LINGUIST List 24.2684

Tue Jul 02 2013

Review: Language Acq.; Semantics; Text/Corpus Ling.: Vanderbauwhede (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 15-Apr-2013
From: Jan Schroten <>
Subject: Le Déterminant Démonstratif en Français et en Néerlandais
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Gudrun VanderbauwhedeTITLE: Le Déterminant Démonstratif en Français et en NéerlandaisSUBTITLE: Théorie, description, acquisitionSERIES TITLE: Sciences pour la communication - Volume 102PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AGYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Jan Schroten, Universiteit Utrecht

SUMMARYThis is a corpus-based study on the use of the French demonstrativedeterminers ‘ce’ / ‘cet’ / ‘cette’ / ‘ces’ + Noun (+ proximate ‘-ci’ ordistal ‘-là’) and the Dutch demonstrative determiners: proximate ‘deze’ /‘dit’ and distal ‘die’ / ‘dat’. The uses of demonstrative Noun Phrases, thatis, Noun Phrases with a demonstrative determiner, are analyzed and classifiedaccording to semantic and discourse properties. The differences between Frenchand Dutch in the uses and properties of demonstrative Noun Phrases are thecentral part of this study. These are compared in corpora of the same size:for each language, one independent corpus, based on texts about comparabletopics in the same style, one corpus based on translated texts, and anotherbased on texts produced by L-2 learners: native speakers of French acquiringDutch and native speakers of Dutch acquiring French.

The first part of the study presents in detail previous research ondemonstrative Noun Phrases in French and in Dutch, and a comparison of theproperties of French and Dutch demonstrative Noun Phrases. The authorcarefully describes the model used for analysis. Thus, there is extensive anddetailed treatment of differences and similarities in existing analyses andapproaches. Then, the “synthetic model” that has been chosen and elaborated ispresented in great detail. This basically referential model is used in theanalysis of the French and Dutch corpora taken into account. The approach isbased also on studies of English and linguistic manuals dealing with Englishdemonstrative Noun Phrases, with the proximate demonstrative determiner ‘this’/ ‘these’ and the non-proximate or distal demonstrative determiner ‘that’ /‘those’. The “synthetic model” is ultimately a classification of thereferential uses with respect to the situation in which they are used, whichdetermines the referential values of the demonstrative Noun Phrases.

Most of the description and evaluation of existing approaches todemonstratives in French and Dutch, with some attention to approaches based onthe study of English demonstratives, attempts to resolve mismatches interminology and theory-driven differences. The synthetic model proposedclarifies or resolves the difficulties found in existing studies and the partsdedicated to demonstratives in various manuals and textbooks.

There has been much more previous work on French than on Dutch. The well-knownfact that there are differences in the use of demonstrative NPs in French andin Dutch raises the question which different uses are found in both languagesand how they can be accounted for. The basic differences treated here arebased on referential values in different situations, such as deictic use (thatis, giving reference by pointing to the context of communication), anaphoricuse (that is, giving reference by taking an antecedent), memorial use (thatis, giving reference to things in the world that the speaker and addresseehave in common in memory), and nine other, less central uses stated anddefined on pp. 122-123. Demonstrative determiners turn out to be definite,which raises the question of differences between them and the definite articleor other definite determiners.

The deictic point not treated in this study is that the proximate vs. distalinterpretation of the demonstrative pronouns ‘ceci’ / ‘celà’ in French,usually only ‘ce’ / ‘cet’ / ‘cette’ / ‘ces’, with “omission” of proximate‘ci’ and distal ‘là’ in the use of the demonstrative determiner, is differentfrom the proximate - distal opposition in proximate ‘deze’ / ‘dit’ and distal‘die’ / ‘dat’ found in Dutch, which cannot be “omitted”.

In previous work, much attention has been given to the observations on theproperties of demonstrative Noun Phrases which have coreferential andanaphoric or cataphoric interpretation in appropriate contexts. In this work,the basic referential uses that have been taken into account are: (i)situational use; (ii) anaphoric use; (iii) deictic use in discourse; (iv)memorial use based on “common memory” shared by the speaker and theaddressee(s).

As noted above, the analysis is based on the analysis of three types ofcorpora. The first type consists of two parallel contrastive corpora, based ontranslations. French texts that have been translated to Dutch produce twoparallel corpora: the “original” French corpus, which is the source of theDutch “translation corpus”. Dutch texts that have been translated to Frenchare the basis of an “original” Dutch corpus, which is the source of the French“translation corpus”. In translation, a Dutch demonstrative determiner issometimes found as a definite article in French, and the French demonstrativedeterminer in the “original” is a definite article in the Dutch translation.For example, French “ces dernières années” (= these last years) corresponds to“de laatste jaren” (= the last years) in Dutch, as shown on p. 9 (7). Andthere are more differences, like choosing a quite different type of determineror construction.

The second type includes a “monolingual” French corpus and a “monolingual”Dutch corpus. The corpora are not related, but are comparable. The texts arecharacterized as 20% non-fictional, 20% journalistic, 10% informative, 25%written debates, 25% fictional texts. The use of demonstrative NPs is given innumbers and percentages. The overall number is higher in French -- 978 -- thanin Dutch -759. The percentage found in written debates is higher in Dutch thanin French: 37,29% vs. 25,26%. The referential use is analyzed and given inquantitative detail.

The third type is “acquisitional”: a corpus of Dutch as written in exercisesby people with French as mother tongue learning Dutch and a corpus of Frenchas written by people with Dutch as mother tongue learning French. Two stepsare taken in the analysis of these acquisitional corpora. The first is thepresentation of the data, including the number of demonstrative Noun Phrasesin each corpus and the subtypes as given in the model and their use innumbers. The second step is the analysis of the errors / mistakes that thelearners have made. The morphological errors have been easy to find. Theincorrect use of ‘ci’ / ‘ça’ and other aberrant or incorrect uses requirenative speaker judgments and this has been done.

EVALUATIONThe descriptive part of this book, based on studies of the use and meaning ofdemonstratives in French and in Dutch, is extensive and detailed, due to theconsiderable number of studies on various aspects of French demonstrativesthat have been published. A more direct presentation of the “synthetic model”the author adopts would have made it possible to account for the differencesacross previous research without spending time on various unimportant details.For example, the history of the demonstratives is not at stake, but isnonetheless discussed in some parts of the introductory chapters.

A very clear explanation is given of the use of the corpora and theircontents, the data that have been used and the aspects that have beeninvestigated. The reader can understand exactly what has been hypothesized,analyzed and investigated. The very clear facts are separated from thefuzzier aspects shown and discussed in the analysis.

As far as possible, the use of demonstrative Noun Phrases by native speakershas been shown for French and Dutch in a clear and comparable fashion.Differences between original texts and their translations are presented in aclear fashion in both directions. The use of demonstratives by DutchL2-learners of French and by French L2-learners of Dutch found in two corporaare analyzed in useful detail. The errors in these acquisition texts areanalyzed and discussed with much clarity.

In short, the investigation is presented in a useful way, the discussion ofthe data is clear, and the conclusions are readily understandable. The study’sweak point is that the number of demonstrative Noun Phrases that have beenfound is not very high, making percentages of different uses not veryconvincing numerically.

Given the fact that the corpora are built exclusively on written texts, thetreatment is valid for written French and Dutch, and the study of spoken textsremains to be done. This is possibly part of the reason why emotive value inthe use of demonstratives, which is indicated but not elaborated on, has beengiven little attention.

Overall, this is a valuable study. The analysis of the corpora that have beenused stresses the point that comparison of languages as to the use ofdemonstratives should take into account non-use as well.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERJan Schroten is an emeritus associate professor, doing research at UiL-OTS ofUtrecht University. He took his Ph.D. from Utrecht University and taughtSpanish linguistics at the same university. His publications have dealt withsyntactic, morphological and lexical properties of Spanish, usually takinginto account related phenomena in other Romance languages and in Germaniclanguages, in the context of generative linguistics.

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