• Pronoun;
  • morphosyntax;
  • French;
  • longitudinal;
  • linguistic change

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.