Grammaticalisation: Le cas des prépositions locatives
  • ISSN 0378-4169
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9927
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In Modern French, the preposition à has a large number of uses, in contrast to the Latin prepositions ad, ab and apud from which it derives. They can be classified into seven groups: complements expressing (1) place (where?), (2) time (when?), (3) manner, cause or instrument (how?); non locative complements commutating with (5) y or (6) lui, and finally (7) complements expressing possession. This evolution has been described lately as a result of a grammaticalization process, whereby the non locative uses emerged from the locative meaning by an increasing degree of abstraction. First, we show how a comparison with synchronic Romance data (Italian and Spanish), and with diachronic data from Old French, allows us to refine the description of the overall grammaticalization process which involves French à. Moreover, we analyze less well known empirical data concerning lexical and morphosyntactic restrictions on present-day uses of French à. Both kinds of data account for our hypothesis : we argue in particular that the preposition’s main function is no longer that of expressing locative meaning (or adverbial meaning in general) but its use as a mere syntactic complementizer. Furthermore, we show that the preposition is subject not only to a grammaticalization process, but also to a lexicalization process. That the latter also mainly holds for the adverbial uses of à provides evidence for the same hypothesis, viz. the core uses of Modern French à can be described as the result of a ‘repositioning’ of the preposition from the adverbial domain into the structural domain of the indirect object.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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