On so-called 'tense uses' in French as context-sensitive constructions * - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Book Sections Year : 2022

On so-called 'tense uses' in French as context-sensitive constructions *

Patrick Caudal


The purpose of this paper is to establish that so-called 'uses' of verbal inflections such as the French imparfait can articulate a conventionalized, 'entrenched' dimension, alongside with a productive, context-sensitive dimension at the semantics/pragmatics interfacei.e., that one type of modelling mechanism (entrenchment vs. dynamic context-sensitivity) does not preclude the other. In order to reveal the complexity of the matter at stake, I will here focus on two relatively well-known uses of the imparfait, namely the so-called attenuative imparfait (or 'politeness' imparfait), which associates with utterances conveying polite, negotiable requests, and the so-called 'narrative imparfait', which associates with sequence-of-events narrative discourses. The term 'construction' highlights a fundamental hypothesis explored in these pages, namely that tense uses are often conventionalized in one way or another. I will use it here in two distinct senses: in the (strong) sense of a special set of lexicalized syntactic constructs in the imparfait paired up with a conventionalized semantic content non-compositionally derivable from the elements making up the construct, and in the (weaker) sense of a conventionalized meaning attached to the lexical entry of a verbal inflection. More specifically, I will analyze the so-called 'attenuative imparfait' as an instance of strong construction, and the 'narrative imparfait' as an instance of weak construction, i.e., as a matter of semantic homonymy-the main contribution of this paper being that in spite of their constructional nature, these 'tense uses' are nevertheless endowed with significant context-sensitivity.


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hal-03511443 , version 1 (04-01-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03511443 , version 1


Patrick Caudal. On so-called 'tense uses' in French as context-sensitive constructions *. Martin Becker; Jakob Egetenmeyer. Tense, aspect and discourse structure, De Gruyter, In press. ⟨hal-03511443⟩
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