Gabrielle Aguila-Multner

Docteurs récents

Status : PhD student

Address :

LLF, CNRS – UMR 7110
Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7
Case 7031 – 5, rue Thomas Mann,
75205 Paris cedex 13

E-mail :

General presentation

My thesis concerns a number of morphosyntactic phenomena of French grammar, most particularly complex predicates, clitic climbing and verbal periphrasis. It is formulated in the framework of Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar.


  • 2018-2020 : Morphology (TA) for Master's students (49ME01LF)
  • 2019 : Formal language theory (TA) for Master's students; Syntax (TA) for undergraduates


Title : The morphosyntax of French complex predicates: clitic climbing and periphrasis

Supervision :
  Berthold Crysmann

PhD Defense : 2023-12-11

Inscription : 2018 à Université Paris-Cité

Jury :

  • Berthold CRYSMANN, Directeur de recherche, CNRS, Directeur de thèse
  • Anne ABEILLÉ, Professeure, Université Paris Cité, Examinatrice
  • Gabriela BÎLBÎIE, Assistant professor, Universitatea din Bucuresti, Examinatrice
  • Jean-Pierre KOENIG, Professor, University at Buffalo, Rapporteur
  • Ana LUÍS, Associate Professor, Universidade de Coimbra, Examinatrice
  • Philip MILLER, Professeur, Université Paris Cité, Examinateur
  • Gert WEBELHUTH, Professor, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Rapporteur

Abstract :

In this thesis, I investigate the distribution of French weak pronominals under a novel perspective. Starting with studies on the status of such forms as lexical affixes (Miller, 1992a; Auger, 1993, 1994, 1995), I propose that the logical conclusion of this result is to treat their distribution in morphological rather than syntactic terms. I review the approaches that account for the pronominals’ affixal properties (Miller & Sag, 1997; Abeillé & Godard, 1996, 2002), and I show that they only treat local realisation in morphology. These approaches rely on a syntactic mechanism, argument composition, in order to treat non-local cases of pronominalisation (i.e. clitic climbing). I propose a critical reevaluation of the arguments in favour of this mechanism, and I show in particular that the results of constituency tests are in French independent of clitic climbing when it comes to verbal complementation. On the basis of a corpus study conducted on frWaC (Baroni et al., 2009), I further show that clitic climbing constructions’ transparency to bounded dependencies is equally independent of clitic climbing, and extends to numerous subject raising and control verbs. In the light of recent work in morphology (Vincent & Börjars, 1996; Ackerman & Webelhuth, 1998; Brown et al., 2012; Spencer, 2013b) on the notion of inflectional periphrasis, I suggest that this notion is both independently motivated for French clitic climbing constructions and sufficient to explain clitic climbing in these contexts. I formulate an implementation of the theory of inflectional periphrasis by reverse selection of Bonami (2015) in Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG, Pollard & Sag, 1994). In this view of periphrasis, the lexical verb selects for morphosyntactic properties of its auxiliary. I show that clitic climbing can then be treated as an entirely morphological phenomenon, in which pronominal arguments (alongside other inflectional properties, such as tense) are simply realised on an ancillary element. In the case of tense auxiliary and copular constructions, the morphological approach simplifies phrase structure greatly over previous approaches based on argument composition. Syntactic considerations relevant to the previous discussion of argument composition are given an analysis: constituency issues are treated as canonicity constraints on realisation (Bouma et al., 2001), while bounded dependencies receive a subject raising analysis building on Grover (1995). Finally, I expose how the approach generalises to complex predicates. The morphological approach views these constructions as causative periphrases, akin to the synthetic causatives of Japanese (Manning et al., 1999) or Bantu languages (Hyman & Mchombo, 1992). I show that this perspective, which consequently sees the infinitive as a causativised form with an augmented valency, independently results in an implementation of clause union as required for the treatment of various properties of complex predicates (subject realisation, long reflexivisation with se faire). Compared to approaches based on argument composition, which build clause union at the level of faire, this version of clause union improves the treatment of several phenomena which are sensitive to properties of the lexical verb, which faire cannot access (Koenig, 1998), in particular clitic trapping and realisation of the subject as a by phrase. I also develop the position that clitic climbing from an infinitive is optional in French.


  • Aguila-Multner, G. & Crysmann, B. 2018. Feature Resolution by Lists: The Case of French Coordination. In International Conference on Formal Grammar (pp. 1-15). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  • Aguila-Multner, G. & Crysmann, B. 2020. French clitic climbing as periphrasis. Lingvisticæ Investigationes 43(1). 23–61.

  • Aguila-Multner, G. & Crysmann, B. 2021. An inside-out approach to French causatives. In Stefan Müller & Anke Holler (eds.), Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, 5–25. Stanford: CSLI Publications. stefan/Editing-New/HPSG/2020/.

  • Aguila-Multner, G. & Crysmann, B. (accepted, under revision). French missing object constructions.