Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Causal Constructions with an Adjective in German and French: Typological and Pedagogical Considerations

Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Causal Constructions with an Adjective in German and French: Typological and Pedagogical Considerations

Article excerpt

Abstract: The study explores the variety of causal constructions with an adjective in French and German, as they are realized in French Pierre est rouge de colère ('Peter is red with anger'), German Maria ist gelb vor Eifersucht ('Maria is yellow with jealousy'), French Il est fou d'amour (lit. 'He is crazy of love'), or French Anne est morte de faim (lit. 'Anne is dead of hunger'). First, the different elements of the construction are described in detail in the framework of Goldberg's Construction Grammar model (1995 and 2006) and of different phraseological studies (Burger, 2007; Dobrovol'skij, 2011; Donalies, 2009; Fleischer, 1997; Gries, 2008). One and the same syntactic structure can convey different meanings (also a noncausal meaning) with different degrees of idiomaticity. In a contrastive approach, the study further highlights the typological differences in the causal construction between the Germanic language German and the Romance language French. These differences can lead to difficulties for French-speaking learners of German. The study proposes some teaching strategies to facilitate the learning of such causal constructions with an adjective. We advocate a teaching methodology which privileges holistic sequences or so-called 'chunks' (Handwerker, 2008) and which further focuses on the typological differences in the lexicalization patterns (e.g. different prepositions in German, different color terms,...), but also on conceptual metaphor and metonymy (Barcelona, 2001; Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Niemeier, 1998). This helps foreign learners to 'rethink for speaking' (Ellis and Cadierno, 2009: 123) in the foreign language.

Keywords: Causal Construction, Construction with Adjective, Variation, Idiomaticity Degree, Contrastive Study, German, French, Typological Differences, Pedagogical Issues, Chunks, Metaphor and Metonymy

Introduction

The present contrastive study explores constructions with an adjective in French and German, as illustrated in the following examples:

(1) Fr. Pierre est rouge de colère

'Peter is red with anger'

(2) Germ. Die Hände sind blau vor Kälte

'The hands are blue from the cold'

(3) Fr. Il est fou d'amour

Lit. 'He is crazy of love'

= 'He is very much in love'

(4) Fr. Anne est morte de faim

Lit. 'Anne is dead of hunger'

= 'Anne is very hungry'.

This short list of examples makes clear that one and the same syntactic structure, namely [ADJECTIVE PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE], can convey different meanings with different degrees of idiomaticity. The first examples in the list (1 and 2) can be understood literally, they express causality, whereas examples (3) and (4) are idiomatic expressions which convey the meaning of excessiveness or intensification (Zeschel, 2012). The aim of this paper is to explore and describe this variety. Because this structure is entrenched in French and German1 and its meaning is sometimes non-compositional, it can be defined as a construction in the sense of Construction Grammar. That is why the description of the examples will be based on the framework of Goldberg's Construction Grammar model (1995 and 2006). As the examples under study have a phraseological meaning and different degrees of idiomaticity, we will also refer to phraseology studies (Burger, 2007; Dobrovol'skij, 2011; Donalies, 2009; Fleischer, 1997; Gries, 2008; Wulff, 2012) to explore the examples' specificities.

The variety of constructions is even larger if one takes a contrastive perspective and compares the realization of the same syntactic structure across languages. Depending on the language, different adjectives or prepositions will be selected in the same causal construction. For instance, for the same emotion of envy or jealousy, Germans use the color adjective gelb ('yellow'), whereas French speakers will select the color adjective vert ('green'). Therefore, the present study will also address typological issues related to the favorite lexicalization patterns (Talmy, 2000) in French vs. …

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