Edited by Dalila Ayoun, Agnès Celle and Laure Lansari
[Studies in Language Companion Series 197] 2018
► pp. 309–334
This chapter presents a corpus-driven investigation into usage patterns of the French past tenses passé composé and imparfait. Using a new reference corpus of French, the Corpus de référence du français contemporain, and adopting a construction grammar perspective, we analyze past-tense occurrences of two highly frequent polysemous verbs, vouloir ‘want’ and voir ‘see’. Assuming that the two tenses are an alternation phenomenon, collostructions can be identified that differ in terms of their attracted complements. These highly distinctive collexemes indicate phraseological uses of past-tensed verbs whose tense choice is constrained. The results provide further evidence for the inseparability of lexis and grammar and the semantic-pragmatic shifts that are prevalent in past-tense constructions of highly frequent polysemous verbs.