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Evolution in Romance Verbal Systems

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Edited By Emmanuelle Labeau and Jacques Bres

The present book focuses on evolution in the Romance verbal systems. In the wake of Bybee’s and Dahl’s studies, it advocates the benefits of adopting a cross-linguistic and diachronic approach to the study of linguistic phenomena. Within the scope of the Romance family, similar cross-linguistic evolution paths are explored, as related languages at different stages of grammaticalisation may shed light on each other’s developments. A diachronic dimension also proves desirable for several reasons. First, a diachronic approach significantly enhances the explanatory power of linguistic theory by showing how a specific form came to convey a certain function. Second, change is better revealed in diachronic movement than in static synchrony. Third, meaning constantly evolves and a one-off probe will be less revealing than a sustained study through time. Finally and most importantly, similarities across languages appear more obviously in diachrony. All the chapters of this volume participate in their own way to that crosslinguistic and diachronic approach and help make it an original, focused contribution that covers all main Romance languages.

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Aude REBOTIER French Participle Agreement with avoir: current trends as an indication of grammaticalization 115

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French Participle Agreement with avoir: Current trends as an indication of grammaticalization1 Aude REBOTIER, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Covarius (Paris IV) and CIRLEP (Reims) Associating the auxiliary to be or to have with a past participle is considered as one of the ways to create new past tenses in languages (Bybee et al. 1994, Leiss 1992). This process of grammaticalization has reached different stages in different languages. In many ways, the French perfect seems to behave like a tense, that is, that the process of grammaticalization is over. Yet the agreement of the participle, especially with the object, is obviously on the decline. This ongo- ing evolution could be explained by the fact that the grammaticalization is not yet completed. The relationship between grammaticalization and loss of agreement has already been hypothesized, but has not been supported by a corpus study that would show how and in which contexts agreement tends to disappear. There is evidence that some syntactic and semantic criteria may favour agreement while others make it more difficult. This paper aims to investigate in which cases agreement is missing, and whether the ob- served correlations support the hypothesis that the evolution of agreement in the French perfect indicates an ongoing grammaticalization. I shall first give an overview of the criteria of grammaticalization in the case of perfects, and estimate how advanced the French perfect is in this process. In the second part, I will present the corpus study and the general results. And finally I will focus...

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