Volume 27, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0929-998X
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9765
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This paper studies the synchronic uses and diachronic evolution of a small set of so-called “response particles” in French, viz. the contemporary forms ‘yes’, ‘yes’, and ‘no’, and their historical sources, as well as a by now largely obsolete fourth particle ‘no’. Among current models of response particle usage, the leading syntactic model is argued to be fundamentally flawed, while the leading semantic model reveals itself incapable of providing an empirically accurate account of the present-day uses of the French particles. Instead, (historical) pragmatics is shown to constitute an indispensable component of such an account. This is hypothesized to be true not just for French, but across languages. In addition, analysis of the French data throws (further) doubt on the explanatory power of the concept of synchronic functional paradigms.


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