Deriving the readings of French être en train de

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French <i>&#234;tre en train de </i>(<i>&#234;etd, </i>lit. &#8216;be.inf in the midst of&#8217;), generally considered to be the French progressive, has a reading in which the speaker expresses a negative attitude toward the described event. However, not all readings have this expressive meaning. Curiously, the &#8220;neutral&#8221; reading is not always felicitous. We consider and reject possible analyses in which the expressive meaning arises due to Gricean inference or due to there being two lexical entries for <i>&#234;etd. </i>We propose that, like ordinary progressives (Portner, 1998), <i>&#234;etd </i>has a modal at-issue meaning with a circumstantial modal base and a stereotypical ordering source. In addition, we argue, it has a modal conventional implicature with either a stereotypical or a bouletic ordering source. In this way we account for the behavior of <i>&#234;etd</i>, and raise certain questions as to how conventional implicatures might be related to grammaticalization of aspect.


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