Insubordinated puisque in French. Grammaticalization, De-Grammaticalization, Reanalysis?

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Ulrich Detges

Abstract

In Modern French, main-clause initial puisque is a discourse-marker which coexists with a homonymous subordinating causal connective. Diachronically, it has emerged from the latter through a process of insubordination. It is often assumed that the diachronies of discourse makers can be meaningfully described as grammaticalization processes. This view has been challenged by Detges & Waltereit­ (2009, 2016) on the grounds that grammar in the narrow sense (e.g. inflectional mor­phology) on the one hand and discourse markers and modal particles on the other are the outcome of different kinds of diachronic processes. For sentence-initial puisque, this question is further complicated by the fact that insubordination has been claimed to be a counter-example to basic assumptions of established grammaticalization theo­ries. Against this backdrop, this article pursues two objectives. Firstly, an account will be given of the diachronic mechanisms that turned the subordinating connective puis­que into a main-clause-initial item. It will be shown that the emergence of main-clause-initial puisque is brought about by a pragmatically motivated reanalysis whereby a frequent usage-effect was conventionalized as the construction's new meaning. This change took place in elaborative discourse contexts (see D’Hertefelt / Verstraete 2014) where subordinating puisque was used to negotiate the next move in discourse building. Secondly (and more importantly), I will discuss the question of whether this process can be meaningfully classified as an instance of grammaticalization.

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