrase, beginner L2 speakers place them adjacent to the constituent they affect (moi seulement, only me). These studies also show that the adverbs are used in pragmatic functions in L2 production. Consequently, in this study we will follow both syntactic and pragmatic development of the adverbs in L2 while focusing on the advanced learners’ production. The aspects of focus and scope will not be taken into account in this study.

3. Corpus

9In this empirical study we draw on extensive data: 75 000 words and 33 informants from a Swedish learner corpus of French as a foreign language, the InterFra corpus (Bartning, 2009). Table 1 presents the InterFra corpus which contains approximately 500 000 words. The interviews are around 15 minutes long and are led by a native French speaker. They are conducted in a semi-formal way and follow a pre-established set of topics such as family, hobbies, travels, studies, films, future etc.

Table 1. The InterFra corpus

Table 1. The InterFra corpus

NNS=non-native speaker, NS=native speaker; Long=longitudinal; Cross=cross-sectional; Beg.=true beginners at university, Sec.school=Secondary school students; Univ. stud.=university students, 1st to 4th term, Fut.teachers=future teachers, Doc.stud=Post graduate students.

10The informants in the beginner group and the group of secondary school students are formal learners while the university students, future teachers and doctoral students are considered semi-formal. The corpus also comprises native speakers’ production. A group of “near-native” speakers was recorded later. These recordings follow the same principles as those of InterFra (cf. Bartning, 2009). The informants in this latter group were interviewed in France, however, where they have lived for 20-30 years. Although we do not yet have formal criteria for classifying the level of acquisition of the informants in this later corpus, this group will be referred to as “near-natives” below.

11In this study we examine six different speaker groups including the control group of native speakers. The speaker groups were categorized by acquisitional stages proposed by Bartning and Schlyter (2004): beginners (stages 1-3), university students, future teachers, doctoral students (stages 4-6) and the above mentioned group of “near-native” speakers, altogether representing seven different levels of learner varieties (see Table 2 below). In total we have analyzed 40 interviews distributed as follows:

Table 2. Corpus of this study

Table 2. Corpus of this study

4. Procedure

4.1 Theoretical framework

12Adverbs can either interact with different constituents of the sentence in which they occur, thus referred to as focus particles (König, 1991), or relate to the entire sentence or utterance. An utterance is part of the information structure which serves to introduce, maintain or develop information in a specific context (cf. Watorek, Perdue, 1999). In spontaneous oral production, it is often necessary to look at the context beyond sentence boundaries or a single utterance (cf. Halliday, Mathiessen, 2003). For the determination of the different functions of the adverbs in this study, we therefore also take into consideration a wider context in which the adverb is produced. A model that suits our purposes and takes into account both information structure and discourse components as phrasal adverbs is that of Morel and Danon-Boileau (1998). The model was conceived for interactional talk, which also fits the corpus of the present study.

  • 1 See also Telemann et al. (1999).

13The adverbs in this study all belong to a group of adverbs that often have a fixed position in the VP between the finite and non-finite verb (Pedersen et al., 1981: 74). However, certain phrasal adverbs can be placed in initial position: « pourtant, je dois faire vite » and « Malheureusement, le ciel restait couvert », or in final position at the end of the utterance: « je dois faire vite pourtant » (Pedersen et al., 1981: 75). The different possible positions of the adverbs are shown below in a modified model from Pedersen et al. (1981) following Diderichsen (1974) (Figure 1). The modifications added to this model are marked in grey and have their source in a model presented by Lindström (2002) for the topological structure of an extended clause in Swedish1.

Figure 1. Syntactic model from Pedersen et al. (1981) including our modifications

Figure 1. Syntactic model from Pedersen et al. (1981) including our modifications
  • 2 We adopt as a general definition of rheme what is being said about a topic.

14In the analysis of syntactic positions we base our categorization of the data on this modified model for positions I, II and III (figure 1 and below). To these three positions we add another three (IV, V, VI) as an adaptation to spoken language. The following six positions are used for the analysis of syntactic placement of the adverbs. The first three positions are all related to a verbal phrase. The elliptic position (IV) is used primarily in nominal structures where there are only two possible positions for the adverb, namely before or after the constituent (seulement anglais/anglais seulement). The elliptic position is also found with prepositional phrases (vraiment au hasard) and with infinitives (seulement rester). In (V) the adverb is itself an autonomous rheme2 and has in this case an independent intonation.

Syntactic positions

I. Initial position (pre-front field)

vraiment j’ai eu des surprises (Cam, “near-native“)

Ou peut-être c’est pas toutes (Yvo, Sta 4)

mais aussi l'histoire de la France (Mar, Sta 4)

II. Integrated position (in the inner clause/rheme)

elle a vraiment voulu s’impliquer (Cor, “near-native“)

et donc c’est plus intéressant pour eux peut-être de voir comment on apprend le français (Ida, Sta 6)

j’ai aussi pensé à habiter avec un ami (Pel, Sta 2)

C’est seulement un appartement avec un pièce (Car, Sta 2)

  • 3 Unclear prosodic features make the distinction between end field and post-end field sometimes diffi (...)

III. Final position (end field/post-end field)3

Finistère il a fait très beau vraiment (And, Sta 5)

le plus difficile pour moi en cette période de l’année c’est le manque de soleil peut-être (Hen, NS)

on a un bateau aussi (Siv, Sta 3)

IV. Elliptic position (adv X / X adv)

donc vraiment au hasard (Mel, NS)

seulement / eh cinq peut-être (Eme, Sta 3)

hiver aussi (Jan, Sta 1)

V. « Autonomous » rheme :

oui vraiment. pas vraiment. vraiment.

peut-être. oui peut-être. [independent intonation]

VI. Incomplete (syntactically not completed utterances)

ce qu'on fait pendant les cours de grammaire ici c'est vraiment c'est #

  • 4 This means that the post-rheme has its own intonation contour and that its frequency is lower than (...)

15For this study we analyze the syntactic positions of the adverbs as well as their pragmatic and discourse functions from a functionalist perspective (Mitchell, Myles, 2004; Ellis, Barkhuizen, 2005). We use a form-function analysis to account not only for what adverbs the informants have at their disposal at different stages of acquisition but also how they use these adverbs to communicate (cf. Ellis, Barkhuizen, 2005: 113). For additional discourse aspects, we apply the framework of Morel and Danon-Boileau, where informational structure and intonation are taken into account (Morel, Danon-Boileau, 1998). This latter framework is compatible with the syntactic model chosen (Figure 1). The inner clause of our syntactic model corresponds to the rheme (rhème) in Morel’s model, and the post-end field is called postrhème (post-rheme) by Morel, Danon-Boileau (1998). Morel’s model is based in part on prosodic criteria, and the post-rheme has the typical low pitch intonation (marked by °x°)4. In section 5.2, where we address the functional aspects, we will refer to Morel’s terminology in some instances (section 5.2 IV and 5.3).

16The categorization of different discourse functions of these adverbs will be presented together with the results below.

4.2. Acquisitional stages

17Even though the focus of interest in this study is the production at advanced stages, early stages are included in our analysis in order to shed light on specific features in the production at late stages. The study is considered cross-sectional. We use one interview (or in some cases two) per informant. The chosen interviews have been categorized by acquisitional stages, where we apply the six-stage continuum model that was proposed by Bartning and Schlyter (2004) for the acquisition of French L2 by Swedish-speaking students. Based on two longitudinal corpora with both formal or semi-formal and formal Swedish-speaking learners of oral spontaneous speech in approximately 80 recordings, these stages draw on developmental sequences of 20-25 mainly morpho-syntactic features but also include discourse features. The developmental sequences comprise six stages: 1. initial stage, 2. post-initial stage, 3. intermediate stage, 4. advanced low stage, 5. advanced medium stage, and 6. advanced high stage (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004). The “near-native” stage consists of informants from the Paris corpus which is an addition to the InterFra-corpus. The new corpus comprises oral production by 10 Swedish adults who have lived in France for 15-30 years. In the following a selection of features for each stage is presented (cf. Bartning, 2009) for a more detailed presentation of the proposed stages).

18Stage 1, the initial stage, consists of nominal utterance structure, bare nouns but also some determiners, non-finite verbs forms (je faire) but also some finite and formulaic utterances such as je voudrais, je m’appelle.

19Stage 2, the post-initial stage, contains polyfunctional ‘base’ forms (the present for past etc), some inflexion on verbs and adjectives, and the emergence of some subordination (parce que). The imparfait of être, avoir appears as well as the opposition 1st/2nd person on verbs of present but not yet the forms nous V-ons.

20At stage 3, the intermediate stage, production becomes more systematic and regular. It contains present tense, le passé composé and the future, mostly periphrastic future. The non-finite form je donnE still subsists although it is less frequent. Subordinate clauses (causal, relative, interrogative and temporal) develop further.

21At stage 4, the advanced low stage, non-finite forms disappear except some je *lire, je *rire, the use of the conditionnel, the plus-que-parfait and the subjunctive emerge. These more complex forms still appear in mainly non-complex syntax. There is also a significant overuse of mais and parce que (Hancock, 2000).

22Stage 5, is the advanced medium stage. At this stage inflectional morphology becomes functional. There is a productive use of conditionnel, plus-que-parfait and the subjunctive (Bartning, 2009). Nominal morphology still causes some problem. There is elaborate macro-syntactic use of parce que in complex utterances (Hancock, 2000) and an increase of multi-propositional subordination.

23Stage 6, the advanced high stage, contains the stabilising of inflectional morphology even in multi-propositional utterances and productive use of the subjunctive (Bartning, 2009). There is native use of the connectors enfin and donc (Hancock, 2000), of relative clauses and of causal connectors and clauses.

5. Results

24Each adverb is analyzed in relation to its syntactic position (Positional analysis) as well as its various functions (Functional analysis) across the stages. In the positional analysis the number of tokens is given for each adverb at each stage of acquisition (see also syntheses of the number of tokens, Table 2 in Appendix). The frequency of each position was calculated in percent within each stage (Figures 2-5).

5.1. Positional analysis

5.1.1. Aussi

Table 3. Syntactic positions of aussi

Table 3. Syntactic positions of aussi

Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip: elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc: incomplete etc. Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)

  • 5 Transcription conventions : I: Interviewer; E: Student; / // //: short, medium and long pause; + SI (...)

25As the above table shows aussi appears at stage 1. It is then placed either in an elliptic position following the constituent it relates to, as illustrated in example [1], or in the final position of the utterance adjacent to the focalized constituent as in [2]. As example [1] shows, the utterance consists of only two words which leaves only two possible positions, viz. before or after the concerned constituent. These positions are also found at stages 2, 3 and 4. However, as the utterances become longer, the additive particle is placed preferentially at the end (final position) as in [2], or integrated in the rhematic part of the utterance [3]5.

[1] I: l’hiver . le mois de décembre le mois de janvier tu fais du cheval aussi ?
E: l’hiver ?
I: hiver . + hiver
E: ah SIM hiver . eh oui . hiver / + aussi (Jan, sta 1)

[2] I: oui . tu: # c'est le premier livre en français que tu lis ?

E: non ah ouais je j'ai lu « Maigret et l'Indicateur » + aussi (Pel, sta 2)

[3] E: oui eh / mais j’a j’a aussi pensé à habiter avec un ami (I:mm) qui qui qui s'appelle Per ou Perre (I:mm) et ma meilleur ami (I:mm) mais mm nous avons <planer> ? (Pel, sta 2)

26At stage 4 all positions are used. The distribution differs both from the preceding stages and the following with the highest number of tokens in the integrated or elliptic positions. The analysis reveals that the initial position of aussi is the least common position at stages 14 as in [4].

[4] I: oui des films d'horreur ? + mhm
E: oui . SIM oui . oui . et aussi eh mm st eh eh thrill- thrill- (Car, sta 2)

27The number of tokens of elliptic use is higher at stage 4 than at any other stage which could be explained by the fact that one informant alone produces six of the twelve occurrences.

28With the exception of one token at stage 1, the autonomous position [5] is used from stage 4. There are however very few tokens altogether of aussi in this position.

[5] I: la Finlande ?
E: oui aussi (RIRE) aussi . (Chr, sta 4)

  • 6 Samtal i Göteborg was collected for a sociolinguistic project in the 1980s and consists of two-part (...)

29From stage 5 the number of occurrences of aussi in initial position increases. The final position is the most preferred, contrary to the native use in which the integrated position is the most frequent. The elliptic use becomes scarce. It is worth noticing that even the “near-native” informants prefer the final position to the initial or integrated positions. A comparison with a sample from a Swedish spoken corpus, Samtal i Göteborg (Conversations in Gothenburg)6 concerning the equivalent of aussi “också”, showed a clear preference for the final position (70 % of the tokens). Thus, we cannot exclude an influence from Swedish on this positional pattern.

Synthesis of positions of aussi

30The analysis has shown that aussi is used at all levels of acquisition. Figure 2 below shows that the preferred position in the learner groups is either final or integrated in the utterance at stages 4–6 and “near-native”. In comparison to native use, the advanced learners use it more frequently. While the native speakers prefer to place it in the integrated position, the learners have a preference for the final position.

Figure 2. Distribution of syntactic positions of aussi (relative frequency/stage)

Figure 2. Distribution of syntactic positions of aussi (relative frequency/stage)

Number of tokens: Sta 1=5, sta 2=17, sta 3=26, sta 4=41, sta 5=51, sta 6=40, NN=72, NS=32.

5.1.2. Peut-être

Table 4. Distribution of syntactic positions of peut-être (tokens/stage)

Table 4. Distribution of syntactic positions of peut-être (tokens/stage)

Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip:elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc:incomplete Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)

31The first appearance of peut-être is found at stage 1 where it is placed in the autonomous position in the production of two informants, as in [6].

[6] I: mais toi peut-être tu parles mieux maintenant ?
E: (RIRE) oui peut-être . (I:mm) non . (Car, sta 2)

32At stage 2, there is one token of peut-être placed in the initial position, i.e. before the rheme. Altogether, there are few tokens of peut-être at stages 1 and 2, only six tokens produced by three (out of four) informants. At stage 3, however, all four of the investigated informants use the adverb. There are 14 tokens altogether. At this stage the elliptic and the integrated positions also appear. The elliptic one, as shown in example [7], seems to be very productive at this stage, with a total of 7 tokens.

[7] euh non je / seulement / eh cinq peut-être (Eme, sta 3)

33At stage 4, the initial position is the most important (10 tokens) together with the “integrated” position (9 tokens), and from this stage forward, these two positions will be clearly preferred. Interestingly, at this stage, the adverb in initial position is consistently used without the que-marking and is prosodically integrated with the rheme, as in example [8]:

[8] ou peut-être c’est pas toutes (Yvo, sta 4)

34The positional pattern preferred by the native speakers is largely established at stage 5. The analysis show that the most important position in the native speakers’ production is the “integrated” one (13 tokens) as in example [9]. The second important position is initial position with 7 tokens as in [10].

[9] et donc euh: c'est plus intéressant pour eux peut-être de voir comment on apprend le français (Ida, sta 6)

[10] enfin bon peut-être aussi qu'on est entre étudiants et tout ça (Gaë, NS)

Synthesis of positions of peut-être

35The first appearance of peut-être is found in autonomous position (stage 1). In initial position it is used first at stage 2. At stage 3, the integrated position first appears, together with the elliptic position. Ellipse seems to be an important strategy at stage 3. At stage 4, the two most frequent positions, the initial and the integrated positions, are equally frequent. The far most preferred position among the native speakers is the integrated and the second important is the initial. This latter positional preference pattern is clearly established at stage 5.

Figure 3. Distribution of syntactic positions of peut-être (relative frequency/stage)

Figure 3. Distribution of syntactic positions of peut-être (relative frequency/stage)

Number of tokens: Sta 1=2, sta 2=3, sta 3=14, sta 4=29, sta 5=25, sta 6=44, NN=34, NS=37.

5.1.3 Seulement

36As Table 5 below demonstrates, seulement is not used by learners at stage 1.

Table 5. Distribution of syntactic positions of seulement (tokens/stage)

Table 5. Distribution of syntactic positions of seulement (tokens/stage)

Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip:elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc:incomplete Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)

37When seulement first appears, at stage 2, it is used in three different positions although the preferred one is the elliptic position, i.e. in noun phrases, as in example [11]. It is also integrated, as in [12] or placed at the end of the utterance in a final position.

[11] I: mm d'accord oui . depuis combien de temps tu cherches / un appartement ?
E: euh seulement une semain
I: seulement une semaine d'accord . donc (Pel, sta 2)

[12] E: mais c'est SIM c'est seulement Un (SOUPIR) Un apparte-ment avec un pièce (I:mhm mhm) et asse- assez grand (I:mm) cuisine . (Pel, sta 2)

38There is only one token of seulement in an initial position. It is produced at the stage 4.

[13] E: oui . / eh mm: dE littérature aussi . / c'est seulement UN roman de Balzac . / (I:mhm) e:t je n'ai: rien / fait comme ça / d'avant . // seulement un roman / pendant trois+ / trois mois (Mon, sta 4).

39In a quantitative examination of adverbs ending in–ment, Bilger (2004) has shown that with a ranking of 17 seulement is not among the most frequently used adverbs. In contrast, in studies on second language acquisition seulement has been proven to be one of the first to appear (Benazzo, 2000; Sanell, 2007). The fact that the native speakers in our corpus do not use seulement seems to confirm Bilger’s results. This dearth of occurrences in NS production prevents us from comparing the learners’ placement of this adverb in oral production to that of native speakers. However, in Sanell (2007) the group of NS was enlarged to a total of 25 informants in order to allow a comparison. The results of that investigation show that there are 11 tokens in 25 interviews and that the NS either place it in a final position (5 tokens) or integrated (4 tokens).

40An empirical study of 48 Swedish adverbs in spoken language interaction has shown that the Swedish equivalent of seulement “bara” is the most frequently used adverb with approximately 900 occurrences in a total of 4­700 for all 48 adverbs (Nilsson, 2005). In Swedish bara is multifunctional but the most common function, according to Nilsson (2005: 125), is the restrictive one corresponding to only or no more than. It is not unlikely that the Swedish learners are influenced by the frequent use of bara in Swedish, which would explain their use of seulement in French L2.

Synthesis of positions of seulement

41When seulement first appears, at stage 2, it is used in an elliptic position (preferred), integrated or placed in a final position. At the advanced stages the integrated position is favored. There are no tokens in the native speakers’ production of our corpus.

Figure 4. Distribution of syntactic positions of seulement (relative frequency/stage)

Figure 4. Distribution of syntactic positions of seulement (relative frequency/stage)

Number of tokens: Sta 1=0, sta 2=8, sta 3=13, sta 4=17, sta 5=2, sta 6=8, NN=1, NS=0.

5.1.4. Vraiment

Table 6. Distribution of syntactic positions of vraiment (tokens/stage)

Table 6. Distribution of syntactic positions of vraiment (tokens/stage)

Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip:elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc:incomplete Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)

42At stage 1 no tokens of vraiment were found at all. Like seulement, the first appearance of vraiment is detected at stage 2. At this stage vraiment is produced in an autonomous position i.e. in an answer or a prosodically independant unit (one single token):

[14] I: c'est pas la même chose que conduire à Stockholm ?
E: eh non (RIRE) . vraiment non . (Pel, sta 2)

43The first appearance of vraiment placed in the rheme, thus in the integrated position, is observed at stage 3 as in example [15]. The autonomous and integrated positions are present, and (what it seems) at equal frequency (8 and 7 tokens respectively, and used by three and four informants respectively).

[15] E: oui pf oui ça va mais c’est vraiment beaucoup à faire.
(Eme, sta 3)

44At stage 3, the final position of vraiment appears (one token):

[16] I: oui / ça c’est difficile hein + d’avoir un appartement aujourd’hui .
E: ah ça coûte cher / vraiment (Siv, sta 3)

  • 7 Portée de proximité.

45At stage 4 occurrences at the autonomous and integrated positions are still of equal frequency. Here at stage 4 we also found the very first appearance of a so-called non-canonic position integrated in the rheme as in [17] which indicates a more elaborated organization of the discourse. The position of vraiment in [17] should be compared to the use of vraiment before an infinitive: « il faut vraiment apprendre beaucoup » (see also Bilger, 2004: 75) 7.

[17] E : ça suffit pas . / (I:mm mm ) / il faut apprendre vraiment beaucoup (Jes, sta 4)

46The most salient change in going from stage 4 to stage 5 is that the proportion of occurrences in integrated position has gained more importance and is three times more frequent than the autonomous position. It seems now that the proportion pattern with the integrated placement as being the preferred position before all other positions is established. This pattern is further reinforced at stage 6.

47At stage 5, the elliptic position appears, as in [18]:

[18] E: la femme de ménage (RIRE) (I:mm) elle m'a beaucoup parlé . / mai:s les autres non pas vraiment . (Ani, sta 5)

48Autointerruptions where vraiment occurs in a syntactically incompleted utterance, as in [19] appear, somewhat surprisingly, first at stage 5. This category seems to play a certain role in the speech production from stage 5, a function we will come back to in section 5.2 (see planning).

[19] E: c'était vraiment c'était beau / (I:mm) tous les tous les images et tout ça . (Ani, sta 5)

49At stage 6, two major positional changes from the preceding stages are noticeable. The first is the appearance of vraiment in initial position (in the pre-front field) is found (one informant). This is shown in example [20]:

[20] parce que ça vraiment on s'est rendu compte qu'on connaissait rien / mais rien . (Ker, sta 6)

50The second major change is that the speakers now show the same proportion of the integrated position in the rheme as found in the “near-native” speech and native samples, i.e. at least four times more frequent than all other positions. The autonomous position is still important.

51At the “near-native” stage there are two major differences compared to the preceding stages. Firstly, although the position before the rheme is not a frequent position, it is consolidated (three informants). Secondly, the autonomous position is now the least frequent. The positional pattern established within the “near-native” group agrees with that of the native speakers.

Synthesis of positions of vraiment

52The first appearance of vraiment in autonomous position is found at stage 2, and first appearance of integrated position is found at stage 3, where the two positions are equally frequent, and so remain through stage 4. At stage 5 the proportion pattern for the integrated position, as being much more important than all other positions, is now established. This pattern is reinforced at stage 6. At stage 6 a major positional change is the first appearance of vraiment in initial position (one informant). At the “near-native” stage, major differences from the preceding stage are: 1) although not a frequent position, the initial position is consolidated (three informants), and 2) the autonomous position is the least frequent. The positional pattern established within the “near-native” group agrees, grosso modo, with that of the native speakers.

Figure 5. Distribution of syntactic positions of vraiment (relative frequency/stage)

Figure 5. Distribution of syntactic positions of vraiment (relative frequency/stage)

Number of tokens: Sta 1=0, sta 2=1, sta 3=16, sta 4=9, sta 5=35, sta 6=59, NN=56, NS=60.

5.1.5. Synthesis

53Table 7 below summarizes the results of the analysis of syntactic positions in our corpus. The analysis shows that aussi and peut-être are the first to appear, already at stage 1. They are placed in either an elliptic or autonomous position. The first occurrences of vraiment and seulement are found at stage 2. Vraiment at that stage is used solely in the autonomous position, whereas seulement has three different positions: integrated, final and elliptic, the latter being the most preferred. For aussi, the preference for the final position is maintained through all levels of acquisition (with the exception of stage 4). It is however not the preferred position for the NS who favor the integrated position. Seulement is preferentially placed in the integrated position by the advanced learners, whereas there are no tokens at all in the native production. Hence, the learners’ use of aussi differs from that of the NSs, even at the “near-native” stage. This is however not true for peut-être, vraiment and seulement, which are used in a native-like way from stage 5. The positional pattern of peut-être and vraiment becomes native-like at stage 5 where the integrated position is preferred. In accordance with native production seulement is used less frequently from stage 5 (Appendix: Table 3).

Table 7. Development of syntactic positions

Table 7. Development of syntactic positions

5.2. Functional analysis

54In this section we discuss the following eight functions of the adverbs found in the nonnative speakers’ production: confirmative, additive, restrictive, intensifying, mitigating, connective, comparative and planning. Although these functions can be semantic or pragmatic (Vold, 2008), we do not make this distinction in levels in our analysis. We focus here on the progression of functions through the stages. When examining the use of these adverbs, we found that each one was used for different discourse purposes and that some functions are linked to the syntactic position of the adverb in the utterance, whereas other functions are independent of syntactic position.

I. Confirmative function

55This function is the first to appear with aussi (stage 1) and vraiment (stage 2). The confirmative function is clearly an interactive one where the learner confirms a previous suggestion made by the interviewer, as in [21]. The adverb in this function is not used for the addition of further items, as it is in the additive function.

[21] I: l’hiver . le mois de décembre le mois de janvier tu fais du cheval aussi ?
E: l’hiver ?
I: hiver . hiver
E: ah hiver . eh oui . hiver /
aussi (Jan, sta 1)

56In example [21] above aussi is used by the learner with the purpose of confirming what the interviewer says in the first utterance. The interviewer asks whether the informant goes horseback riding even in the winter and the learner confirms that he does: “yes, winter as well”.

57Vraiment is used in examples [22] and [23] with confirmative function. The subject of [22] is a green district (quartier) in Stockholm, which is well known by both speakers, and the learner confirms by vraiment the positive impression the interviewer has of the district.

[22] I: mm / et puis l’été c’est formidable (E:oui) ce / quartier là .
E: vraiment .
I: oui très bien . (Siv, sta 3)

58In example [23] the learner talks about the great interest he has in playing the piano and flute, and he confirms the suggestion that “it’s a way to express oneself”.

[23] E: non c'est une mode de vivre oui .
I: une façon de s'exprimer ?
E: oui + vraiment (Jon, sta 3)

59The confirmative function is used from the first stage of acquisition for aussi and at stage 2 for vraiment.

60Vraiment with confirmative function at a text organizing level, has been found at late stages. In this use, vraiment seems to confirm and highlight a former statement, and it is often included in a clause- or turn-closing assertion (cf. surassertion, Maingueneau 2006). In this function, vraiment could be paraphrased with en effet/effectivement. This function appears at stage 6, as in example [24], and is found in “near-native” and native speakers, as in [25].

[24] E: je l'ai trouvé intéressant . mais j'ai / au début je l'ai trouvé: très très difficile . / (I:mhm) (BRUIT) mai:s euh vers la: vers la fin du cours c'étai:t / (I:mhm) vraiment intéressant . (Ker, Sta 6)

[25] E: bon moi j'ai une j'ai une chance eu:h / incroyable d'ê d'être: # en fait moi j'suis la: j'suis on e:st # y a une Française et une Américaine dans mon corridor . sinon c'est que des des Suédois . donc ça c'est vraiment une chance je pense . (Gaë, NS)

II. Additive function

61The additive function, which is the “basic” function of aussi, appears early in the learner variety (cf. Benazzo, 2000, 2005; Sanell 2007). It is used for adding an entity, usually a noun phrase (cf. confirmative function, ex. 21). In the additive function aussi is either placed in the rheme, the integrated position, or in the final position as shown in [26] below. In this example the different means of transportation are discussed and the informant says that there is an old train and then adds that there is also a bus.

[26] I: qu'est-ce que tu prends / comme moyen de transport pour aller à Stockholm ?
E: ah c'e:st Roslagsbanan . / c'est u:n un vieux train . / un vieil train ? (I:mm) oui SIM (RIRE) .
I: de Åkersberga ?
E: oui .
I: mm .
E: ça et c'est aussi: autobus . / on peut prendre + ce bus aussi .
I: autobus . SIM / aha . (Eva, sta 4)

62Initial position is also used for additive aussi even though there are only a few tokens, e.g. [27]. In this example one language, English (l’anglais), is added to the number of languages that the learner feels are “replaced” by French while acquiring the latter.

[27] I: le français a pris la place de
E: oui a pris la place
I: il a jeté l’italien
E: oui et aussi l’anglais l’anglais (Jon, sta 3)

63There is no difference in use of the additive function between the learners at any stage or the native speakers.

III. Restrictive function

  • 8 Also referred to as adverbe paradigmatisant (Nølke, 1983).
  • 9 Example from Le Petit Robert.

64Seulement is generally used to express restriction and can be used either as a focus particle8 (König, 1991) or as a phrasal adverb. As a focus particle seulement is placed adjacent to, either before or after, the focused element (Börjesson, 2004). According to Nølke (1983: 127), it is usually placed immediately in front of the constituent in focus. However, post-position is also possible. For seulement as a phrasal adverb the preferred position is initial. It can then also be replaced by mais: « C’est une bonne voiture, seulement elle coûte cher9 ». The results of our study show that the learners only use seulement for restriction as a focus particle as shown in examples [28] and [29] below. In [28] seulement is used to express a limitation of courses taken by the informant.

[28] E: je suis pas des cours à soixante points . je suis seulement eh / eu:h ceux de de votre / votre cours à / oh ton cours à cin cinq points (Len, sta 5)

[29] I: mm . SIM / est-ce que tu a:s / séjourné en France donc est-ce que tu as travaillé ou ... ?

E: non j'ai seulement étudié . // (I:(TOUX) mhm) oui / vingt-cinq heures par semaine . (Yvo, sta 4)

65The lack of seulement in the native speakers’ production unfortunately makes a comparison with them impossible.

IV. Intensifying function

66Vraiment has, beside the confirmative function, also an intensifying one. It then works as a quantifier (cf. très, beaucoup), and modifies either a propositional content (see a below) or a speech act (see b and c below). In many cases, there is no clear-cut distinction between confirmative and intensifying functions.

a) Modification of propositional content

67The intensifying function seems particularly conspicuous with an adjective/adverb (cf. Bilger, 2004), as in examples [30] and [31].

[30] E: au théâtre oui il y a une euh st organisation en Stockholm ah des Théâtres dans les parcs . (I: mm mm) et c’est vraiment vraiment / bien (I:mm) ils sont si bons des groupes qui sont là (I:mm) mais maintenant c’est / c’est automne (Siv, sta 3)

[31] I: tu as lu déjà / plusieurs livres en français ou ?

E: non c'est vraiment mal . la moitié de L'Etranger (I:oui oui) en trois jours (I:oui) mais puis seulement un livre au début du cours . (I:oui) un livre de pour des enfants . + oui . (Jon, sta 3)

68There are two sub-categories of the intensifier which are linked to their position in the utterance. Both entail modification of the speech act: post-rheme and emphatic.

b) Post-rheme (Morel, Danon-Boileau, 1998)

69This right detached position of a modus (vraiment) in the post-end field (see figure 1) could imply a modification/evaluation of the speaker’s own speech act (intensifying the pragmatic force of the statement). In [32] the evaluation concerns the speech act of saying that the weather in the rainiest part of France was bright at the moment the learner was there. Vraiment could be paraphrased by en fait (Eng. actually), and evaluates the speech act as being contrary to expectations.

[32] Finistère il a fait très beau / °vraiment° (And, sta 5) [low intonation]

70The typical intonation of a post-rheme is a low pitch (°x°, see also section 4.1). Stage 5 is the first stage where a post-rheme clearly is found.

71The above mentioned type of vraiment (meaning en fait) is the only case of right detached modus which clearly has the function of being a post-rheme, as other cases of right detached modus could simply be cases of lack of planning of the learner, where the modus is placed after the rheme (instead of being integrated), as in [33]. Here, vraiment in the post-end field is either a post-rheme intensifier or indicates a non-native planning capacity.

[33] I: oui / ça c’est difficile hein + d’avoir un appartement aujourd’hui .
E: ah ça coûte cher / vraiment.
I: mm mm . (Siv, sta 3)

72Peut-être as post-rheme could be found in native speakers, but the interpretation of right detached peut-être remains unclear for the same reasons as vraiment: whether it functions as a post-rheme mitigator (see V below) or simply reveals a non-native planning capacity, couldn’t be shown.

c) Emphatic

73A particular case of vraiment is found from stages 6 and in “near-native” and native speaker production. Vraiment has global scope and modifies a speech act (phrasal adverb). It is always placed in the pre-front field and is called emphatic function. Though this function is not very frequent, its presence seems to be an indication of a high-level or native like use, as seen in [34] and [35].

[34] les pauvres je les plains quoi . vraiment j'ai peur pour eux (Ann, NS)

[35] e:t e:t j’ai eu des surprises là (I: ouais) vraiment j’ai eu des surprises (I: mhm) . et là je me suis sentie très très suédoise (Cam, “near-native")

V. Mitigating function

74All examples of peut-être could be characterized as mitigators of a propositional content (rheme). Peut-être appears at stage 2 as a mitigator of confirmations (two cases out of three), shown in [36].

[36] I: mais toi peut-être tu parles mieux maintenant ?
E: (RIRE) oui peut-être . (I:mm) non . (Car, sta 2)

  • 10 Schlyter (1977, p. 178) suggests that “pas vraiment” forms one semantic unity as an attenuator.

75The function of mitigating negation appears with both peut-être (peut-être pas) and vraiment (pas vraiment) at stage 4 (examples 37, 38)10. In [37] the interviewer asks if E would like to live in another country than Sweden.

[37] E: oui c'est / peut‑être pas pour toujours + mais /
I: pas pour SIM toujours .
E: pour quelque:s années mais / (I:mm) . / je sais pas mais (Jes, sta 4)

[38] I: tu cherches un appartement ? / tu: / tu t'es + inscrite ?
E: euh pas vraiment . / mai:s (Eva, sta 4)

76The two adverbs vraiment and peut-être appear at stage 6 in contexts where the pragmatic function “understatement” is expressed, as in the following example:

[39] I: mm / mm . / et la cité universitaire c'étai:t confortable?
E: (RIRE) peut-être pas très / mai:s (Ker, sta 6).

77In the answer to [39], peut-être is interpreted as mitigating the ironically exaggerated characterization pas très [confortable]. An ironic use of pas vraiment is found with the same informant (ça s’est pas vraiment bien passé, meaning ça s’est pas du tout bien passé, Ker:2, sta 6).

VI. Connective function

78Aussi can also be used to connect one utterance to another as shown by Perdue and Watorek (1999). In this function aussi could also be considered additive but instead of adding one entity to another, or a list of others, it is used to add an utterance, a new rheme, and thus connects one proposition to the next, as in [40]. In this example Yvonne says that she has studied at Komvux “and also I have studied I have followed two courses in France”. Our results show that, in this function, the adverb is either preceded by et (and) or mais (but), as in [41].

[40] E: mm st j'ai étudié à: Komvux . / e:t / aussi j'ai étudié j'ai fait deux cours Xen France euh / une à Avignon et une à BEsançon . (Yvo, sta 4)

79The native speakers use « et puis aussi » which is an expression that is not found in the production of the learners, not even that of the “near-natives”.

80Peut-être is used in a similar way, as in [41].

[41] E: mai:s en classe quand on va / demander quelque chose tout le monde demande en suédois et pour moi c'est+
I: ah c'est+ étrange ça SIM . / oui .
E: pour moi c'est très étrange (RIRE) .
I: oui . / + en général .
E: parce qu'on a oublié beaucoup . / parce que: / (I:oui bien sûr) c'est pas naturel de parler français en classe je pense .
I: non / mhm . très bien .
E: mais
peut-être ça dépend des classes aussi
(Yvo, sta 4)

81In this example peut-être is used to link the last utterance to the learner’s previous statement that it isn’t natural to speak French in class “but perhaps that depends on the classes too”.

VII. Comparative

82At the advanced high stage there is one token of aussi in a function that hasn’t been observed in the preceding stages. It is used in a comparative function corresponding to “such”.

[42] E: oui j’ai commencé par le françai:s (I:oui) eu:h c’était il y a huit ans (I:oui) . d’abord j’avais pas du tout l’intention de de poursuivre les études de français (I:ouais) au- aussi longtemps que je l’ai fait (I:ouais) e:h / je pense # (Ste, sta 6)

[43] mais entourée de gens qui parlent comme moi c’est-à-dire qui a un aussi bo:n jargo:n (Min, “near-native”)

VIII. Planning

83The function of vraiment as a “planning” marker, is to serve as an “island of reliability” (cf. Dechert, 1983), in particular the sequence « c’est vraiment » followed by syntactic restructuring. Vraiment in these sequences seems to serve as a production strategy, giving the speaker more time to plan his utterance. This function emerges at stage 5.

[44] c'est‑à‑dire que / euh en France le discours commun c'est de dire "je suis / pas raciste mais" (RIRE) . / (I:mm) et ça c'est vraiment . je sais pas (I:mm) SIM si c'e:st / significatif ou pas . (Mel, LN)

[45] E: oui oui j'ai suivi de cours / (I:mm) . eh et ça c'était vraiment # j'ai suivi des cours # ben les meilleurs cours de ma vie . + oui c'était vraiment très très bien . (Mat, sta 6)

5.3. Development of the four adverbs across the stages

84This section discusses the order of acquisition of the four adverbs. Our proposal is based on their first appearances. Appearance concerns position on the one hand and function on the other hand. In our description of the adverbs we also consider the number of occurrences and relate the development to the stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004).

Stage 1

85Aussi and peut-être appear. Figure 6 shows that aussi is preferably placed in an elliptic position whereas peut-être is used in the autonomous position. This stage is characterized inter alia by nominal utterance structure, chunks such as « je voudrais », non-finite forms « je faire » and bare nouns. Thus the utterance structure doesn’t permit the integration of the adverbs at this level. At stage one aussi fulfills the confirmative function, which is the first to occur. As shown in example [46] the learner uses aussi in order to verify what the interviewer has said.

[46] E: eh je l lis en suédois et en allemand .
I: en allemand + aussi ?
E: aussi SIM oui oui . (Car, sta 1)

86At this stage aussi is also used in additive function. Jan plays jazz and also classical music.

[47] I: quel style de musique tu joues ?
E: eh c’est jazz et auss- et classique aussi .
I: oui ? mm
E: un un peu blues et <punk> (RIRE) (Jan, sta 1)

87The following Figure (6) presents the number of tokens of the adverbs used at stage 1 and their syntactic positions. These adverbs are not used frequently at this stage.

Figure 6. Stage 1.

Figure 6. Stage 1.

88Vraiment and seulement are not used at all whereas there are five tokens of aussi and two of peut-être. The latter are used at this stage only as echoic repetitions following a solicitation from the learner.

Stage 2

89At this stage, the first occurrences of vraiment and seulement are found. As stage 2 contains verbal utterance structures with polyfunctional “base” forms and some subordination (See section 4.2 above and Bartning, Hancock, to appear), the integration of adverbs in the verbal field is possible. Integration is attested in the use of aussi and seulement even though peripheral positions are dominant. Peut-être and vraiment are less frequent and are placed exclusively in peripheral positions.

90The only token of vraiment at this stage has confirmative function. Seulement appears in its restrictive function and aussi is used more frequently (15 occurrences).

Figure 7. Stage 2.

Figure 7. Stage 2.

Stage 3

91At this stage there are few non-finite verbal forms and there is a more systematic and regular use of tense and inflexion of verbs. The first cases of the subjunctive emerge and subordinate clauses such as causal, relative, interrogative and temporal develop further. Integration of all four adverbs is found at stage 3 (first appearance of peut-être and vraiment in this position). Aussi and peut-être appear with connective function. In [48] the two new features of this stage are illustrated: firstly, the integrated syntactic position of peut-être, secondly, the connective function of aussi : et aussi je, where aussi has an initial position. (The example also shows the additive function of aussi: « je travaille là aussi » with the adverb placed in final position).

[48] I: vous pouvez SIM me parler de ce travail ? ce que + vous
E: ah c’est des SIM nouvelles (I:oui) j’ai travaillé en / avec des nouvelles (I:oui) euh je suis euh je ne sais pas le mot pour ça parce que je parle tout le temps dans la radio quand (I:oui) SIM quand vous écoutez la radio (I:oui oui) SIM c’est peut-être moi . d’accord ? (I: oui . présentatrice) SIM oui mhm (I:ok mhm) SIM e:t euh et aussi je: je fais de:s informations / j’ai un petit bureau (I:mhm) euh / à moi (I:oui) e:t je travaille là aussi . (Siv, sta 3)

Figure 8. Stage 3.

Figure 8. Stage 3.

Stage 4

92At stage 4 (Figure 9) we found the first appearance of post-rheme (= final position with a particular intonation contour, Morel, Danon-Boileau, 1998: 28), as shown in example [32] above, which seems to be a sign of the onset of an advanced discourse organization in terms of modification of the speaker’s own speech act (cf. stance adverbs in Biber et al., 1999; adverbes d’énonciation in Molinier, Levrier, 2000). Here we also found the very first appearance of non canonic position in the rheme which also points to a more elaborated organization of the discourse, i.e. a certain freedom to chose the word order and thus to focalize one particular element (one token).

93Stage 4 is represented by the emergence of typical French grammar but some non-finite verb forms remain (je lire). The clitic pronoun appears before the auxiliary and there are isolated cases of the conditionnel, the plus-que-parfait and the subjunctive. However, these complex forms still appear in mainly non-complex syntax (Bartning, Hancock, to appear).

94In the use of adverbs the analysis shows elaboration of discourse functions concerning vraiment (post-rheme) and aussi (more frequent use of connective function). The positions of the adverbs in the utterance still differ from the native pattern and the frequency varies from native use. There are, for example, few tokens of vraiment and several of seulement in the learner production whereas the NS in our corpus use vraiment rather frequently and seulement not at all (see table 2 in Appendix).

95The elliptic position of peut-être is reduced in favor of the initial and integrated positions. Seulement is integrated and used for restriction in a way that is possible in French, as in [49].

[49] E: e:h je travaille pas . je: / je fais seulement mes études . / et maintenant j'ai commencé à suivre deux cours / eh de calligraphie e:t de: / de de peinture / de la peinture . (Chr, sta 4)

Figure 9. Stage 4.

Figure 9. Stage 4.

Stage 5

96At stage 5 (Figure 10) we see the first appearance of “auto-interruption” (position “unclassifiable”/other). This function seems to be important for discourse planning, where vraiment # (alone) or chunks of vraiment like « c’est vraiment # » are used as starting elements or “islands of reliability” to signal upcoming speech or to hold the floor (= filled pause).

97From stage 5, the advanced medium stage, there is a change in the learners’ use of the studied adverbs. The syntactic positional pattern as well as the frequency are more native-like for peut-être, seulement and vraiment (See table 3 in Appendix). The integrated position dominates for vraiment and peut-être. Seulement is scarce in accordance with native use. As for the syntactic position of aussi it is not yet native-like with final position dominating in the learner production. Thus the use of the other three adverbs has become native-like. This native-likeness corresponds to other features present at this stage: Stage 5 is characterized by the development of inflectional morphology that becomes functional. The conditionnel, plus-que-parfait and future simple are mostly used correctly and the subjunctive becomes more productive. The use of vraiment as a discourse planning device goes together with increasing complex utterances and multi-propositional subordination, as in native speech (Bartning, Hancock, to appear).

Figure 10. Stage 5.

Figure 10. Stage 5.

Stage 6

98Stage 6 is represented by the stabilizing of inflectional morphology even in multi-propositional utterances (Bartning, 2009).The learner can at this stage manage to handle several levels of information at the same time.

99The native-like use of peut-être, seulement and vraiment persists as do the non native-like placement of aussi (Figure 11).

100Some new functions are found at this stage. An emphatic confirmative function (initial position) of vraiment appears (see ex. 34 and 35 above).

101Aussi is used in a native-like comparative function shown in [50] in which the learner says that he did not have any intention to study French for such a long period of time as he ended up doing.

[50] E: oui j’ai commencé par le françai:s (I:oui) eu:h c’était il y a huit ans (I:oui) . d’abord j’avais pas du tout l’intention de de poursuivre les études de français (I:ouais) au- aussi longtemps que je l’ai fait (I:ouais) e:h / je pense # (And, sta 6)

Figure 11. Stage 6.

Figure 11. Stage 6.

“Near-native”

102At this level the overall production of the L2 language is native-like (Bartning, Hancock, to appear). This is true also for the adverbs of this study as can be seen in Figures 12 and 13. With the exception of one token, seulement has disappeared in accordance with native use (cf. 5.1.3). The dominant position of peut-être and vraiment is the integrated position. The non canonic placement of vraiment within the rheme is consolidated (three informants). Peut-être, vraiment and aussi are used in various native-like functions. At this stage: the complete (syntactic and intonational) left dissociation of the peut-être is marked by post positioned que.

Figure 12. “near-native” production.

Figure 12. “near-native” production.

Natives

103Figure 13 below shows that native speakers prefer placing the adverb in the integrated position. It also shows that among the four adverbs, vraiment is the most frequently used. This tendency is observed also in the learners’ production from stage 5 onwards. However, the Swedish learners use aussi more frequently than native speakers (Chanet, 2004 and Table 2 in Appendix).

Figure 13. Native production.

Figure 13. Native production.

5.4. Summary: Proposal of an inferred order of acquisition

104In Table 8 below, all functions and positions of the analyzed adverbs are shown according to the stage at which they appear in our cross-sectional data. It seems that there are similarities in the development of aussi and vraiment (addition/enhancement) on the one hand and peut-être and seulement (moderation/restriction) on the other. Both aussi and vraiment have basic confirmative functions in the interaction from the start of their appearance. They also seem to assume “new” functions up to stage 6. They are more polyfunctional than peut-être and seulement. In our corpus all functions of these two adverbs have already appeared at stage 3.

Table 8. Appearance of functions and positions

Table 8. Appearance of functions and positions

105The appearance of positions and functions (Table 8) allows proposing an inferred order of acquisition of functions (Table 9 below).

Table 9. Order of acquisition of functions

Table 9. Order of acquisition of functions

*speech act modification.

106The acquired functions could be described with respect to scope, an aspect that concerns previous descriptions of the adverbs (see also section 2) as either sentence/phrasal adverbs (global scope) or focus particles (local scope). At the interactional level adverbs function with global scope. Three adverbs, aussi, peut-être and vraiment, appear first as global markers (confirmative and mitigating confirmation) in the interaction. They also develop local functions (additive, mitigating SN, intensifying). As seen above (Table 7), vraiment and aussi are the most polyfunctional adverbs, and are, not surprisingly, also the most frequent markers (see Table 2 in Appendix). Together, they constitute 70 % of the tokens (521/758) found in the corpus. Only seulement is found with solely a local function (restrictive) in the corpus.

6. Conclusion

107This study has illustrated the development of syntactic placement and discourse functions of four adverbs in French L2 in a learner corpus. Describing the use of the adverbs at different levels of acquisition, we asked whether an order of acquisition could be inferred from our data. We expected to find an increasing number of functions indicating that the learners become more advanced. The connective function of aussi and peut-être is one of those appearing later, which is paralleled by a movement of the adverbs to initial position. The pragmatic functions of vraiment (emphatic and post-rheme) also follows a movement out of the inner clause/rheme (Table 8 and 9). It would be interesting to see in which way this syntactic isolation with simultaneous development of pragmatic functions has similarities with the historical pragmaticalization (Dostie, Pusch, 2007) from adverbs to discourse markers.

108As stated in the introduction, the positioning of the four adverbs seems to develop during the course of acquisition: aussi and seulement move into the utterance from peripheral positions, while left dissociation (= initial position) seems to be a late feature of vraiment and peut-être (peut-être, in the initial position, is part of a prosodically integrated unit up to stage 6). However our frequency results modify this picture. Although aussi is integrated at an early stage, the final position remains the most frequent one at late stages. As for vraiment and peut-être, the integrated position is by far the most frequent position from stage 5.

109The group of “near-native” informants shows the consolidation of advanced pragmatic and discourse functions. This group does not differ from the informants of stage 6 in the sense that we did not find any additional functions (Table 8). Of course, this does not exclude subtle differences that our method does not reveal. Concerning the syntactic position of aussi in the “near-native” production, there is a difference in the positional pattern compared to that of native speakers, the former preferring the final position of aussi (section 5.1.1). This adverb is also more frequently used by the “near-natives” than by natives (Appendix, Table 3: 39 vs 21 tokens/10 000 words).

110We have seen that at stages 1-4, the learners use the adverbs in various positions and functions that are not always native-like such as the frequent use of seulement that is not attested in the native production. As an explanation for the learners’ use of seulement we have put forward (section 5.1.3) the hypothesis that the Swedish learners are influenced by their L1 (of the equivalent bara). From stage 5, they follow the low frequency in the native French production (Appendix, Table 3).

111The analysis has shown that from stage 5 onwards the learners follow native positional patterns, on the whole (Figures 10-13). An exception from this tendency is the recurrent final syntactic placement of aussi, which still remains in the “near-native” group. Also, an interesting feature at stage 6 is the appearance of initial position of vraiment. A hypothesis generated from this study would then be that frequency patterns of adverbs (irrespective of the position) in acquisition seem to be established earlier (at stage 5) than positional patterns. If native-like use (frequency) of peut-être, vraiment and seulement is established from stage 5, it leaves the question of the non native-like frequency of aussi unanswered. This question ultimately remains to be investigated in other learner corpora.

Appendix

Table 1. List of informants (Interview number in figures)

Table 1. List of informants (Interview number in figures)

Table 2. N of occurrences of adverbs in the corpus (73 271 words in total)

Table 2. N of occurrences of adverbs in the corpus (73 271 words in total)

Table 3.: Frequency of adverbs (tokens of adv/10 000 words). Value of the sub-corpus « parole privée » from the Corpus de Référence du Français Parlé (CRFP, Bilger 2004).

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Notes

1 See also Telemann et al. (1999).

2 We adopt as a general definition of rheme what is being said about a topic.

3 Unclear prosodic features make the distinction between end field and post-end field sometimes difficult in practice (in particular in L2). “Final position” could denote either of the two.

4 This means that the post-rheme has its own intonation contour and that its frequency is lower than the preceding segment.

5 Transcription conventions : I: Interviewer; E: Student; / // //: short, medium and long pause; + SIM: beginning and end of simultaneous talk; SIM: follows simultaneous talk of the interviewer; (RIRE): non-verbal sound; eh euh: hesitation; X: incomprehensible syllable; :: lengthened syllable; NON: accentuated syllable; (I:mm): feedback; < >: code-switch or non-existent word; St: click of the tongue; #: interruption / restructuring.

6 Samtal i Göteborg was collected for a sociolinguistic project in the 1980s and consists of two-party conversations in an informal context (Dahl, 1997).

7 Portée de proximité.

8 Also referred to as adverbe paradigmatisant (Nølke, 1983).

9 Example from Le Petit Robert.

10 Schlyter (1977, p. 178) suggests that “pas vraiment” forms one semantic unity as an attenuator.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1. The InterFra corpus
Légende NNS=non-native speaker, NS=native speaker; Long=longitudinal; Cross=cross-sectional; Beg.=true beginners at university, Sec.school=Secondary school students; Univ. stud.=university students, 1st to 4th term, Fut.teachers=future teachers, Doc.stud=Post graduate students.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-1.jpg
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Titre Table 2. Corpus of this study
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-2.png
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Titre Figure 1. Syntactic model from Pedersen et al. (1981) including our modifications
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Titre Table 3. Syntactic positions of aussi
Légende Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip: elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc: incomplete etc. Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Titre Figure 2. Distribution of syntactic positions of aussi (relative frequency/stage)
Légende Number of tokens: Sta 1=5, sta 2=17, sta 3=26, sta 4=41, sta 5=51, sta 6=40, NN=72, NS=32.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Titre Table 4. Distribution of syntactic positions of peut-être (tokens/stage)
Légende Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip:elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc:incomplete Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Figure 3. Distribution of syntactic positions of peut-être (relative frequency/stage)
Légende Number of tokens: Sta 1=2, sta 2=3, sta 3=14, sta 4=29, sta 5=25, sta 6=44, NN=34, NS=37.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Table 5. Distribution of syntactic positions of seulement (tokens/stage)
Légende Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip:elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc:incomplete Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Figure 4. Distribution of syntactic positions of seulement (relative frequency/stage)
Légende Number of tokens: Sta 1=0, sta 2=8, sta 3=13, sta 4=17, sta 5=2, sta 6=8, NN=1, NS=0.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-9.jpg
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Titre Table 6. Distribution of syntactic positions of vraiment (tokens/stage)
Légende Init: Initial, inte: integrated, fin: final, ellip:elliptic, auton: autonomous, inc:incomplete Sta: acquisitional stages (Bartning, Schlyter, 2004)
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Figure 5. Distribution of syntactic positions of vraiment (relative frequency/stage)
Légende Number of tokens: Sta 1=0, sta 2=1, sta 3=16, sta 4=9, sta 5=35, sta 6=59, NN=56, NS=60.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-11.jpg
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Titre Table 7. Development of syntactic positions
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-12.jpg
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Titre Figure 6. Stage 1.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-13.jpg
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Titre Figure 7. Stage 2.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-14.jpg
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Titre Figure 8. Stage 3.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-15.jpg
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Titre Figure 9. Stage 4.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-16.jpg
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Titre Figure 10. Stage 5.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-17.jpg
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Titre Figure 11. Stage 6.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-18.jpg
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Titre Figure 12. “near-native” production.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-19.jpg
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Titre Figure 13. Native production.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-20.jpg
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Titre Table 8. Appearance of functions and positions
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-21.jpg
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Titre Table 9. Order of acquisition of functions
Légende *speech act modification.
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-22.jpg
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Titre Table 1. List of informants (Interview number in figures)
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Table 2. N of occurrences of adverbs in the corpus (73 271 words in total)
Légende Table 3.: Frequency of adverbs (tokens of adv/10 000 words). Value of the sub-corpus « parole privée » from the Corpus de Référence du Français Parlé (CRFP, Bilger 2004).
URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-24.jpg
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URL http://discours.revues.org/docannexe/image/7368/img-25.jpg
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Référence électronique

Victorine Hancock et Anna Sanell, « The acquisition of four adverbs in a learner corpus of L2 French », Discours [En ligne], 5 | 2009, mis en ligne le 11 octobre 2017, consulté le 23 octobre 2017. URL : http://discours.revues.org/7368 ; DOI : 10.4000/discours.7368

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Auteurs

Victorine Hancock

Department of French, Italian and Classical languages, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. victorine.hancock@fraita.su.se

Anna Sanell

Department of French, Italian and Classical languages, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. anna.sanell@fraita.su.se

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