LINGUIST List 5.436

Mon 18 Apr 1994

Disc: Generics

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Directory

  1. Julie Auger, Generic "c,a" in Colloquial French
  2. MARC PICARD, ca (aka c,a)
  3. Jacques Guy, Re: 5.424 Generics : French "c,a"
  4. Bert Peeters, Re: 5.424 Generics

Message 1: Generic "c,a" in Colloquial French

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 1994 11:49:49 Generic "c,a" in Colloquial French
From: Julie Auger <augerlinc.cis.upenn.edu>
Subject: Generic "c,a" in Colloquial French

 I am quite pleased that my brief comment on "c,a" as a generic
marker has generated so much discussion. I would like to respond
to some of these comments. For convenience, I repeat here the two
sentences which appeared in the original posting:

(1) Les hommes c,a parle tout le temps
 the men that talks all the time

(2) Les hommes ils parlent tout le temps
 the men they talk all the time

 First, I'd like to thank Bert Peeters for the reference to
Ruwet's book (I already knew about Manoliu-Manea's article) and
Knud Lambrecht for reminding me of his own treatment of this
element. Ruwet's focus is on a different use of "c,a" than the
generic, but it is always important to keep the larger picture in
mind.

 As for the question which Lambrecht raises of whether it is
"c,a" which is generic or the construction in which it is used,
this is a difficult question. What is clear is that the choice of
"c,a" is crucial in forcing a generic interpretation.

 Adam Karpinski remarks that the sentence in (1) above looks
very much like a case of left-dislocation. This now forces us to
get into the hotly-debated issue of determining the status of
subject clitics in Colloquial French. I'll try to be brief in
summarizing my position in this debate.

 First, I fully agree with Morin 1982, Thibault 1983, Kayne
1983, and Zribi-Hertz 1993 that "c,a" belongs to the same paradigm
as the other subject markers "je, tu, il, elle, on, vous, ils"
(this is the paradigm for Quebec Colloquial French, where "on" has
replaced "nous" as a 1pl subject marker and where there is gener-
ally no gender distinction in 3pl). Evidence in support of this
position includes the fact that the preverbal form differs from the
syntactically-independent form: the preverbal form contains an
anterior [a], whereas the independent form contains a posterior "a"
(at least in Quebec Colloquial French, where the distinction
between anterior and posterior "a" is very clear). Indeed, the
behevior of "ca" in sequences like "ca parle" reminds us of the
behavior of "la`" in compound adverbs like "la`-dedans", "la`-haut",
etc. (i.e., anterior "a" in compounds and posterior "a" in indepen-
dent uses). Furthermore, syntactically speaking, "ca" shows up in
all the environments where other subject markers show up.

 Second, it has been argued by a number of people that con-
structions like (1) and (2) in Colloquial French represent cases of
clitic doubling of the type found in the Northern Italian dialects,
and not cases of left-dislocation (cf., e.g., Harris 1978, Lam-
brecht 1981, etc., Roberge 1986, etc., Matthews 1989, Ossipov
1990, Auger 1993, De Wind 1993, Zribi-Hertz 1993, to name only a
few), with the subject marker functioning as an inflectional
agreement marker on the verb and the doubled subject being the
actual subject. Some arguments in favor of this analysis concern
the fact that doubling with bare quantifiers is possible, thus
ruling out a dislocation analysis, the fact that subject markers
show up in subject relative clauses, and the fact that subject
markers must be repeated on each verb in VP-conjunction.

 Now, regarding Alexis Manaster-Ramer's comments. First, I am
not sure I understand what's pedantic. Second, he's right about the
fact that we know that "parle" in (1) above is singular because of
examples where the difference between singular and plural verb
forms is heard, as in his example

(3) Les hommes c,a boit/*boivent tout le temps
 the men that drinks/*drink all the time

but that doesn't prevent native speakers from knowing that "parle"
is singular in (1).

 Third, as for the example:

(4) Les hommes c,a parle quand c,a veut
 the men that speaks when that wants

it is perfectly grammatical in Quebec Colloquial French. That does
not prevent me, however, from considering that "c,a" has indeed
been reanalyzed, as argued above. In my opinion, Manaster-Ramer is
therefore absolutely right when he suggests that "c,a" has become
reanalyzed as a verbal prefix, just like the other subject markers.

--Julie Auger
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Message 2: ca (aka c,a)

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 1994 13:05:03 ca (aka c,a)
From: MARC PICARD <PICARDVax2.Concordia.CA>
Subject: ca (aka c,a)

 Alexis Manaster Ramer's sentence:
Les hommes, ca parle quand ca veut
is perfectly acceptable. Isn't this type of construction the same as that
found in English sentences like:
(1) Lippy linguists, now that's what I can't stand
(2) Flat tires, now that's really dangerous when it happens at night.
Marc Picard
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Message 3: Re: 5.424 Generics : French "c,a"

Date: Thu, 14 Apr 1994 07:32:22 Re: 5.424 Generics : French "c,a"
From: Jacques Guy <j.guytrl.oz.au>
Subject: Re: 5.424 Generics : French "c,a"

> From: Alexis_Manaster-RamerMTS.cc.Wayne.edu
> Subject: French generic c,a
>
> Since this is colloquial,
> we really need to have an example where the 3sg. and 3pl. are
> pronounced differently, e.g.,
>
> Les hommes, c,a boit (*boivent) tout le temps.
>
Singular, i.e. "les hommes, c,a boit". This is similar to "on"
used for "nous", e.g. "nous, on est des hommes et on boit
tout le temps."
>
> Also, a question regarding the "generic pronoun". I am
> not at all clear that c,a is a pronoun in these constructions.
> For example, although my French is piss-poor, I doubt you
> could say
>
> Les hommes, c,a parle quand c,a veut.
>
It is perfectly normal colloquial French. Eg.:

Les clebs, c,a le`ve la patte partout par ou` c,a passe. Or:
C,a le've la patte partout par ou` c,a passe, les clebs.

The same construction is found with the singular:

Un clebs, c,a etc.

(clebs = colloquial for "chien", from the Arabic kalb/kilaab)
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Message 4: Re: 5.424 Generics

Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 13:18:01 Re: 5.424 Generics
From: Bert Peeters <Bert.Peetersmodlang.utas.edu.au>
Subject: Re: 5.424 Generics

>Date: Tue, 12 Apr 94 10:07:28 EDT
>From: Alexis_Manaster-RamerMTS.cc.Wayne.edu
>
> Also, a question regarding the "generic pronoun". I am
> not at all clear that c,a is a pronoun in these constructions.
> For example, although my French is piss-poor, I doubt you
> could say
>
> Les hommes, c,a parle quand c,a veut.
>
> If this is correct, I wonder if this c,a has not become
>reanalyzed in some way.

The example does not strike me at all as being implausible. I would be
curious to know how native speakers judge it, but it sits alright with me
(although it is admittedly colloquial).
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