The imparfait lorrain in the context of grammaticalization




Russo, Stephanie C.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation investigates the origins and development of the so-called imparfait lorrain (IL), a unique verbal formation in an obsolescent variety of French (Lorrain) that is comprised of the imparfait indicatif inherited from Latin and the Old French temporal adverb or(es) ‘now, at the time’. This study has two main goals: (1) to provide a finer-grained analysis of the functions of the IL and (2) to demonstrate that the origins and development of the IL are shaped by principles of grammaticalization (Heine, Claudi, & Hünnemeyer 1991; Bybee, Perkins, & Pagliuca 1994; Hopper & Traugott 2003; Heine & Kuteva 2002). In reviewing and discussing the existing literature on the IL, I find that previous studies have painted an inconsistent picture of the form’s origins and function(s). In light of a larger data set, my analysis reveals that as part of the IL, the erstwhile temporal adverb or(es) has acquired non-temporal functions in so far as or(es) behaves as a textual connective and as a modal particle. As a textual connective, or(es) relates two textually expressed events through a resultative relation; as a modal particle, or(es) indexes the speaker’s beliefs and attitudes and is thus epistemic in nature. Lastly, I found that the modal function of the IL may have been recruited for a discourse-structuring use to highlight new information. I then reassess the IL with respect to the parameters and mechanisms underlying a grammaticalization process. Crucially, and with particular emphasis on the grammaticalization of or(es), I find that generalization, subjectification, decategorialization, and phonological changes figure prominently into the development of the IL. By giving a more comprehensive and unified account of the IL, the dissertation contributes to the study of modal particles and draws attention to an understudied and obsolescent variety of French.


LCSH Subject Headings