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Academic Paper


Title: Between demonstrative and definite: A grammar competition model of the evolution of French l-determiners
Author: Alexandra Simonenko
Author: Anne Carlier
Author: Regine Eckardt
Author: Dag Haug
Author: Igor Yanovich
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics; Syntax; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: French
French, Old
Abstract: This article investigates the spread of the le/la/les-forms in the diachrony of French on the basis of large-scale corpora. It focuses on the issue of their “mixed” distribution viz. the observation that during a long period of time the le/la/les-forms in French do not pattern as either (anaphoric) demonstratives from which they originate (Late Latin ille), nor as (uniqueness-based) definites, which they end up becoming in Modern French. We model the phenomenon as a competition between two grammars which ascribe different Logical Forms to the l-forms and test model predictions in contexts which differ with respect to whether they satisfy the relevant conditions for either demonstrative or definite semantics. We also suggest that this change was part of a larger change involving the spread of presupposition triggers within noun phrases. We show that our model correctly predicts the relative rates of determiner spread in various contexts.

Cet article étudie le développement des formes le/la/les dans la diachronie du français sur la base de corpus à grande échelle, en examinant la question de leur distribution “mixte” : pendant une longue période les formes le/la/les en français ne se comportent ni comme les démonstratifs (anaphoriques) dont elles sont issues (ille du latin tardif), ni comme les déterminants définis (marqueurs d'unicité) qu'elles finissent par devenir en français moderne. Nous modélisons ce phénomène de “distribution mixte” comme une compétition entre deux grammaires qui assignent des formes logiques distinctes aux formes en l- et nous testons les prédictions de ce modèle tour à tour dans des contextes qui satisfont aux conditions d'emploi des démonstratifs, d'une part, et à celles des déterminants définis, d'autre part. Nous suggérons que ce changement s'inscrit dans une évolution plus globale impliquant l’émergence des marqueurs de présupposition d'existence au sein des syntagme nominaux. Nous montrons que notre modèle prédit correctement les différences quant au rythme de développement des déterminants en l- en fonction du type de contexte.

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This article appears IN Canadian Journal of Linguistics Vol. 65, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .

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