Soutenance de thèse : Béatrice Pahontu

Monday 17 June 2024, 13:00
Béatrice Pahontu (LLF)

Université Paris Cité – Bât. ODG – 3e étage – Salle 310

Béatrice Pahontu (LLF)
The dynamics of periphrases from a Romance perspective: progressive/proximative periphrases and avertivity in Romanian

The aim of this thesis is to document a grammatical category relatively understudied across languages, namely avertivity. It focuses on the study of counterfactual events in Romanian, as the non-realization of events remains less studied in this language compared to other Romance languages. In particular, this work explores the form/meaning pairings of the periphrasis a fi pe cale 'to be in the process of' through an integrative approach, which includes the diachronic and synchronic perspective, corpus work and the call for experimentation, as well as a comparative (Romance) perspective.

First, I review the criteria proposed in the literature for identifying a periphrasis at the morphology-syntax interface and apply them to the various analytic forms of Romanian (the compound past tense, the future tense and aspectual periphrases), in order to show the heterogeneity of their syntactic structure. In particular, I observe that aspectual periphrases behave syntactically differently from other analytic forms and propose that they be analysed at the interface with semantics. Adopting a constructional approach, I explore how contextual factors influence the use of the a fi pe cale construction over time. To this end, I conduct a quantitative study based on a rich annotation grid including morpho-syntactic and semantic parameters.

The diachronic perspective is devoted to the evolution of the TAM markers of the above-mentioned periphrasis, on the basis of corpora ranging from the sixteenth to the twentieth century (corpus of texts from the Romanian Academy) up to the twenty-first century (roTenTen16). The study provides arguments for tracing the development of the avertive from the proximative. First, I show that proximative uses of periphrasis date back to the first half of the nineteenth century, while avertive uses date back to the second half of the nineteenth century. Secondly, I show that the semantic shift from the twentieth to the twenty-first century, from proximative to avertive uses, is correlated with an increase in the frequency of past tenses. In this research, I use concepts from the theory of grammaticalisation and Construction Grammars. I show that the avertive use of a fi pe cale is the result of a semantic enrichment process, involving the conventionalisation of the counterfactual implicature. The analysis captures its dynamics in the post-constructional stage, while examining its manifestation in the mind of the language user.

The synchronic perspective focuses on the proximative and avertive uses of a fi pe cale in contemporary Romanian, to show that the avertive use is conventional. The corpus study is supplemented by the results of two experimental studies which support this avertive interpretation of a fi pe cale both with perfective and imperfective marking and with telic verbs (achievements and accomplishment verbs). They also support the preference of avertivity for the negative polarity of the verb.

Finally, from a comparative perspective, questions related to the behaviour of different aspectual constructions of comparable meaning and form in Romance languages are addressed. The results obtained from this study of the avertive in Romanian allow us to propose contrastive analyses of the relationship between avertivity and the aspectual point of view (perfective vs. imperfective), the pragmatic or semantic nature of the avertive meaning, and its diachronic development and Aktionsart.


  • Bridget COPLEY, Directrice de Recherche - HDR CNRS et Université Paris 8, Rapportrice
  • Peter PETRÉ, Professeur, Université d’Anvers, Rapporteur
  • Elena SOARE, Professeure des universités - HDR, Université Paris 8, Examinatrice
  • Rodica ZAFIU, Professeure des universités émérite, Université de Bucarest et Académie Roumaine, Examinatrice
  • Gabriela BÎLBÎIE, Maîtresse de conférence, Université de Bucarest et LLF, Membre invité
  • Olivier BONAMI, Professeur des universités - HDR, Université Paris Cité, CNRS et LLF, Membre invité
  • Patrick CAUDAL, Directeur de Recherche - HDR CNRS et LLF, Directeur de thèse
  • Dan DOBRE, Professeur des universités émérite, Université de Bucarest, Directeur de thèse