Impersonals and other Agent Defocusing Constructions in French

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This book investigates French impersonals as a functional category. Any structure whose agent is defocused and whose predicate describes a situation stable enough to be generally available should be considered impersonal. In addition to <i>il</i> impersonals, the category also includes demonstrative (<i>ce/ça</i>), middle (<i>se</i>), and indefinite (<i>on</i>) structures. These different forms belong to the same functional category because they systematically code general and predictable events that cannot be imputed to a specific cause. Because generality and predictability are gradual notions, impersonals can only be identified within the context of specific constructional islands which therefore constitute the organizing principle of the French impersonal category.<br />Conducted in Cognitive Grammar, the analysis follows the functional tradition in expanding the scope of French impersonals beyond <i>il</i> constructions, but also proposes a way of precisely delineating the category. This book will be of interest to anyone interested in impersonal constructions and French linguistics.

Subjects: Theoretical linguistics; Romance linguistics; Semantics; Cognition and language; Syntax

  • Affiliations: 1: Rice University

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