French Syntax in Contrast
  • ISSN 0378-4169
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9927
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The French spatial preposition sur (‘on’) has recently developed new spatial usages. It has evolved from expressing a spatial configuration of superposition to also expressing extent and even a location which is merely relational. The aim of our study is to provide evidence for the hypothesis of the grammaticalization of sur. This task is carried out by comparing these new spatial usages of sur with their Dutch translations. Eighteen attestated cases of sur were selected from a unilingual French corpus, which were then translated by ten native speakers of Dutch. The analysis of these translations showed, first of all, that the new uses of sur are rendered by a wide range of Dutch prepositions. Second, when expressing a location which is merely relational, i.e. when sur is used as a synonym for à (‘to’), the only translation proposed by the native speakers of Dutch is in (‘in’). It comes as no surprise that this preposition is also the most frequent translation of à, which is the French desemantized preposition par excellence.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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