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The French and Dutch noun phrase in contrast

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In this paper, we intend to show that grammaticalization can effectively be used as a parameter in language comparison by proposing a corpus-based account of the difference in distribution between demonstratives and definite articles in French and Dutch. Taking cases of literal but non-equivalent translation as a starting point, our study revealed that French demonstratives are very often translated by definite articles in Dutch, indicating a different semantico-grammatical function of demonstratives and definite articles in both languages. We propose to account for this bleaching of the French demonstrative by hypothesizing that Dutch demonstrative determiners have a much stronger ‘defining function’ than their French equivalents, and that the latter are in fact evolving towards definite articles, which would be an instantiation of the cyclical evolution from demonstrative to article, also found in the development from Latin to French.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 3, 2010

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