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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Lessons in graffiti

I’ve done several interviews since I last wrote, all of which have been very instructive. One of the most interesting realizations, for me, has been in discovering how different Verlan usage is among different groups of people (ages, race, gender) across Paris. It often becomes a kind of “inside joke” for a group of friends to use certain words or phrases.

I also talked to some bilingual English/French kids on the lawn outside of the Eiffel Tower, which introduced me to another interesting realization in my research. The French negation is formed using two parts, “ne” and “pas,” the second of which is actually pronounced “pa” – the final “s” is silent. So, since Verlan is primarily a spoken phenomenon, the Verlanization of that would be “ap.”

However, these kids actually used the Verlan of the written form, including the “s” sound, making it “aps.” It may not sound very revolutionary, but it provides an interesting window to how Verlan is represented in the brain. I’ll have to do more book research on this when I get back, but I think since it is primarily oral, it is mostly a right-brain process. Visualizing the actually letters of the word transfers the operation to the left brain. So, for these kids, it must be represented in both? I’m not sure, but I have some more data which may be useful in sorting through that.

rZarbii%20Grafitti.jpg Along the same lines, while I was walking I found some graffiti on the wall including a word in Verlan. The word “bizarre” (English cognate) was written in its Verlan form as “zarbii.”

REnglish%20Grafitti.jpg I looked for other Verlan words in graffiti, but I wasn’t able to find any, though the grafitti itself was interesting. Still, the fact that I found one written word is showing that, though it is oral, there must be some sort of visualization of spelling in the brain of speakers. Also strange is that the end of the word was spelled with two “i’s,” which is not in the Standard French equivalent.

REiffel%20Tower-1.jpg Anyway, enough of the boring linguistic data. I was also able to do a little sightseeing yesterday, including visiting a soup shop that my roommate at SMU recommended to me (thanks Charanya!). Besides serving absolutely delicious food, the shop owners were very friendly and kindhearted (they gave soup to three beggars who came in while I was there). I had carrot soup, a sandwich, and some incredibly decadent chocolate fudge.

Next I saw the Eiffel tower, which was really neat, but not quite as big as I was expecting. Still, I was glad to see the Parisian icon. According to a tour guide, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most easily recognizable landmarks for the world’s population; but, interestingly, it was only meant to be a temporary structure for the entrance to an exhibition. Everyone liked it so much, though, that it has not been torn down.

RParc%20des%20Buttes%20Chaumont.jpg I also went to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, in the northeast section of Paris. It was so pretty! I felt almost as if I was no longer in the city, but there was still an interesting juxtaposition of trees and skyscrapers, which you can see in my pictures.

I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to transcribing some of my recorded conversations and interpreting data – this has proved to be a very interesting project!

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