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Omission of French Subject Pronouns

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 Message 9 of 14
10 July 2014 at 3:42pm | IP Logged 
smallwhite wrote:
In English, the subject can sometimes be omitted:
- Am trying. Will let you know.
- OK, will do.
- Looks great.

Do they sometimes omit the subject as well in French?

Not quite. In "Am trying", you are using a very telegraphic style, and this would indeed be the same in French. However, "Will do" and "Looks great" are fairly common and you won't find the same in French. French subject and object pronouns are often referred to as clitics, meaning that they often behave more like prefixes rather than pronouns. One example is how English can insert adverbs between the subject and the verb (He obviously knows her), while there is a very strictly limited list of words that can come between the subject pronoun and the verb (namely other pronouns and ne). Another example is how a stressed pronoun in English (If he won't, "I" will help you) is replaced in French by the addition of a strong pronoun (Moi, je vais t'aider).

Speakeasy wrote:
Nonetheless, in response to Smallwhite's question, my answer would be "yes, sometimes"; that is, in rapid speech, "je" is either dropped or crushed into the following syllable. Here is common transition in both French and English:

Je ne sais pas = I do not know
J'n'sais pas   = I don't know
Ch'pas        = Dunno

Ch'u pus capab' !!!

Je is not actually dropped in these examples. But since you mention Québécois, there is a case where the subject pronoun is often dropped, and that's the 3rd person plural of être in the present tense, sont.

Sont partis
They've left

But you could argue that "sont" is a contraction of "y" and "sont", rather than the subject actually being dropped, since you can't drop the subject this way with other verbs.
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 Message 10 of 14
10 July 2014 at 6:36pm | IP Logged 
There are also two special cases where subject pronouns are often dropped in informal spoken French: Il faut and il y a:

Il ne faut pas croire tout ce qu'on dit.
Faut pas croire tout ce qu'on dit.
"Mustn't believe everything people say."

Il n'y a pas de problème.
Y a pas de problème.
"(There) isn't any problem."

In both these cases, il is a dummy subject that refers to nothing, and it's frequently omitted in fast, informal speech. But as Arekkusu says, French subject pronouns are normally pretty hard to omit, because they act almost as verb prefixes. For example, consider this simple sentence with an ordinary subject pronoun:

Je vais au marché.
"I'm going to the market."

Let's make the subject more complex and see what happens:

Jacques et moi allons au marché.
"Jack and *me are going to the market."

Here, you simply can't use je. It's just painfully wrong. Je isn't a nominative pronoun, like "I" in spoken English. It's a subject pronoun, and it can only appear in a certain slot in front of the verb. Similarly, moi isn't really an accusative pronoun like "me;" it's sometimes called a "disjunctive" pronoun.

(You'll note that informal spoken English sometimes uses "me" almost like a French disjunctive pronoun. Informal spoken English can't decide if it has nominative/accusative pronouns like German or subject/disjunctive ones like French. Or in the unfortunate case of *"between you and I", whether it wants to simply throw all logic out the window and allow free variation of pronoun forms in certain constructions.)

Yeah, all this sounds complicated, but if you listen to enough French, it all starts seeming pretty obvious just from sheer exposure.
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 Message 11 of 14
15 July 2014 at 9:13pm | IP Logged 
I know this is off-topic, but since the issue of homophones in French is a major reason for the non-drop of pronouns, I have always wondered what would happen if French continued on dropping sounds from words. As it is now, it has a huge number of homophones in comparison to other languages I study (except Chinese obviously), and the process is continuing even today. Easy example:

T'es pas malade? (Tu n'es pas malade?)

French also cuts a ton of words into forms like "frigo, dico, resto" (seems there is a preference for words whose second syllable has an 'o' to be shortened)

Do you think if tha were to continue at some point verb forms would become undistinguishable and other techniques, like adverbs, particles, or mere context would come into play (like in Chinese languages).

Ultimately if enough homophones were to arise, could one even see tones develop?

It's all conjecture of course, but I think it is rather interesting.
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 Message 12 of 14
15 July 2014 at 9:31pm | IP Logged 
Languages never become intelligible: you cannot drop so much that it would make the language impossible to
understand. As can be seen in modern Chinese the problem begun to resolve itself as it came into existence and
most Chinese words are compound words, nouns require classifiers here and there and what once was regular words
has evolved into grammatical function words. For some reason heaps of words compounded with 子 though. What
sense does a chair-child or a table-child make, (桌子 and 椅子 respectively)?
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 Message 13 of 14
03 August 2014 at 10:23pm | IP Logged 
French conjugation for only some verb forms is a redundant feature that exists because people still use it out of
habit. Unlike Spanish, it does not permit the techniques that productive conjugation normally brings such as pro
drop and more, unsurprisingly French verbs tend to have more irregularities not found in something like Spanish
precisely due to the fact the conjugation is not a consistent syntactical feature, it just sits there and does nothing
except add some irregularity. It's as simple as that.

Edited by Stolan on 03 August 2014 at 10:25pm

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 Message 14 of 14
04 August 2014 at 8:26am | IP Logged 
outcast wrote:
"frigo, dico, resto" (seems there is a preference for words whose second syllable has an 'o' to be shortened)

While there are an incredible number of French abbreviations that end with -o, they don't necessarily have an o in the second syllable. You show that yourself with your examples. There is not a single o in "réfrigérateur", for example, but it still becomes "frigo". "Resto" comes close-ish with an au-sound, "restaurant". Other common abbreviations like that are "véto" from "vétérinaire", "réglo" from "régulier", and "apéro" from "apréritif"."

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