The coding of the subject–object distinction from Latin to Modern French

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In order to understand and decode the message of a sentence, it is necessary to understand its basic argument structure. This implies e.g. that one must be able to identify the subject and distinguish this from the other elements of the sentence, in particular from the direct object. As linguistic patterns provide the speakers or writers with different types of construction with more or less transparency, it should be possible to identify the linguistic clues ensuring communication; e.g. the clues helping to distinguish the subject and the object. This distinction is in fact one of the crucial distinctions in syntax, and I will focus only on that distinction. I want to consider the following three factors, belonging to different grammatical levels, which may help to identify the elements of the sentence: the organising power of verbal valency: the nominal and verbal inflection and the word order. It will be shown that these factors cooperate in order to facilitate the identification of the subject and the direct object.


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