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Review of  Temporalité et attitude

Reviewer: Anca Gata
Book Title: Temporalité et attitude
Book Author: Arie Molendijk Co Vet
Publisher: Rodopi
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 16.2755

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Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2005 00:07:59 +0300 (EEST)
From: Anca Gata
Subject: Temporalité et attitude: Structuration du discours et
expression de la modalité

EDITORS: Molendijk, Arie; Vet, Co
TITLE: Temporalité et attitude
SUBTITLE: Structuration du discours et expression de la modalité
SERIES: Cahiers Chronos 12
YEAR: 2005

Anca Gata, Department of Applied Modern Languages, "Dunarea de
Jos" University, Galati, Romania


'Temporalité et attitude' brings together papers presented at the 5th
Chronos Colloquium, hosted by the University of Groningen in June
2002, collected in the 12th issue of the series "Cahiers Chronos". It
offers valuable contributions on discourse structure, modality,
temporality and aspect in French, English, Polish and Serbo-Croatian,
mainly from a pragmatic perspective. It is due to the work of the
research group "Modalities of Fiction" at l'Université du Littoral - Côte
d'Opale, France, in collaboration with the University of Groningen,
The Netherlands. This book consists of 15 papers preceded by the
editors' introduction, which is a summary of the articles. The first
seven articles are mainly concerned with modality, while the following
eight contributions concentrate on the relationship between
temporality and aspectuality. References follow each separate
contribution. References having no year mentioned are made to the
volume under review itself.


Andrée Borillo deals with the role of temporal adverbs as 'discourse
connectives' (see also Borillo 1998, 2002). Adverbs such as PUIS,
AUSSITÔT and SOUDAIN -- connective temporal Adverbs -- display a
temporal value and connect logically or argumentatively discourse
structures, to be distinguished from other connectives, which discard
their initial / original temporal meaning to acquire other properties. The
author claims that there are temporal Adverbs in French, which at the
same time preserve their temporal meaning and acquire a completely
new function, displayed at discourse level. According to the author,
such devices are about 20 in French, yet they are not seen as a
compact category. Nevertheless, their detached initial position in the
sentence pleads in favour of their identification as members of such a
compact class. Adverbs of successivity, of immediate successivity, of
sudden initiation of a process have several discursive characteristics
but they do not share them all in the same way, and can thus be
distinguished on the basis of these differences.

Anne LeDraoulec examines the behaviour of the French aspectual
and temporal adverbs AUSSITÔT and SOUDAIN as discourse
connectives. Both render the ideas of rapidity and / or immediateness
of a process, yet they have different meanings. According to the
author, their scope is different: AUSSITÔT points to the rapid
succession of two eventualities E1 and E2, while the use of SOUDAIN
does not necessarily rely on a temporal relationship between E1 and
E2. At first sight, the use of AUSSITÔT relies on the existence of a
relationship of temporal consecution, which seems to account for its
ability to logically connect E1 and E2 as a cause to its effect. This
appears impossible in the case of SOUDAIN, which seems to behave
in a different way. Nevertheless, the analysis of discourse samples
shows that their discourse connective features rely on the meaning of
temporal successivity, which can be taken as a very simple form of
consecution. Only when the context is favorable can AUSSITÔT work
as a logical connective, by explicating the relationship between a
cause and its presumed consequence. SOUDAIN explicates a logical
relationship between E1 and E2 in cases where E2 can and should be
interpreted as a simple consequence of or as a response to E1.

Jacques Moeschler's contribution 'Pragmatic connectives, directional
inferences and mental representations' starts from the idea that
pragmatic connectives should be dealt with as procedural devices.
Temporal and causal inferences are often verbalized by means of
such devices as French ET and PARCE QUE which act as
connectives. Their meaning is supposed to be instructional, or
computational, rather than descriptive or truth-conditional. The main
question addressed by the author is: which operations, or inferences,
on mental representations of eventualities do such connectives
contribute to? The conclusions derived from the analysis of ET as a
connective are the following: ET imposes grouping of mental
representations (MR), except for MRs of states; temporal order is a
characteristic of MRs of events only. PARCE QUE may have in its
scope MRs of events, states, and speech acts. These conclusions are
combined with the Directional Inferences Model (Moeschler 1998,
1999, 2000a, 2000b), the three main principles of which are the
following: A. Contextual information is stronger than linguistic
information; B. Procedural information is stronger than conceptual
information; C. Propositional procedural information is stronger than
morphological procedural information. The conclusion of the analysis
is that connectives encode both procedural and conceptual
information. The latter type allows discourse interpretation when the
conceptual relationship between events is not obvious. A connective is
strong if it has its own conceptual meaning. A strong connective has a
specific conceptual meaning, while a weak connective shares part of
its conceptual meaning with other connectives.

Patrick Caudal and Laurent Roussarie's article 'Semantics and
pragmatics of clauses introduced by Fr. SI' deals with the possible
interpretation of such clauses in close connection with the semantics
of the French conjunction SI combined with the semantics of the
structure in which SI is used and that of the contextual factors which
are characteristic of the semantics / pragmatics interface. The study is
in the framework of the Segmented Discourse Representation Theory
(Asher 1993), which allows a formal approach. Sentences of the
type 'SI p, q' allow a wide range of discourse relationships between 'SI
p' and 'q' which can be of the conditional or hypothetical type, but also
of the type represented by 'S'il est vrai que p, q'. The authors find that
in such structures, the clause introduced by SI is used to state a highly
probable world, providing a very plausible alternative to the co(n)text.
The conclusions of the study show that unified semantics of SI should
allow a pragmatic interpretation on several distinct levels, depending
on the semantics of the syntactic structure SI introduces or is
governed by. While the monosemantic interpretation of a grammatical
device is maintained, this approach allows a plurisemantic
interpretation on the pragmatic level, in which contextual effects are
aimed at: "the semantic value stays the same, while the interpretation
is different" (Caudal & Roussarie: 65).

'LE FAIT QUE ... and the Subjunctive problem: directionality of
grammaticalization' by Alexander Loengarov provides an analysis of
the use of moods after LE FAIT QUE introducing a subject clause in
French. The speaker chooses between the Indicative and the
Subjunctive in order to trigger different interpretations. In French, the
opposition between Indicative and Subjunctive in similar syntactic
contexts is used to make a distinction between a particular entity (the
Indicative has an individualising role) and any other entity belonging to
a set (the Subjunctive has a generalizing function). The Indicative
allows the speaker to state her certainty about the contents of the
clause. The corpus analysis referred to in the article shows that: 1.
clauses introduced by LE FAIT QUE + Subjunctive usually state
information the speaker and the hearer are already aware of; the
Indicative is used when the speaker finds it important to stress upon
the truth value of the subordinate clause or upon the objective nature
of the process referred to by the verb, that is when the informative
value of the subordinate clause is very important; 2. the frequency of
the Subjunctive is quite high after 1960, when the subordinate clause
has thematic position, while the Indicative is given preference when
the clause has rhematic position; 3. speakers tend to avoid the use of
the Subjunctive on account of its 'markedness' compared to the

Jean Claude Souesme analyses intonation phenomena characteristic
of questions comprising a modal verb in English. The analysis follows
Antoine Culioli's theory of utterance operations. Utterances taken into
discussion comprise one of the following modal verbs: MAY / CAN
(first person, for asking permission); WILL (second and third persons,
with 'radical value', for making an offer or an invitation, and first
person, especially for asking information or inquiring about some
possible or probable event); SHALL / SHOULD (first person, for
offering help or assistance -- usually to the hearer -- and for inquiring
about the chances of existence of some hypothesized action or state);
MUST (first person, with its 'radical value', for inquiring about the
necessity of an action to be performed by the speaker). Intonation of
such questions is different, being determined by the preconceived
idea ('le préconstruit') the speaker has of the situation represented in
the utterance. The concepts of utterance quantitative delimitation
(spatio-temporal context) and qualitative delimitation (the speaker's
subjective representation) are used throughout the analysis. The
author claims that the level of adequacy between the two is the main
factor determining falling or rising intonation of questions introduced
by a modal verb in English. The opposition between falling and rising
intonation generally conforms to the dichotomy established between
(almost) certainty of question validation by the hearer and doubt about
question validation on the part of the hearer.

Merete Birkelund's study on 'Negation and Modality' in French
focuses on expressions of deontic modality. One objective is to
interpret choices made by authors of texts of the type of contracts.
The second aim is to identify reasons for which such authors show
less preference for DEVOIR than for the French present and simple
future tenses, as well as for POUVOIR. According to the author, texts
of the contractual type are performative; the main types of speech
acts which characterize them are directives and commissives.
Therefore, the modal value that can be assigned to them is deontic
and centered upon the existence of some eventuality in the future.
Some of the important findings for the study of "contractual texts" in
French are:
1. the main linguistic devices used to render contractual obligations
are DEVOIR (in the affirmative or negative) and POUVOIR (in the
negative), and the present and the simple future tenses;
2. these do not yield synonymous meanings and interpretations;
3. the present tense states an obvious general rule;
4. the simple future states a rule to be obeyed to in the contractual
5. POUVOIR in the negative blocks a particular action from being
performed in the contractual world;
6. POUVOIR in the negative is given preference compared to DEVOIR
either in the negative or in the affirmative.

For Patrick Caudal and Carl Vetters, tenses are speech act functions;
this explains the possibility of a tense to yield multiple meanings and
interpretations at the level of discourse. This idea allows a unified
treatment of verbal forms such as the French conditional, future
and 'imperfect'. The illocutionary meaning of the 'imperfect' is
underspecified and is not associated in itself with an assertive since it
does not always imply commitment to the truthfulness of the
propositional content. It is undetermined with respect to transitionality,
it has a non-actual character and it is used as a background tense.
The future is of a 'transparent' nature from the aspectual point of view;
it gives no indication on transitionality and shows that an event, seen
as a speech act referent, is subsequent to another speech act
referent, which is contextually determined. In this light, the French
conditional brings together a consecution operator (of both temporal
and modal nature) and an internal-neutral aspectual viewpoint
operator. The 'imperfect' semantics is associated to it since the idea of
non-actuality is revealed in its interpretations either as a morpheme of
the past (a 'future in the past') or as a morpheme of fictitious (unreal)

In her article, 'ÊTRE + past participle with a Resultative Meaning in the
French Verbal System', Véronique Lagae discusses the two different
problematic perspectives usually adopted in research on this structure
which can stand either for a passive or for a 'passé composé': 1. the
aspectual interpretation; 2. the resultative interpretation, in which
ÊTRE is not considered an auxiliary but a copula and the past
participle is seen as an adjective (a unified treatment of such
structures is provided by Evrard 2002, in which ÊTRE is treated as a
copula). Analysis of examples illustrative of various interpretations
reveals that the behaviour of the structure under discussion is
complex and has to be carefully examined in strict connexion with
telicity, (internal) argument structure and by comparison with other

Greta Komur considers the issue of the 'Transfer of verbal aspect to
noun in Polish' by focusing on a nominal category made up of
deverbals concurrencing <> the Infinitive. They have
nominal functions and are marked for case. One of their main features
dealt with in the article is that they can be also marked for the
imperfective and perfective values transferred on them from the verb
they are derived from. The analysis shows that only abstract nouns
maintain the opposition perfective / imperfective in a similar way to
verbs. Moreover, some verbal forms cannot carry both aspectual
values. The author introduces the following distinctions in the category
of deverbal nouns, which may have:
1. perfective value and concrete meaning;
2. imperfective value and concrete meaning;
3. perfective or imperfective value and abstract meaning.
These aspectual features also have a role in the use of prepositions,
which may select differently a perfective, an imperfective or both the
perfective and the imperfective values of a verbal noun.

Maria Antoniou examines the behaviour of the French 'passé
composé' by unifying all its interpretations under the aoristic
representation. In the author's view, its function is not to situate
processes in the past, but to seize the process as a whole from the
outside, the tense being thus able to refer equally to past, present and
future. According to the author, the 'passé composé' is an aspectual
marker of achievement ('accompli'), being similar to the 'passé simple',
if one takes into account the way in which the process is represented
by the speaker.

In 'Resultative Present Perfect: aspectual markers', Bissera Iankova-
Gorgatchev deals with utterances where the English Present Perfect
tense is used with a resultative value. In intransitive structures in
which a state of the sentence subject is referred to, utterance
interpretation is mainly determined by the verb meaning, which can
also reinforce aspectual information (process achievement), as is the
case with telic verbs (GO ON, OPEN UP). In transitive structures with
a direct object quantified by A / AN or THE, the situation referred to by
the utterance is the result of an achieved process. One of the main
findings is that with atelic verbs (e.g. LEAVE) the only aspectual
marker is such an article, which yields the resultative interpretation of
the sentence.

'Recomposition of the aspectual-temporal system in Serbo-Croatian',
by Paul-Louis Thomas, approaches past tenses used in four different
translations of the New Testament into Bosnian, Croatian,
Montenegrin and Serbian. The comparative study reveals an evolution
of the verbal system with a relative decline of the 'imperfect' tense,
largely replaced in today's language by the perfect and the present,
which can both have an imperfective value. The 'imperfect' seems to
have slowly extinguished because of its different forms in various
dialects, while speakers coming from different regions and aiming at
understanding used common language and gave preference to the
less particular forms (koineisation, cf. Trudgill 1986). On the other
hand, the variable morphology of the 'imperfect', built for some verbs
on an infinitival root and for others on the present root, may be
assumed to have had a certain impact on its progressive decline.

Emmanuelle Labeau gives a counterargument to Robison's (1990)
and Andersen's (1986, 1991) theories on the primacy of aspect in
second language acquisition interlanguage, which state that verbal
morphemes of a target language are first used in learners'
interlanguage to indicate aspect, no matter of their function and
meaning in mother tongue. The author's experiment shows that in the
case of the French Indicative the hypothesis is confirmed, the present
tense being used instead of the 'imparfait'. But in most cases, as
revealed by the experiment, the acquisition of past tenses is
determined by the learners' ability to combine verbal aspect and
lexical aspect as the latter is rendered by various contextual elements,
such as direct and / or indirect object, aspectual lexical adverbials. At
the same time, it is not enough to consider that only aspect acquisition
is of use in learning past tenses in French. In the author's view, larger
corpora and various levels of acquisition should be studied in order to
give a sounder explanation of the issue.

Dany Amiot, Walter de Mulder and Nelly Flaux are concerned with the
particular behaviour of the structure of the type NOUS SOMMES
DIMANCHE. The French first person plural pronoun NOUS is allowed
while no other definite pronoun can be used in the same way. One
explanation could be the semantics of NOUS, since its reference is in
this case quite similar to that of the indefinite pronoun ON, which also
allowed in the structure. The verb cannot be used in the 'passé
simple', 'passé antérieur', 'futur antérieur', 'passé récent', 'futur
périphrastique', 'présent progressif', the Imperative, the only possible
verbal forms being those which provide the "inner" representation of
the situation. The only possible answer is the correct interpretation, on
the basis of syntactic and semantic observations, of the variable 'week
day', since DIMANCHE can be replaced by any other noun naming
one of the weekdays. The variable does not behave here as a
predicative element, its meaning being more easily associated
with 'situation in time', as if the variable were the expression of a place
(in time).


This books presents valuable insights into the pragmatics, semantics
and syntax of a variety of linguistic forms. The volume focuses on
verbal forms and verbal determination, including issues on aspect,
modality and tense. Accounting for these is one of the main goals of
discourse theories. The studies represented in this collection of
papers provide an excellent idea of the variety of approaches and
research questions at issue in tense and aspect linguistics nowadays.
Its merit is emphasized by the attention paid to several languages the
analyses are concerned with. This issue of "Cahiers Chronos", like the
previous ones, is of interest to anyone preoccupied with problems of
aspect, mood, tense and 'attitude'; attitude is seen as speaker
commitment to the propositional content of the utterance. The various
articles may present unequal interest for one and the same
researcher, yet the issue is extremely valuable for scholars who study
tense and aspect, modality, discourse in general. It is also thought
provoking by connecting all these concepts under the headings
of 'temporality' and 'attitude' since verbal forms usually known
as 'tenses' have multiple interpretations at discourse level. Of course
one of its main purposes is to present work in progress, hypotheses
and partial conclusions, this is why the issues dealt with still need
refining and discussion. The rich bibliography that is provided under
the references following each article is not to be neglected both by
linguists in general and by discourse analysts in particular.

One critical remark: I personally would have expected at least eleven
articles or at least those specially concerned with issues of aspect,
mood, tense or -- more generally -- one single article, to have taken
into consideration a Guillaumian perspective, illustrated if not by an
explanatory excerpt or a bibliographical reference, then by a critical
discussion and questioning. Which unfortunately means that one of
the greatest linguists and language philosophers still remains to be
discovered in spite of the (almost?) 20 volumes published so far,
consisting mainly of the conferences he used to give. I will not cite
myself any volume since they may be of unequal quality, but a
bibliography of Guillaume's work of interest on tense and modality can
be found at


Andersen, R. (1986). El desarollo de la morfología verbal en el
español como segundo idioma, in J. Meisel (ed.), Acquisição da
linguagem. Frankfurt: Klaus-Dieter Vervuert Verlag.

Andersen, R. (1991). Models, processes, principles and strategies:
second language acquisition inside and outside the classroom, in B.
van Patten & J. Lee (eds.), Second Language Acquisition Language
Learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Asher, N. (1993). Reference to Abstract Objects in Discourse.
Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Borillo, A. (1998). Les adverbes de référence temporelle comme
connecteurs temporels de discours, in S. Vogeleer et al., Temps et
discours: 131-145. Louvain-La-Neuve: Peeters.

Borillo, A. (2002). Les connecteurs temporels et la structuration du
discours, in H. L. Andersen et al., Macro-syntaxe et macro-
sémantique: 239-256. Berne: Peter Lang.

Évrard, I. (2002). Le temps, c'est de l'agent! ÊTRE + participe passé:
structure prédicative et référence aspecto-temporelle, Revue de
linguistique romane 66: 245-260.

Moeschler, J. (1998). Les relations entre événements et
l'interprétation des énoncés, in J. Moeschler et al., Le temps des
événements: Pragmatique de la référence temporelle: 293-321. Paris:

Moeschler, J. (1999). Linguistique et pragmatique cognitive, Le Gré
des Langues 15: 10-33.

Moeschler, J. (2000a). L'ordre temporel dans le discours: le modèle
des inférences directionnelles, Cahiers Chronos 6: 1-11.

Moeschler, J. (2000b). Le modèle des inférences directionnelles,
Cahiers de Linguistique Française 22: 57-100.

Robison, R. E. (1990). The primacy of aspect: Aspectual marking in
English interlanguage, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 12:

Trudgill, P. (1986). Dialects in contact. Oxford: Blackwell.


My research interests are in the fields of Discourse Analysis and
Pragmatics of Tense. My main concerns are with futurity and
prediction, and argumentation studies.