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Title:The Obligatory Use of The Preposition a Plus Disjunctive Pronoun After Certain Verbs in French
Author(s):Dunbar, Richard Terry
Department / Program:French
Discipline:French
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Language, Linguistics
Abstract:There are at least thirty-five verbs in Modern French which do not accept the conjunctive (indirect object) pronoun marked {+human} under certain circumstances. These include so-called verbs of motion, e.g., je vais a lui, verbs like penser, e.g., je pense a lui, and verbal expressions like faire attention, e.g., je fais attention a lui.
This study reviews the problem as treated in traditional grammars, then explores its structural and semantic aspects. Historical aspects of the problem are considered through an examination of sixteenth and seventeenth century grammars, and an analysis of textual examples found in varied texts from the eleventh to the seventeenth century. Finally, the treatment of this grammatical point is reviewed in several beginning and intermediate American college textbooks of French.
The traditional grammars provide varied descriptions of the problem without giving acceptable explanations for the restriction imposed on pronominalization in this particular case. Major grammatical categories which are treated include the dative, stressed and unstressed pronouns, verb-complement relationships, transitiveness, animate / inanimate and human / non-human features, and the use of y versus lui.
The structural and semantic analyses look at the personal pronoun system, the preposition a, the complement system (object and circumstantial complements), the verbs themselves, and pronominalization. The conclusions are that the complements following verbs like penser are no different semantically from indirect object complements and that the verbs belong essentially to two categories, verbs of movement and verbs of "mental or emotional tendency." For the former, the constraint on pronominalization is explainable on a distributional basis, but for the latter, there is no apparent explanation.
The historical analysis reveals that sixteenth and seventeenth century grammarians did not understand the problem either and they offer no clues as to the development of verbs like penser. Textual examples from the earliest examples of Old French to Classical French provide an expanded list of verbs constructed with a + disjunctive pronoun. This construction was more common in earlier stages of French. The categories of verbs requiring this construction is the same over the centuries as those discussed above. An analysis of the textual examples does not reveal any further clues as to the development of the pronominalization constraint.
Presentation of the problem in beginning and intermediate college textbooks of French follows various approaches, ranging from poor to good. The conclusion is that the problem may be presented in the second semester. The best way to introduce it is in one unit dealing with the pronoun syntax of penser, rever, songer, etre a, faire attention, reflexive verbs and verbs of motion which are followed by a and a human complement. There is no predictable rule that the students can apply to this problem however.
Further research concentrating on an exhaustive analysis of textual examples in Old French to provide further insight into this problem is suggested.
Issue Date:1981
Type:Text
Language:English
Description:161 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/67931
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8203449
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-14
Date Deposited:1981


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