Suzanne Lesage

Ancien doctorant

Status : Doctorante

Address :

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

E-mail :


Title : Les possessifs réfléchis : approches typologique et empirique

Supervision :
  Olivier Bonami

PhD Defense : 2022-05-09

Inscription : 2018 à Paris Cité

Jury :

  • Denis Creissels, Professeur des universités émérite, Lyon 2, rapporteur
  • Virve Anneli Vihman , Maîtresse de conférence, Université de Tartu, rapportrice
  • Barbara Hemforth , Directrice de Recherche, Université de Paris - CNRS, présidente du jury
  • Elsi Kaiser, Professeure, University of Southern California, examinatrice
  • Sarah Schimke, Professeure, Université technique de Dortmund, examinatrice
  • Olivier Bonami, Professeur des universités, Université de Paris - CNRS, directeur de thèse

Abstract :

This thesis explores the nature of binding constraints on reflexive possessives. The work tackles three main issues: the elaboration of a definition of the reflexive possessive on the basis of a typological exploration, the establishment of the non-categorical and multifactorial nature of the constraints on reflexive possessives and finally the comparison between reflexive possessives and emphatic possessives.

The first part of the thesis is devoted to the description of reflexive possessives in a dozen languages on which data has been gathered with the help of native speakers or language specialists. The constraints on these forms and their complexity have led to a new definition of reflexive forms. The definition that I propose is gradient and paradigmatic: it is based on an evaluation of the probability for a type of form to take on a type of antecedent, and it treats reflexive forms as cells in a system of oppositions with other types of forms. This definition provides a framework for comparing the reflexive and emphatic forms, as well as the reflexive forms between them.

The second part of the thesis consists of a series of empirical studies. It reports ten experiments (acceptability judgment, pro-form elicitation, production) about Estonian, French, Czech and English, and two corpus studies, about French and Estonian. These various studies highlight the multifactorial and non-categorical nature of the constraints on reflexive and emphatic possessives. Specifically, they document the influence on possessives of the types of constructions, word order, animacy of the possessor/possessum, and of the embedding. The role of ambiguity avoidance in the possessor's choice of expression is also highlighted. These studies allow the reflexive and emphatic forms to be documented independently of each other and two parallel experiments allow a robust comparison between reflexive and emphatic forms.

Finally, the data collected in several experiments carried out leads to questioning the constraints on the reflexive and its counterpart. I thus elaborate a typology of the constraints on the pairs of pro-forms based on the categoricity of the constraints and their symmetrical nature.