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Re: Article wierdness

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Sunday, September 12, 2004, 6:53
On Saturday, September 11, 2004, at 06:01 , Muke Tever wrote:

> On Sat, 11 Sep 2004 11:01:17 -0400, John Cowan <cowan@...> wrote: >> Mark J. Reed scripsit: >> >>> > This is why I keep arguing that the French >>> >>> /Spanish/Italian/etc >> >> No, I think French is really different here. > > In general certainly, but probably not in the case of body parts; the > Spanish construction "levanta la mano" is equal to the French "levez la > main".
Yes, the uses do coincide here where we're talking about body parts (and other things) belonging to the subject. This merely harks back to Latin usage of not expressing 'my', 'your' etc if the context is obvious. But John is right. In many important respects, the use of the so-called definite article is different in modern French from its counterpart in other Romancelangs and certainly from the English definite article. ========================================================================= On Saturday, September 11, 2004, at 05:57 , John Cowan wrote: Philippe Caquant scripsit:
>> Suppose the incipit of a novel is: [...] > > Well, narration is not interlocution. It's a special case:
Quite so. If we used narration as the norm we would conclude that the 'past historic' is still widely used in modern French. In fact, it's not used in the spoken language.
> I don't think you can draw general conclusions based on this usage.
Indeed not.
>> So the choice between "a" or "the", at least in an >> incipit, is something very important; and "the" is >> much more marked, and expressive, that "a", in English >> like in French, I guess. > > Indeed, there are places where the definite article most certainly > is contrastive, but there are also many places where it isn't, and is > just a submission to the Modern French rule that (all but a very few) > noun phrases must start with a determiner
That's correct. In Old French, the definite article was far more restrictive; in general it was used whenever a particular noun was to be singled out or individualized. Abstract nouns, proper names, names of nationalities in the lural (Franceis, Sarrazins), nouns that denotes unique objects (ciel, terre), seasons and points of time (printemps, matin, dimanche) did _not_ take the definite article. Nor was the article uaed, as it is in modern French, when the noun is used in a generic sense. The extension of the use of the definite article took place during the Middle french period in parallel with the break down of the Old French declensions and the dropping of final [s] in speech. The article came to be used, like other determinatives, to mark difference between singular & plural. So by the Modern French period, the omission of any article implies that the noun is no longer purely sunstantival but has combined with the verb to form what is practically a compound verb (e.g. _avoir peur_ "to be afraid") or with a preposition to form what is in effect an adverbial expression (e.g. _avec courage_ "courageously", _à tort_ "wrongly").
>> ??? To me, "mange du pain" just expresses a partitive. >> >> If you say "mange du pain" to a child sitting at a >> table, it just means that some bread is supposed to be >> around, and that the child is not supposed to eat the >> whole of it. No need that bread has be mentioned >> before. > > True for Modern French, but in Old French things were different (sorry > if it wasn't clear what contrast I was drawing before). Old French used > "mange pain" for this meaning, and "mange du pain" only when "the bread" > was clearly definite.
That's exactly it.
>>> in particular, masculine nouns take -s in the >>> singular and drop it >>> in the plural. >> >> ??? I suppose it depends of what noun, and probably >> what function inside the sentence (subject, direct or >> indirect object). > > Yes. I omitted to add the qualifier "in the nominative case".
Yep. SINGULAR PLURAL NOMINATIVE murs mur OBLIQUE mur murs To this declension belonged all nouns from Latin second declension ending in -us (including those that were incorporated in Vulgar Latin), Latin 3rd declension masculine parisyllabic nouns with nom. ending in -(i)s (e.g. panis --> pains) and Latin neuters in -um and -r (e.g. chastels, cuers). [snip]
> Sire/seigneur is one of the few survivals of the old two-case system.
> For the most part the nominative forms perished, but a few (e.g. > coeur < COR) out-competed the accusative counterparts (cf. It. corde), did _soeur_ (O.F. nom. _suer_, obl. _soror_
> or as in this case survived as separate words. The most striking > such case is Old French om, the nominative of homme, which became > the pronoun on.
Old French SINGULAR PLURAL NOMINATIVE (h)om (h)ome OBLIQUE (h)ome (h)omes
>> Anyway, I guess that the language was far from >> strictly codified then, and that there were lots of >> concurrent dialects.
Of course - the Academy didn't exist :)
> It definitely was not strictly codified, and can be best described > as basically Francien (a term not used at the time) with Picard > influences, and occasional leakage from other dialects. Furthermore > most of the surviving manuscripts were written in England, and so > use Anglo-Norman spelling conventions: these are often rationalized > away by modern editors.
Yep - and down south another language called Provençal is well attested and, for a time, had a flourishing literature. It also originally had the nominative ~ oblique declension system, but in many ways was quite distinct from Francien. Ray =============================================== =============================================== "They are evidently confusing science with technology." UMBERTO ECO September, 2004