This book "asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology" and "defends traditional practices in historical linguistics while remaining open to new techniques, including computational methods" and "will appeal to readers interested in world history and world geography."
Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 14:50:05 +0100 From: Emmanuelle Labeau Subject: Modes de repérages temporels
Mellet, Sylvie and Marcel Vuillaume (2003) Modes de repérages temporels. Rodopi, Cahiers Chronos 11.
Emmanuelle Labeau, Aston University, Birmingham (UK)
The present volume gathers a number of papers presented at the Chronos conference held in Nice in 2000. As such, it covers a rather wide range of focuses and languages.
The first four papers focus on the study of verbal forms. Berthonneau and Kleiber pay attention to a subset of counterfactual imperfects (IMP) of the type 'un imparfait de plus ... et le train déraillait'. Despite sharing characteristics with other counterfactual IMP (value of a past conditional, no actual occurrence, reliance on an adverbial), this type possesses its own features. First, it is not supported by a temporal adverbial (although curiously, 'une minute plus tôt tu la voyais', is put in the category under study) and does not provoke an effect of immediacy. Then, it cannot receive an interpretation 'de rupture'. Their analysis of the use relies on the possibility to paraphrase the durative adverbial by a subordinate in si, the possibility of linking the adverbial and the IMP by an et, the impossibility to use the passé simple or the passé composé in such turn of phrase and the invalidity of the factual interpretation if the adverbial is postponed. They conclude that counterfactuality derives neither from the IMP or the complement but spans over the whole construction, the role of the adverbial being to indicate a shortening or a lengthening of the situation.
Vet questions the meronimic interpretation provided by Berthonneau and Kleiber for sentences such as sentence 1 in PS, sentence 2 in IMP. He suggests that the sentence in the PS creates a context and that the sentence in the IMP specifies the nature or the content of one of the contextual elements. Christol describes the evolution of the Vedic injunctive and he suggests that the form underwent a loss of meaning, as shown by its survival with elements such as the negation that carries the meaning, before disappearing. In so doing, he tackles some more general linguistic concepts such the difficulty of reconstructing forms, the separate evolution of a concept and its representations (the concept of future existed in Latin but the form has not survived im Modern French for e.g.), the danger of seeing old languages as primitive. Montaut tests on Modern Hindi the assumption that the varied values of a form still relate, despite diachronic evolution to a common description. She studies two atypical forms without personal endings: the simple past and the counterfactual.
The second general topic is the role of discursive elements. Bras, Le Draoulec and Vieu examine the role of puis in discourse interpretation of sentences in the IMP. On the basis of 1000 examples from Frantext, they identify three categories: (1) P1- IMP puis P2- PS, (b) P1-PS puis P2 - IMP where most IMP receive a narrative interpretation and (c) P1-IMP puis P2 -IMP which exemplify iteration on a couple of events. Bres challenges the allocation of the feature [+ progressive] to the PS on the basis of isolated uses and non progressive interpretation by French speakers. He suggests that the aspect-temporal profile of the PS (global aspect + ascendance from past to present) suffice to justify the use in progressive contexts. Vetters comes to similar conclusions: linearity is a side effect of the global aspect of the PS while global interpretation of IMP narrative do not imply that that tense possesses a global aspect. Laurendeau explores the link between temporality and causality. He uses an oral corpus of québecois French to highlight features that make interpret a chronological report as causal. Meyer studies temporality in cartoons. He first offers a critical overview of prevalent models and suggests a referential approach where the sequential organization and the link between text and image play a role as significant as grammatical tense.
A third general topic concerns the lexical marking of temporal grounding. Amiot revisits hypotheses from her thesis on prefixes marking anteriority and applies them to post-, après and arrière. She shows differences first between elements that occur as prefixes only (e.g. pré) and those that have an autonomous existence (e.g. avant). Another distinction concerns the type of derived words: the can be 'endocentrique' if the meaning of the compound word can be deducted from the meaning of the components (e.g. oiseau-mouche) and 'exocentrique' if they cannot (e.g. rouge-gorge). She concludes that two prefixes are problematic: arrière is ambiguous at the grounding level and avant allows both endo- and exocentrique compounds. Paillard comes back on the definition of aspectual pairs in Russian that have been subject to much controversy, especially the semantic status of preverbs causing perfectivisation. He suggests that aspectual perfectives can be integrated in a general theory of perfectivisation, which challenges the problematic notion that preverbs would have lost their semantic value, Also he describes three types of interaction between preverbs and the verbal root. José analyzes the specificities of the sequence determiner + temporal noun + dernier / prochain in order to establish when it is possible. She then proceeds to identify the influence of that structure on the marking of the temporal complements. This leads to a more general question about the notion of marks in syntax, and particularly of temporal complements without preposition.
The last two papers focus on the expression of enunciative grounding through a process of grammaticalization. Creissels discusses on the basis of examples from languages belonging to different groups the evolution of a verb expressing a relation of likeness into a modal auxiliary. Finally, given the diverging definitions of the term 'auxiliary' in French, Kronning revisits the notion in order to distinguish natural subcategories
This volume spans a wide range of linguistic phenomena under the rather loose concept of 'repérage' that remains vague and that could have been defined in more depth in the short foreword. The four identified subdivisions are not all given the same weight in the book, which brings some unbalance. As a result, the book may come across as less focused than most volumes of the Cahiers Chronos series but this is probably inevitable for a volume based on selected papers from such a wide-encompassing conference as the "colloques Chronos".
However, this does not affect the interest of individual contributions and this collection of papers offers a glance at a variety of languages (even if more than half describe French) from different theoretical perspectives. It also mixes traditional theoretical descriptions and corpus-based analyses. Modes de repérages temporels provides therefore an interesting insight into current research and, as any book in the series, it is a useful reading for anyone interested in the manifold field of temporality.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Emmanuelle Labeau is a lecturer in French in the School of Languages and European Studies of Aston University (Birmingham). Her PhD dissertation (2002) is entitled "The Acquisition of French past tenses by tutored Anglophone advanced learners: is aspect enough?". She is more generally interested in time and aspect of the French past tenses, as shown by the two volumes she co-edited with Pierre Larrivée, "Les temps du passé français et leur enseignement" (Cahiers Chronos 9), and "Nouveaux développements de l'IMP" (forthcoming).