Linguistic Change in French

By Rebecca Posner | Go to book overview

In creoles, the definite article, when it survives, is an integral part of the noun, with no semantic input.To mark specificity or NP status other means, like a postposed locative adverb là, are used.

Most Old French sentences with articleless NPs would today be ungrammatical. On the other hand some uses of the article in Old French texts would also be ungrammatical in the modern language:

(30) C'as enpensé, li fiex au roi Charlon? (Aliscans) 'What have you decided, son of King Charles?'

In other cases, the Old French definite article form, used pronominally, would be uninterpretable in modern French:

(31) Je ne vi cotes brodees ne les le roi ne les autrui (Joinville) 'I didn't see embroidered bodices, neither those of the king, nor those of others'.

But in the many examples where there are comparable grammatical sentences in Old and modern French the interpretation of the definite article seems to be identical:

(32) Et la roine prent le chevalier par la main (Lancelot) 'And the queen takes the knight by the hand'; Quant li rois englés et ses gens veirent les fumiers des Escos . . . (Froissart) 'When the English king and his men saw the smoke-screen of the Scots . . .'.

It is difficult therefore to talk of change of sentence meaning without reference to syntactic change. The meaning of the definite article itself has changed, especially as it no longer regularly contrasts with a zero article. But in comparable sentences in Old and modern French the contribution to sentence meaning by the definite article often seems to be the same. Perhaps, though, we are missing some of the semantic nuances!
FURTHER READING
On semantics: Aitchison 1987, Baldinger 1980, Cruse 1986, Greimas 1966, Lakoff and Johnson 1980, J. Lyons 1995, Picoche 1986, Rey 1973-6, Sweetser 1990, Tamba Mecz 1988, Tuþescu 1975, Ullmann 1957, Wilmet 1980.

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Linguistic Change in French
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Tables xvi
  • List of Figures xviii
  • Conventions and Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Further Reading 8
  • Part I: Language Change 9
  • 1 - Defining the Domain 11
  • Further Reading 55
  • 2 - Sociolinguistic History of French 57
  • Part Ii: Linguistic Change 103
  • 3 - Processes of Linguistic Change 105
  • Further Reading 142
  • 4 - Lexical Change 143
  • 5 - Semantic Change 185
  • Further Reading 214
  • 6 - Phonological Change 216
  • Further Reading 292
  • 7 - Morphological Change 294
  • Further Reading 343
  • 8 - Syntactic Change 344
  • Further Reading 416
  • In Place of a Conclusion 419
  • Bibliography 425
  • Name Index 489
  • Subject Index 499
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