Rachel in Paris

Rachel, a senior President’s Scholar majoring in political science and foreign languages in Dedman College, with a minor in English, is spending spring break 2010 doing research in Paris. She plans to study French slang by conducting interviews with speakers of “Verlan,” a language game involving word inversion.

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Arrival in Paris

12 p.m.

I’m a little travel-weary and sleep-deprived, but I’m in Paris! This is where I will be for the next seven days, conducting interviews and trying to find out as much as I can about the French slang known as Verlan.

I found my hostel where I will be staying for the night, and the front-desk workers have been very helpful in getting me situated – as is usually the case with hostel staff. The hostel is pretty far north of the city center, so I have to decide if I want to stay here for more than one night.

It would be convenient not to have to move my stuff, but it would also be convenient to be closer to the city center. However, my research contacts are pretty spread out around the city, so it may not matter where I stay. I will meet with my first contact tomorrow, a friend of a friend who speaks Verlan.

At this point, it may be necessary to explain a little about my project. I am studying a type of French slang involving syllable inversion of words. So, the French word “femme,” which means woman, becomes “meuf.” Here are links to two articles from BBC and the NYT giving a pretty thorough characterization of the linguistic phenomenon: Read more here and here.

Existing research on Verlan has focused on the social origins of the slang (it was born out of the marginalized immigrant populations in the suburbs of Paris), but I will be studying Verlan from more of a formal linguistic approach. I want to know more about how speakers form Verlan words and whether the words are merely entering French as new vocabulary, or whether they are actively combining with French grammar rules or even creating some new Verlan grammar rules to follow.

7:26 p.m.

I’m still awake! I went on a little run to see the neighborhood, and bought a French baguette. I know the French are known for their baguettes, but the renown is not wrongly given – French baguettes are amazing! There’s something about the texture that makes them so different from baguettes you can get in the US – crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Then, there’s also the endearing way French people carry them under their arms …

I can’t stay up any longer so I’m going to go to sleep soon and wake up tomorrow ready to go!

Even though I’m not in the city center, Paris still feels magical. I’m sitting in a cafe right beside the hostel. Through the huge windows I can see the canal that runs through the 19th arrondissement, lined with lights, and the traffic of cars and people drifting by.

A demain!

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