LINGUIST List 5.1074

Sun 02 Oct 1994

Disc: French clitics

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  1. Pierre Larrivee, French clitics

Message 1: French clitics

Date: Wed, 28 Sep 94 11:22:31 EDFrench clitics
From: Pierre Larrivee <>
Subject: French clitics

Steven Schaufele in a posting on topicalization in French echoed the claim that
French is becoming pro-drop. He quotes two evidence for it; the dialectal (Fran
ce French) jocular "Tomberas? Tomberas pas" and, of more interest, the example
"Il t'a vu (le docteur)?". The clitiks "Il" and "t'" are analyzed as morphemes,
in some approaches, and French is thus pro-drop. Linguists should however be
aware that this analysis, although it may capture generalizations in a
universa list framework, raises important problems. Take third person
nominative clitik "il". It has its own morphology (number (vs Ils), gender
(vs Elle) and case (vs Le (accusative) and Lui (dative?)). It can move around
(Il le dit/Le dit-il?). And, it is restricted to subject function. The only
good argument, it would seem, is the fact that some dislocations ("Il t'a vu
le docteur?") are not necessarily prosodically isolated - so it is assumed
that the dislocation is the functionnal (e.g. case endowed) NP. So, this
analysis is proposed mainly to maitain prijugis about the prosody of
dislocations. There is one further cost to this analysis. Dislocations in
general can be put pretty much anywhere in a sentence ("(Le enfants) je les
ai vus (les enfants) qui foutaient le camp (les enfants)"); so French would
then not only be pro-drop but also non-configurational!!! I invite linguists
to ponder seriously on such a proposal, and i hope those few elements here
will help them make an enlightened choice.

Pierre Larrivee
Departement de langues et linguistique, Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada,
G1K 7P4
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