Grammar and Corpora 2016
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Wicher, Oliver: Corpus-Driven Lexical Grammar and the Aspect-Modality Interface: The Case of French Past Modal Constructions, in: Fuß, Eric et al. (Eds.): Grammar and Corpora 2016, Heidelberg: Heidelberg University Publishing, 2018. https://doi.org/10.17885/heiup.361.c4696

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Published 16.05.2018.


Oliver Wicher

Corpus-Driven Lexical Grammar and the Aspect-Modality Interface: The Case of French Past Modal Constructions

Abstract French modal verbs unite temporal, aspectual and modal values in past-tense constructs such as j’ai voulu faire vs. je voulais faire or elle a pu rent­rer vs. elle pouvait rentrer. The semantics of these past modal constructions have been considered a puzzling area, as perfective aspect on root modals forces the complement to take place in the actual world, triggering the so-called ‘actual­ity entailment’ effect. The present study analyzes the behaviour of French past modal constructions from a corpus-driven constructional perspective. To this end, the author presents a new reference corpus of French and shows that past-tense choice of French modals can be considered a matter of collostructional preference: perfective and imperfective modals each choose distinct sets of ver­bal complements forming lexico-grammatical patterns. The results corroborate the actuality entailment hypothesis, and give the opportunity to discuss how the aspect-modality interface in French can be accounted for from a construc­tional perspective.

Keywords French, aspect, modality, lexical grammar, corpus-driven, col-lostruction