On the spatial meaning of <i>contre</i> in French

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In its spatial use, the preposition <i>contre </i>(‘against’) applies to nouns that denote entities of the physical world, the notions of “tension” and “force and counterforce” proving to be central. We show that the degrees of intensity expressed by <i>contre </i>depend on: (1) the nature of the “figure” and “ground” and their role as “agonist” (focal force entity) or “antagonist” (opposed force entity); (2) the nature of the force itself (static or dynamic). On the basis of these factors, three schemata are presented, according to the origin of force exertion: in the figure, in the ground or in both sides. But in situations where visual effects play a decisive role, the tension carried out by “force and counterforce” disappears to adapt <i>contre </i>to mere proximity or contrast.


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