La notion de ‘test syntaxique’ dans les grammaires de la première moitié du 20e siècle
Summary Since the dawn of structuralism and generativism, linguists have not ceased to criticize a lack of scientific rigour in «traditional» grammar. Nowadays, the scientific character of syntax crucially depends on the use of syntactic tests. It appears, however, that this concept was not completely absent in traditional grammar. After a brief historical sketch of the emergence of the notion of syntactic test in modern linguistics, this contribution offers a typology of syntactic tests found in a corpus of 25 reference grammars of modern French, published in the first half of the 20th century. The bulk of syntactic tests cannot be separated from the notion of paraphrase, which in traditional grammar was partly used as a heuristic means, very often without the necessary control of linguistic form. As the quantitative analysis of the phenomenon in this study shows, the typology should not suggest that the notion of syntactic test was a dominant concept in traditional grammar. In addition, the perception of the concept of ‘syntactic test’ by the grammarians themselves is rather negative, because of a strong tendency towards, on the one hand, a ‘semanticization’ of grammar, and on the other hand, to ‘didacticization’ of the syntactic description. These two tendencies run counter to the later evolution in syntax, which emphasizes the argumentative value of manipulating utterances in order to establish non-aprioristic syntactic categories.
Published online: 20 August 2003
Cited by other publications
Neveu, Franck & Peter Lauwers
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