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Detges, Ulrich (2018): Strong pronouns in modern spoken French: Cliticization, constructionalization, grammaticalization? In: Linguistics, Vol. 56, No. 5: pp. 1059-1097

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Abstract

In this article, I show that in spoken French is moi, unlike 3s lui, has undergone both semantic bleaching and heavy prosodic erosion and has therefore progressed along Lehmann's parameters of grammaticalization. As will be argued, this person-asymmetry is rooted in the fact that moi, unlike lui, is largely used as a discourse-structuring device. Based on a phonetic analysis, I show that the main factor underlying the prosodic weakening of left-detached moi is string frequency, i.e., the degree of predictability of the element immediately following moi. The erosion of moi in spoken French is particularly strong when it is followed by the clitic 1s je;it is even stronger in those cases where moi introduces a stance-verb expression of the type moi je trouve que... 'I think that ...'. However, despite the massive effects produced by string frequency, the prosodic, distributional and discourse-pragmatic data presented here do not support the view that the prosodically weakened variants of moi instantiate a construction that is distinct from non-clitic moi.

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