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LINGUIST List 23.5363

Wed Dec 19 2012

Review: Discipline of Linguistics; Lexicography; Syntax: de Saussure et al. (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 19-Dec-2012
From: Ross Bilous <ross.bilousutoronto.ca>
Subject: Grammaire, Lexique, Référence
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3249.html

EDITORS: L. de Saussure, A. Borillo and M. Vuillaume
TITLE: Grammaire, Lexique, Référence. Regards sur le sens
SUBTITLE: Mélanges offerts à Georges Kleiber pour ses quarante ans de carrière
SERIES TITLE: Science pour la communication 99
YEAR: 2012

Ross Bilous, Department of French Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada


This volume constitutes a collection of contributions by 26 researchers in
honor of 40 years of Georges Kleiber's career and his contributions to
contemporary semantics. The book is divided into four sections. In the first
section, ''Lexique et sémantique'', the following issues are addressed: 1)
particular linguistic expressions, which are either underdocumented (e.g.
''peu de choses, déplacement'') or which need to be newly and more completely
described (e.g. ''tenir''), and 2) a number of different themes. The second
section, ''Grammaire et sémantique'', is about varying facets of grammar: some
tense-aspects such as subsequence in the past (''ultériorité dans le passé''),
present and imperfect tenses, some current (but banned by certain norms)
constructions, connectors, anaphoric focalization, proverbial structure and
sporadic aspect. The third and smallest section, entitled ''Syntaxe'',
addresses the embedding constraints and formal anchoring of presuppositions.
Finally, the fourth and last section of the book, ''Référence et varia'',
deals with such issues as (personal or place) proper nouns, the history of
denomination by ''sire'', verse measure and a final contribution on semantics
as a humanistic science. The introduction to the volume includes comments
about Kleiber's contribution to the analysis of the relation between language,
reference and reality. Following the introductory essay an impressive list of
works and articles by Kleiber in the XXIst century is provided (although it is
not clear why preference is given to the XXIst century). This list opens the
way to the articles written by contributing researchers.

Section ''Lexique et sémantique''

The article ''Beaucoup de particularités sur … ''peu de chose'''' examines
four instances of occurrence or ''privileged'' grammatical contexts (p. 31) of
the NP ''peu de chose'': subject attribute, complement of the verb,
substantivized phrase, and core of the adverbial expression ''à peu de chose
près''. The author arrives at the conclusion that the expression ''peu de
chose'' does not function like the expressions formed from quantifiers
''assez'', ''beaucoup'', and the like. In the case of the attributive phrase
this study shows qualitative and not quantitative evaluations, despite the
initial expectations. The qualitative value can explain the mass origin. This
expression has to do with a paradox: it behaves like a fixed expression whose
meaning is no longer constructed but given straightaway.

''L'expression de déplacement fictif comme manifestation d'un discours
narratif subjectif'' addresses certain types of lexico-syntactic structures
that serve as evidence of and characterize a speaker’s possible egocentric
perception about his/her environment when resorting to a small group of
special adverbs as well as to diverse categories of verbs that express a
fictitious displacement.

In ''Noms d'idéalités libres et noms d'idéalités liées'' the author seeks to
verify if the distinction between free idealities (''idéalités libres'') and
bound idealities (''idéalités liées'') has correlates in French. They are
compared with reference to omnispaciality (''omni-spatialité'') and to
omnitemporality (''omni-temporalité'').

''Indices sur les manifestations de la généralité nominale : le cas de
‘déplacement’'' constitutes a two-stage study: at first the semantic descent
between the verb ''déplacer'' (''to displace, to move'') and a noun derived
from it is discussed with the goal of verifying if the noun ''déplacement''
(''displacement, movement'') inherited its aspectual-locative properties and
its subdetermination. Then, the way in which way ''déplacement'' passes from
its locative subdetermination to a certain type of nominal generality is
examined. In the process of this examination the notions of abstraction, of
syncategorematicity, of genericity, and of hypo / hyperonymy are exploited.

The main objective of ''La notion d'emploi de prédicat. Description du verbe
‘tenir’'' is to show that the lexicographic description cannot be reduced to a
simple indication of a word meaning, independently of syntax and semantics.
Applying the notion of ''predicate usage'' (''emploi de prédicat''), which is
a set of different types of information associated to a given predicate, the
author puts forward the idea that dictionary descriptions must correspond to
usage and that the first stage of building a word description should
correspond to giving rise to six different constructions that can characterize
any morphological verb.

The author of ''D'où vient l'ambigüité de ‘La route s'élargit’?'' addresses
the question of ambiguity of the verb ''s'élargir'' (''to widen, to broaden
out, to expand'') in two most problematic cases without considering all
possible static interpretations, but keeping in mind the notion of orientation
as well as distinguishing between static interpretation and event
interpretation. At the end of the analysis the author denies the possibility
of ambiguity, which is not a lexical issue, since in both interpretations the
meaning of ''s'élargir'' is the same. The only existing difference has to do
with the frame in which a statement appears, in accordance with discourse or
situational context.

Section ''Grammaire et sémantique''

The article ''Le conditionnel et l'expression verbo-temporelle de
l'ultériorité dans le passé : de la subjectivité à l'objectivité'' tackles the
phenomena of subjective and objective subsequences in the past (''ultériorité
subjective et objective dans le passé''). The author succeeds in tracing the
path of grammaticalization of Conditional Mood and in showing in this way how
French has developed the expression of objective subsequence in the past: both
periphrastically (''devait / allait + inf.'') and morphologically (by means of
future and conditional forms).

In ''Bossuet, Coluche et Cicéron même combat pour mettre un bonnet rouge aux
relatives?'' it is shown that finite verbal constructions could be used either
in a simple way or in combination with other structures in order to build a
reference mark from which one would be able to define a property of a nominal
head referent in a construction specific to French, in particular in the
''Coluche Construction'' (appearing in Coluche's humour). The author uses
attested examples to show that the referents under study have generic value.

''Approche énonciative, structure informationnelle et genre discursif : les
connecteurs ‘car / parce que / puisque’ au banc d'essai'' is about morphemes
that mark a causal relation. The objective of this contribution is to point at
certain problems when addressing the issue of exhaustive description of the
communicative functioning of causal connectors ''car'', ''parce que'' et
''puisque'' (''because, because” and “since''). The author makes an
observation that the conciliation between enunciative, informational and
cognitive descriptions seems to be particularly challenging, and then he
concludes the study by outlining the possibilities for future research.

''Georges, lui, mérite l'honneur. Distinction par anaphore focalisateur'' is a
study whose purpose is to show that the focalizing effect is explained through
a combination of several phenomena interacting with each other. After having
characterized and defined the linguistic phenomena involved such as
anaphoricity, deixis, and focalization, the author considers the value and the
prosody of the post-subject position occupied by the pronoun ''lui''
(''him/her'') in the example under study.

In the article ''Qu'est-ce que ‘est-ce que’? Une ou deux formes
interrogatives?'' the question of grammatical complexity of French
interrogative statements is addressed, more specifically the coexistence of
two forms of morphosyntactic marking: subject inversion and expressions with
''est-ce que''. The analysis leads the author to conclude that ''est-ce que''
is an adverbial expression produced by means of grammaticalization of the
interrogative form ''C'est que P''.

''Commentaires sporadiques sur le ‘pouvoir’ de Kleiber'' constitutes a
continuation of Kleiber's study (from 30 years ago) on sporadic aspect marked
by the verb ''pouvoir'' (''can'') that introduces an occasional quantification
of events or of properties in certain cases of its usage. The objective of
this study is to explain why a speaker can choose to resort to a complex
sporadic form rather than to an explicitly quantified form. After analyzing a
number of examples the author concludes that sporadic statements carry radical
modal information and communicate quantification as an inference based on this
type of information.

In ''Retour au Chez Georges et sa cuisine proverbiale'' the author shows that
the notions of denomination and of generic phrase provide two categories to
which proverbs can be compared in order to elucidate their main semantic and
formal properties. However, these common features do not justify the creation
of a new hybrid category of the generic proverbial denomination-phrase. An
attempt has been made to select the defining semantic properties of the
proverbial category, representing a proverb as a self-referential autonomous
generic auto-valid assertion, which in turn generates questions for future

The article ''Deux temps à aspect variable : le présent et l'imparfait'' is a
study of two tenses, present and imperfect, which generally express the
imperfective aspect, but can also realize the perfective aspect in a number of
grammatical contexts. The goal is to account for this variation using the
notion of interpretation by default and the notion of deviant interpretation.
Drawing on a number of examples the author illustrates how the aspectual value
(either perfective or imperfective) of a sentence is determined (in most
cases) by means of the mode of action or of discourse relations.

Section ''Syntaxe''

In the article ''Contraintes d'enchâssement et enchâsseurs-tampons'' it is
shown how different types of constituents (words, phrases or what the author
refers to as ‘sub-sentences’ ''sous-phrases'') are integrated into a sentence.
The author aims at explicating the differences in the internal structure
between words and phrases, on the one hand, and sub-sentences, on the other.
It is also discussed how different grammatical contexts condition the use of
one or the other type of embedders and what constraints limit variation in the
ways of embedding.

''Présuppositions et ancrages extensionnels/intensionnels'' represents an
examination of contrasts in values of truth in subjunctive and indicative
object clauses. One of the conclusions made is as follows: subjunctive verbal
morphology triggers an intensional anchoring of object clauses, whereas the
indicative morphology of verbs causes an extensional anchoring. Intensional
anchoring properties are applied to subjunctive object clauses, including the
verbal expression ''se faire V''. Subjunctive morphology of verbs is seen as a
strategy that appeals to presuppositional calculations shared by a set of
diverse grammatical mechanisms.

Section ''Référence et varia''

''La nomination monoréférentielle'' focuses on denominations of particular
referential objects such as the titles of paintings. A number of singular and
unique objects that do not enter into any category of words have been
discovered. Based on a thorough analysis of specific properties of pictorial
denominations and of theoretically related aspects, the author is led to
rethink the production of monoreferential denominations in a larger framework
called ''signaletic'' (''signalétique''). On page 337 of this article an
original schema showing the placement of signaletics can be found. The
signaletics are placed in a general field of denominations. The author argues
that pictorial denominations present not only specific properties that
characterize them, but that they offer an original pragmatic model of
monoreferential nomination.

The article ''À propos du statut théorique du nom propre (référentiel) :
retour (incontournable) à Mill?'' is about the issues related to the
definition, status and referential usage of proper nouns.
A distinction between different types of usage conditioned by the nature and
the functioning of proper nouns is made, followed by discussion about two
''paradigmatic'' (p. 342) options and advantages and disadvantages of Frege's
(1971) and Kripke's (1972) approaches. In the final part of the article the
merits of Mill's (1866) theoretical analysis of meaning and reference are

The purpose of the article ''Si le mètre m'était compté : sur la notion
fallacieuse de mesure du vers'' is to show that the notion of measure of a
verse is not fitting for the analysis called ''metric''. The author proposes
that the rhythmic impression, corresponding to what is called ''measure'' of a
settenario (''heptasyllabe'') or of an octosyllable, be viewed not as a
quantity (as such), but as a quality. In the complex explanation that follows
it is shown that: 1) it is not only the verses that one needs to measure, and
2) the number determining the rhythm of an expression is not necessarily the
number of its vowels.

''Le mot ''sire'' en ancien français et autres glanures'' is an article that
follows up on Kleiber (1978). It analyzes the usage (and more specifically,
the forms of ancient declensions, the usage in context, etc.) of the lexeme
''sire'' / ''seignor'' in ancient French by consulting grammars, dictionaries
and some texts. The author concludes that the lexeme in question evolved
significantly in terms of its application. Nowadays three words ''sire'',
''seigneur'' et ''sieur'' still coexist, but generally without their vocative
usage. And the derived word ''monsieur'' has had the strongest history of use.

The second to last article ''Nom de lieu, nom de personne, nom de nom -- le
cas de Guermantes'' is a reflection about the use of the noun ''Guermantes''
made by Marcel Proust in ''À la recherche du temps perdu and Contre
Sainte-Beuve''. In this investigation the author tries to learn if the “Npr
Guermantes” refers to a place (a toponym) or to one or many person(s) (an
anthroponym), if the referent is of mundane or metalinguistic type, and if the
collective anthroponym (that can be quantified and modified as a common noun)
is used in the vocative, generic or qualitative meaning. The results of the
study show that the noun in question is actually used in all possible

Finally, the article ''La sémantique, une ancienne science humaniste?
Extrapolations à partir de Georges Kleiber'' represents a reflection that
closes the volume. The author's goal is to account for Kleiber's contributions
to modern semantics, based mainly on his principal works. His studies can be
divided into three main areas: referentiality, characterization and
intersubjective stability of meaning. The author highlights Kleiber's
remarkable quality in dealing with his linguist colleagues: he treated
everyone with respect and loyalty, were they his adversaries or not.


The volume under review is well structured and the articles generally fit well
into their respective sections. Some of the articles represent follow-up
studies of the work initialized or touched upon by Kleiber in varying
subfields of semantics. All in all, this book is a valuable collection of
articles, which contain impressive ideas as well as solutions to numerous
problems that have to do with deconstruction of meaning and explication of
reference on varying grammatical constructions and types of words.
Typographical errors are rare (e.g., on p. 305 ''extensionels'' in the title
should be ''extensionnels''). Finally, since semantics is one of the modules
of grammar of any given language, it would be conceptually better, in our
view, to name Section 2 as ''Sémantique des structures grammaticales'' instead
of ''Grammaire et sémantique''.

A few words need to be said about the quality of the articles. There is no
doubt that all of them have something interesting to offer. However, while the
majority of contributions are of high quality (and it is understandable that
individual writing styles may differ to some extent), there are still some
articles whose quality particularly in terms of format could be improved. For
example, the introductory note is hard to read, largely due to the fact that
its sentences are bulky and the ideas expressed by the authors are somewhat
hard to follow, partially because they are presented in a literary rather than
scientific form. In some articles a conclusion or some kind of conclusive
remarks recapitulating the import of the study are missing. This is the case
for the article ''Noms d'idéalités libres et noms d'idéalités liées'' (p. 59).
It is always very helpful for a reader to see two main elements: 1) what kind
of contribution has been made, or what the results of the study are telling us
(the writer's interpretations), and 2) what the prospects are for future
research based on the findings of the current research. We also need to
mention the article ''Contraintes d'enchâssement et enchâsseurs-tampons'' (p.
287), which has no clear objectives or questions to be answered, nor any kind
of conclusive remarks, although the descriptions offered have a certain level
of analytical value. Therefore, it is almost impossible to catch the import or
the purpose of this article. It impresses the reader as something that has
been written in quite a haphazard way.

In conclusion, we recommend this volume to those who specialize in textual and
lexical semantics as well as in semantics in general, since it represents a
solid basis to build on in one's future research endeavors.


Frege, Gottlob. 1971. Écrits logiques et philosophiques, Traduction et
introduction de Claude Imbert, Paris, Seuil.

Kleiber, Georges. 1978. Le mot ''ire'' en ancien français (XIe - XIIIe
siècles) -- Essai d'analyse sémantique, Paris, Klincksieck.

Kripke, Saul. 1972. Naming and Necessity, in Davidson, D. and Harman G.
(eds.). Semantics of natural language, Dordrecht / Boston, Reidel, 253-355.

Mill, John Stuart. 1866. Système de logique déductive et inductive. Exposé des
principes de la preuve et des méthodes de recherche scientifique, Paris,


Ross Bilous is a Sessional Assistant Professor of French Linguistics at York
University. His research interests include: theoretical linguistics and
linguistic typology, French morphosyntax, (morpho)syntax-semantics interface,
issues related to transitive relation, issues of bilingualism,
teaching/learning of French as a second language.
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