Real-time changes in the paradigm of personal pronouns in Montreal French
Based on the results of three variationist studies on personal pronouns used in Montreal French, this article shows how real-time data can shed light on ‘apparent time interpretation’ and increase our understanding of morphosyntactic changes. Longitudinal data for a 24-year period from three corpora of spoken French are used to discuss cases of variation: variation between the clitics on and nous, alternation between on and tu/vous, and variation among non-clitic plural pronouns. While the first case illustrates a change occurring over a long period of time, the other variables show changes observable in the 24-year time span under study. In particular, analysis of the variation among non-clitic pronouns suggests a socio-stylistic specialization of the variants at a certain stage in the grammaticalization of compound forms. In sum, this article uses longitudinal evidence to show how the variables are involved in a process of restructuring the paradigm of the French pronouns.