Have you seen what I mean?
From verbal constructions to discourse markers
The aim of this contribution is to investigate, by means of a diachronic multi-genre corpus-based approach (Academic, Narrative, and Present-day Spoken French), whether the historical functional shift from the propositional domain to the causal/pragmatic domain of linguistic expressions correlates with their semantic shift from primarily conceptual to primarily procedural content. Our analysis concentrates on two discourse markers derived from the French verb voir (‘to see’), namely vu que (‘since’), and on a/nous avons vu que (‘we have seen that’). Our initial hypothesis was that both markers result from an (ongoing) “proceduralisation” process which found its source in the polysemous conceptual meaning of the verb voir, viz. perceptive and cognitive meaning. Our results show that this hypothesis needs a more qualified perspective on linguistic change leading us to approach the “proceduralisation” process in terms of gradualness rather than polarity, and to broaden the field of grammaticalisation to non-linguistic criteria such as the “stylistic” parameter.
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