LINGUIST List 14.2271

Fri Aug 29 2003

Review: Semantics/Syntax: Mellet & Vuillaume (2003)

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  1. Emmanuelle Labeau, Modes de rep�rages temporels

Message 1: Modes de rep�rages temporels

Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 13:57:16 +0000
From: Emmanuelle Labeau <>
Subject: Modes de rep�rages temporels

Mellet, Sylvie and Marcel Vuillaume (2003) Modes de rep�rages
temporels. Rodopi, Cahiers Chronos 11.

Announced at

Emmanuelle Labeau, Aston University, Birmingham (UK)

The present volume gathers a number of papers presented at the Chronos
conference held in Nice in 2000. As such, it covers a rather wide
range of focuses and languages.

The first four papers focus on the study of verbal forms. Berthonneau
and Kleiber pay attention to a subset of counterfactual imperfects
(IMP) of the type 'un imparfait de plus ... et le train
d�raillait'. Despite sharing characteristics with other
counterfactual IMP (value of a past conditional, no actual occurrence,
reliance on an adverbial), this type possesses its own
features. First, it is not supported by a temporal adverbial (although
curiously, 'une minute plus t�t tu la voyais', is put in the category
under study) and does not provoke an effect of immediacy. Then, it
cannot receive an interpretation 'de rupture'. Their analysis of the
use relies on the possibility to paraphrase the durative adverbial by
a subordinate in si, the possibility of linking the adverbial and the
IMP by an et, the impossibility to use the pass� simple or the pass�
compos� in such turn of phrase and the invalidity of the factual
interpretation if the adverbial is postponed. They conclude that
counterfactuality derives neither from the IMP or the complement but
spans over the whole construction, the role of the adverbial being to
indicate a shortening or a lengthening of the situation.

Vet questions the meronimic interpretation provided by Berthonneau and
Kleiber for sentences such as sentence 1 in PS, sentence 2 in IMP. He
suggests that the sentence in the PS creates a context and that the
sentence in the IMP specifies the nature or the content of one of the
contextual elements.
Christol describes the evolution of the Vedic injunctive and he
suggests that the form underwent a loss of meaning, as shown by its
survival with elements such as the negation that carries the meaning,
before disappearing. In so doing, he tackles some more general
linguistic concepts such the difficulty of reconstructing forms, the
separate evolution of a concept and its representations (the concept
of future existed in Latin but the form has not survived im Modern
French for e.g.), the danger of seeing old languages as primitive.
Montaut tests on Modern Hindi the assumption that the varied values of
a form still relate, despite diachronic evolution to a common
description. She studies two atypical forms without personal endings:
the simple past and the counterfactual.

The second general topic is the role of discursive elements. Bras, Le
Draoulec and Vieu examine the role of puis in discourse interpretation
of sentences in the IMP. On the basis of 1000 examples from Frantext,
they identify three categories: (1) P1- IMP puis P2- PS, (b) P1-PS
puis P2 - IMP where most IMP receive a narrative interpretation and
(c) P1-IMP puis P2 -IMP which exemplify iteration on a couple of
Bres challenges the allocation of the feature [+ progressive] to the
PS on the basis of isolated uses and non progressive interpretation by
French speakers. He suggests that the aspect-temporal profile of the
PS (global aspect + ascendance from past to present) suffice to
justify the use in progressive contexts.
Vetters comes to similar conclusions: linearity is a side effect of
the global aspect of the PS while global interpretation of IMP
narrative do not imply that that tense possesses a global aspect.
Laurendeau explores the link between temporality and causality. He
uses an oral corpus of qu�becois French to highlight features that
make interpret a chronological report as causal.
Meyer studies temporality in cartoons. He first offers a critical
overview of prevalent models and suggests a referential approach where
the sequential organization and the link between text and image play a
role as significant as grammatical tense.

A third general topic concerns the lexical marking of temporal
grounding. Amiot revisits hypotheses from her thesis on prefixes
marking anteriority and applies them to post-, apr�s and
arri�re. She shows differences first between elements that occur as
prefixes only (e.g. pr�) and those that have an autonomous existence
(e.g. avant). Another distinction concerns the type of derived words:
the can be 'endocentrique' if the meaning of the compound word can be
deducted from the meaning of the components (e.g. oiseau-mouche) and
'exocentrique' if they cannot (e.g. rouge-gorge). She concludes that
two prefixes are problematic: arri�re is ambiguous at the grounding
level and avant allows both endo- and exocentrique compounds.
Paillard comes back on the definition of aspectual pairs in Russian
that have been subject to much controversy, especially the semantic
status of preverbs causing perfectivisation. He suggests that
aspectual perfectives can be integrated in a general theory of
perfectivisation, which challenges the problematic notion that
preverbs would have lost their semantic value, Also he describes three
types of interaction between preverbs and the verbal root.
Jos� analyzes the specificities of the sequence determiner + temporal
noun + dernier / prochain in order to establish when it is
possible. She then proceeds to identify the influence of that
structure on the marking of the temporal complements. This leads to a
more general question about the notion of marks in syntax, and
particularly of temporal complements without preposition.

The last two papers focus on the expression of enunciative grounding
through a process of grammaticalization. Creissels discusses on the
basis of examples from languages belonging to different groups the
evolution of a verb expressing a relation of likeness into a modal
Finally, given the diverging definitions of the term 'auxiliary' in
French, Kronning revisits the notion in order to distinguish natural

This volume spans a wide range of linguistic phenomena under the
rather loose concept of 'rep�rage' that remains vague and that could have
been defined in more depth in the short foreword. The four identified
subdivisions are not all given the same weight in the book, which brings
some unbalance. As a result, the book may come across as less focused
than most volumes of the Cahiers Chronos series but this is probably
inevitable for a volume based on selected papers from such a
wide-encompassing conference as the ''colloques Chronos''.

However, this does not affect the interest of individual contributions
and this collection of papers offers a glance at a variety of
languages (even if more than half describe French) from different
theoretical perspectives. It also mixes traditional theoretical
descriptions and corpus-based analyses. Modes de rep�rages temporels
provides therefore an interesting insight into current research and,
as any book in the series, it is a useful reading for anyone
interested in the manifold field of temporality.


Emmanuelle Labeau is a lecturer in French in the School of Languages
and European Studies of Aston University (Birmingham). Her PhD
dissertation (2002) is entitled "The Acquisition of French past tenses
by tutored Anglophone advanced learners: is aspect enough?". She is
more generally interested in time and aspect of the French past
tenses, as shown by the two volumes she co-edited with Pierre
Larriv�e, "Les temps du pass� fran�ais et leur enseignement"
(Cahiers Chronos 9), and "Nouveaux d�veloppements de l'IMP"
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