From local adverbials to discourse markers: three case studies in the diachrony of French

Abstract : Adverbs and adverbials constitute a highly heterogeneous and polyvalent word class, with a whole range of intra- and extraclausal uses. We focus here on their extraclausal uses with pragmatic functions. We try to answer a series of questions which arise once one takes into consideration the diachronic dimension of this process: Are there different types of pragmatic functions? What determines the type of pragmatic use of an adverbial? Do some adverbials take on such functions more easily than others? With the diachronic, corpus-based study of a series of adverbials in French, we show that there are indeed various types of pragmatic uses, and that their distribution can be explained as a factor of the adverbials‟ semantics and morpho-syntax. More specifically, there seems to be a dichotomy between „framing adverbials‟ and adverbs used as discourse markers (DMs). Framing adverbials help structure texts: They set up frames of discourse, and can thus have scope over a number of clauses or sentences; the frame they open generally runs until the appearance of a „closure cue‟, which can take on various forms. DMs, on the other hand, are an indication of the speaker/writer‟s point of view; they can contribute to text structure, but it is not their main function. We illustrate the range of pragmatic uses found for adverbials, focusing on framing uses such as „on the table‟, „in the city‟, traditionally considered to be setting adverbials. It is important to note that framing adverbials constitute a broader category than the traditional „setting adverbials‟, as they also include non spatio-temporal adverbials like „according to Jean‟, „in chemistry‟, etc. We show that adverbials with framing uses are generally free, referential structures, which do not seem prone to developing DM uses, even when they reach the utterance level (cf. „according to N‟). We then describe the evolution of three locative adverbials: Au fond „at the bottom‟, parallèlement „parallel‟ and d’un côté „to the one side‟. Diachronically, these adverbials first had locative uses, and only later developed DM uses. In these uses, au fond and d’un côté both mean something like „actually‟, while parallèlement is close to „moreover‟. In line with the predictions of the grammaticalisation theory, these adverbials underwent a step-by-step change of meaning, with for instance the development of temporal uses, with an increase in syntactic autonomy. Also, they kept locative uses. Finally, we show that the dichotomy between framing adverbials and DMs is linked to the referential properties of their components: The persistence of a referential meaning hinders the development of DM uses. Thus, in French, many such markers are based on relational nouns, which are by definition non-referential (or at least not directly so). Our case studies show a common evolution process along these lines for au fond, parallèlement and d’un côté, which implies the loss of the complement and the development of pragmatic uses.
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Benjamin Fagard, Laure Sarda. From local adverbials to discourse markers: three case studies in the diachrony of French. Pragmatic Approaches to Text Structuring, 2014. ⟨halshs-01242141⟩

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