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LINGUIST List 20.711

Thu Mar 05 2009

Diss: Historical Ling/Syntax: Troberg: 'Dynamic Two-Place Indirect ...'

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        1.    Michelle Troberg, Dynamic Two-Place Indirect Verbs in French: A synchronic and diachronic study in variation and change of valence


Message 1: Dynamic Two-Place Indirect Verbs in French: A synchronic and diachronic study in variation and change of valence
Date: 04-Mar-2009
From: Michelle Troberg <michelle.trobergutoronto.ca>
Subject: Dynamic Two-Place Indirect Verbs in French: A synchronic and diachronic study in variation and change of valence
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Institution: University of Toronto
Program: Department of French Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Michelle Troberg

Dissertation Title: Dynamic Two-Place Indirect Verbs in French: A synchronic and diachronic study in variation and change of valence

Dissertation URL: https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/17269

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
                            Syntax
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): French (fra)
                            Middle French (frm)

Dissertation Director:
Yves Roberge

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation provides an account of an often-noted change in the
history of French: the shift in the expression of the internal argument of
a class of dynamic two-place verbs best represented by aider 'to help' from
'dative', i.e., as an indirect object with the preposition à, to
'accusative', i.e., as a direct object with no preposition. The change does
not appear to be correlated with a change in the meaning of the verbs nor
with any obvious change in the selectional restrictions imposed on the
internal argument. Traditional commentators have viewed this as a random
change, affecting only a few lexical items, but the present study
demonstrates that this view is incorrect. One of the central results of
this thesis is that the valency change is systematic; a class of some
twenty verbs is shown to have been affected at approximately the same
period and to follow the same time course of change (as shown by the
S-shaped curve describing the change). Moreover, three properties
distinguish this class of dynamic verbs from all others taking indirect
objects in French: the IO forms no relation with a DO (implicit or
otherwise), the verbs do not denote a directed or oriented action, and all
of the verbs select for first or third order entities. This discrete
valency change reveals that aider-type verbs form a natural class distinct
from both ditransitive verbs and other two-place verbs such as obéir
'obey', résister 'resist', and céder 'to yield', with one or the other of
which they are often grouped.

These facts suggest that the valency change is the result of an underlying
structural change, an important conclusion, since it tells us that
alternations in the realisation of grammatical functions do not have to be
accompanied by changes in meaning. The change is linked to the loss of a
functional item encoding directionality, a property available to
prepositions in Medieval French. It is demonstrated that when the
preposition à could acquire a directional meaning via derivation, first and
third order indirect objects were licensed in a broader range of contexts,
namely as the complement of verbs that do not denote a directed action with
respect to the object. As directionality plays an important role in the
structuring of events, a shift in the way this property is encoded has
systematic consequences on the grammar of French speakers in the 16th
century. The loss of directionality as a property of the functional domain
is correlated with other changes in verbal complementation also occurring
in the 16th and 17th centuries, two of which being the loss of the verb
particle system and the loss of the expression of path with manner of
motion verbs.



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