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The Search for Traces of a Dual Form

in Quebec French
Joannes Richter

Abstract
In Acadian French (in the west-side of France) and in some Canadian regions such as Quebec
French the French language reveals a number of linguistic anomalies, which may refer to old
French dialects1.
Especially for the ego-pronoun “je” (“I”) a form of metathesis (the interchange of two or more
contiguous sounds) seems to be quite common.
In Acadian French the ego-pronoun Je (the pronoun "I") is frequently pronounced euj, In Quebec
the ego-pronoun “I” (Fr: je) is frequently pronounced ej (common in Quebec French).
This kind of reversals also occurred in an archaic Greek language, in which the root ῶϊ of the Ionic
dual-pronouns νῶϊ, νᾠ (“we two”) represents a reverse form of the Boeotian ego-pronoun “ιω”
(“iou”, “iō”, “I”). The dual form of the Ionic pronoun νῶϊ seemed to be composed from a reversed
version of the Boeotian ego-pronoun “ιω”.
Is the Acadian French ego-pronoun euj (“I”) an accidentally reversed form of the old ego-pronoun
“jeu” (“I”), which may been identified in the Provencal language.
A switch from the dual form of a personal pronoun to a plural or singular is not an unusual event as
it also occurred in Icelandic language, in which the former dual form við (originally “we two”)
replaced the former plural form “vér“ (originally “we all”)2.
In West-French territories another version of Acadian French often combines the standard French
ego-pronouns “je” with a plural declination of the verb: for example j'allons (“I are going”) instead
of the modern French standard nous allons (“we are going”).

Compared to the Greek dual forms the Acadian French euj-entry (“I”) may be suitable candidate for
a former dual form of the personal pronoun of the 1st person.

1 Phonology (in Acadian French)


2 Modern Icelandic plural form of those pronouns ('við' and 'þið') are what were the dual number form, while the old
plurals ('vér' and 'þér') are now only used in formal speech.
Acadian French
Acadian French is a dialect of Canadian French originally associated with the Acadians of what is
now the Maritimes in Canada3.
The Acadians are the descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia during the
17th and 18th centuries, some of whom are also descended from the Indigenous peoples
of the region.

The Acadians and Québécois developed two distinct histories and cultures.[5] They also
developed a slightly different French language.

The settlers whose descendants became Acadians came from many areas in France, but
especially regions such as Île-de-France, Normandy, Brittany, Poitou and Aquitaine4.

The following words and expressions are most commonly restricted to Acadian French,
though most are also used in Quebec French (also known as Québécois) or Joual.

Acadian French is not a specific Canadian dialect and already existed in the west-French territories,
where other regional types of phonology may be found. Most Canadian Acadian settlers seem to
have come from the French region around Loudun5.
In Acadian French the ego-pronoun “je” for the 1st person singular may be spoken as eche (or e’je,
ej) which has been derived from et je (et je, est-ce quand etc.). This idea also is practiced in the
Louisianian language Cajun French.
In Acadian French (in northern French territories) and in Quebec French the French language
reveals a number of linguistic anomalies, which may refer to the old French dialects6.
Especially for the ego-pronoun “je” (“I”) a form of metathesis (the interchange of two or more
contiguous sounds) seems to be quite common:
1. In Canadian Acadian French the ego-pronoun Je (the pronoun "I") is frequently pronounced
euj,
2. ej: I (Fr: je) (common in Quebec French) .
3. chu: I am (Fr: je suis, or, colloquially chui) (very common in Quebec French)
4. erj: and I (Fr: et je suis) (obviously both in France and Canadian Acadian French)
5. the expression j'étions symbolizes I was (Fr: j'étais)
Except the last entry most of these samples of Acadian French locate the “j” character at the end of
the word.

3 Acadian French
4 Source: Acadians
5 Source: Ursprünge (in the German Wikipedia: akadische Französisch). This information is not documented in the
relevant English weg-pages
6 Phonology (in Acadian French)
Comparison to the dual form in Old-Greek language
This kind of reversals also occurred in an Old-Greek language, in which the root ῶϊ of the Ionic
dual-pronouns νῶϊ, νᾠ7 (“we two”) represents a reverse form of the Boeotian ego-pronoun “ιω”
(“iou”, “iō”, “I”). The dual form of the Ionic pronoun νῶϊ seemed to be composed from a reversed
version of the Boeotian ego-pronoun “ιω”.
The opposition between the Greek pronouns “νῶϊ” ↔ “ιω” suggests to check the idea of an Acadian
French ego-pronoun euj (“I”) as a reversed form of the old-French ego-pronoun “jeu8” (“I”)?

An Icelandic switch of a dual form for a personal pronoun to a plural


A switch from the dual form of a personal pronoun to a plural or singular is not an unusual event as
it also occurred in Icelandic language, in which the former dual form við (originally “we two”)
replaced the former plural form “vér“ (originally “we all”)9.

A French combination of a singular pronoun with a plural declination


In West-French territories another version of Acadian French often combines the standard French
ego-pronouns “je” with a plural declination of the verb: for example j'allons (“I are going”) instead
of the modern French standard nous allons (“we are going”).

7 Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache Volume 1 (Kühner, 1835)


8 A similar personal pronoun “iéu” may been identified in the Provencal language.
9 Modern Icelandic plural form of those pronouns ('við' and 'þið') are what were the dual number form, while the old
plurals ('vér' and 'þér') are now only used in formal speech.
The thesis of the dual form in Acadian French
Does the Quebec French pronoun euj (“I”) represent a genuine Old-French dual form (“we two”)?
The Acadian French dual form euj (“we two”) could have replaced the original ego-pronoun “je”or
“jeu”. This is not an unusual event as it had happened in Icelandic language, in which the former
dual form við (originally “we two”) replaced the former plural form “vér“ (originally “we all”)10.
Especially the ego-pronoun “je” is to be reversed to “ej” or “euj” and behaves like the dual form in
archaic Greek language, in which the root ῶϊ of the dual-pronouns νῶϊ, νᾠ (“we two”) is a reverse
form of the Boeotian ego-pronoun “ιω” (“iou”, “iō”, “I”).
The dual form of the Greek pronoun νῶϊ seemed to be composed from a reversed version of the
ego-pronoun “ιω”. Has euj been derived from a reversed version of the ego-pronoun jeu?
In order to compose an overview I decided to setup a comparison table as follows:

English vocabulary Greek French


# Definition English Old- Greek Acadian French
English French
1 ego-pronouns I Y ιω euj je(u)
(→) (←) (→)
2 dual forms of we two wit νῶϊ, νᾠ - -
the pronouns (←) (←) (←)
3 the number 2 two twain δυώ ? deux
(←) (←)
4 the divine Tiw Tiwaz Ζεύς ? Dieu
name “Tiwaz” (→) (→) (→) (→)
5 wisdom, to wit Wit Wit νοῦς ? nous
(←) (←)
Table 1 Comparing the root sequences in English, Greek and French vocabulary

(In this table the wi- respectively ωι-sequences are marked with “←”,
whereas the wi- respectively ιω-sequences are marked with “→”.)

Conclusion
Compared to the Greek dual forms the Acadian French euj-entry (“I”) may be suitable candidate for
a former dual form of the personal pronoun of the 1st person.

10 Modern Icelandic plural form of those pronouns ('við' and 'þið') are what were the dual number form, while the old
plurals ('vér' and 'þér') are now only used in formal speech.
Contents
Abstract.......................................................................................................................................1
Acadian French.....................................................................................................................................2
Comparison to the dual form in Old-Greek language......................................................................3
The Icelandic switch of a dual form for a personal pronoun to a plural..........................................3
A French match of an ego-pronoun to a plural declination.............................................................3
The thesis of the dual form in Acadian French.....................................................................................4