Alors between discourse and grammar
The role of syntactic position
This paper presents an in-depth study of the semantics of the French discourse marker alors ‘at that time, then, so’. Its evolution from temporal adverbial with local anaphoric meaning to polysemous marker including conversation management uses in spoken French is traced through a systematic diachronic corpus analysis. Of particular interest in this perspective is the relationship between the different meanings of alors and the position it occupies in the sentence. Our main hypothesis is that the semantic evolution of alors goes hand in hand with grammatical and functional changes leading to new discourse functions, viz. from sentence adverbial to discourse structuring marker. We show that semantic meaning is driven by syntactic position changes which gradually evolve over time.
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