'A propos' : from verbal complement to 'utterance marker' of discourse shift - HAL-SHS - Sciences de l'Homme et de la Société Access content directly
Journal Articles Linguistics Year : 2011

'A propos' : from verbal complement to 'utterance marker' of discourse shift


This paper presents an analysis of the evolution of the French preverbal expression 'à propos' ('by the way' in Modern French). First I discuss the possibility of analyzing it as a discourse marker. Basing the analysis on Fraser's approach (1990, 1999), I show that 'à propos' falls within the definition of discourse markers, displaying their main characteristics. More specifically it serves to reinforce, or even create, discourse coherence. Secondly I give an account of the historical development of the expression and of the emergence of its pragmatic uses. I argue that it is closely related to the evolution of 'à ce propos' (and to a lesser extent to that of 'à propos de'), and hypothesize that à propos has progressively replaced 'à ce propos' in certain contexts, while also developing in contexts of more abrupt discourse shift. I finally address the issue of the interpretation of 'à propos' as a case of grammaticalization, and show that there are sufficiently convincing arguments to justify its being analyzed as such. I also discuss the relevance of introducing the notion of pragmaticalization, and argue for this being a mere subclass of grammaticalization, though pertaining more specifically to the pragmatic area.
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halshs-00665239 , version 1 (03-05-2012)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00665239 , version 1


Sophie Prévost. 'A propos' : from verbal complement to 'utterance marker' of discourse shift. Linguistics, 2011, 49 (2), pp.391-413. ⟨halshs-00665239⟩
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