ODG – Salle du conseil (533)
Sasha Simonenko (Université de Gand)
Probing for semantic properties in a historical corpus: emergence of definite articles in French (avec Anne Carlier, Lille 3)
Among other grammatical changes, Medieval period in French is known for the emergence of definite articles (le, la, les), which manifested itself as an increase in the frequency of the l-forms during that time (e.g. Marchello-Nizia 1995). There is a pervasive understanding that those obtain from Late Latin demonstratives (e.g. Carlier & De Mulder 2010). Although the etymology may be clear, what exactly the semantic shift was and why it was accompanied by the expansion of the l-forms is less so. A related question is whether this shift had any repercussions for the use of other elements arguably associated with exhaustive quantification, such as possessive pronouns and universal quantifiers such as tout “all”. In this talk, we model the shift as a passage from an anaphora-based to exhaustivity-based semantics (or from “strong” to “weak” in terms of Schwarz 2009) and we check quantitative predictions of the model by examining the distribution of the l-forms, possessive pronouns, and tout in the parsed corpora of Medieval French MCVF and Penn Supplement to MCVF.