<i>É vida, olha…</i>: Imperatives as discourse markers and grammaticalization paths in Romance
In this paper, we investigate the evolution from imperatives to discourse markers in Romance, with a corpus-based approach. We focus on the case of items coming from verbs meaning ‘to look’, in a semasiological perspective: Spanish and Catalan <i>mira</i>, Portuguese <i>olha</i>, Italian <i>guarda</i>, French <i>regarde</i>, Romanian <i>uite</i>. We show that they all share many uses, among which turn-taking, introduction of reported speech, hesitation phenomenon, topic-shifting and modalization, except for French <i>regarde</i>. We then establish (against Waltereit, 2002) that the development of these uses is the result of a process of grammaticalization, from lexical, clause-internal uses to uses as discourse markers, in a cline which tends to confirm the predictions made by Brinton and Traugott (2005). The lesser grammaticalization of French <i>regarde</i> could seem unimportant, but is in apparent contradiction with the now well-established fact that French is, of all Romance languages, the most grammaticalized. We try, in conclusion, to address this paradox: is French not so grammaticalized after all, or is this just an exception to the rule?