Institut Jean Nicod

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Thesis defences: Anouch Bourmayan (IJN)

November, 15, 2013, 14:30

Institut Jean Nicod, Pavillon Jardin. Salle de réunion, RDC
École Normale Supérieure, 29, rue d’Ulm 75005 Paris.

Anouch Bourmayan (IJN)

Title: Implicit objects in French - a pragmatic approach.

Supervisor: François Recanati.

Jury : Claire Beyssade (IJN), Robyn Carston (UCL), Francis Corblin (IJN, Paris-Sorbonne), Louis de Saussure (Unine).

Abstract: My thesis bears on implicit object arguments in French, i.e. on meaning constituents that can be paraphrased with direct objects and thus bear the semantic role of object argument, but that are not phonologically realized.
More specifically, I focus on two types of implicit objects in French, namely on one side implicit objects paraphrasable with indefinite expressions, or indefinite implicit objects (IIOs) and on the other side implicit objects paraphrasable with definite expressions, or definite implicit objects (DIOs). I argue that the ability of a verb to admit IIOs or DIOs is not determined lexically, but following communicational constraints. Thus, I challenge the widespread assumption that so-called ’transitive’ verbs lexically require a semantic object argument and a syntactic direct object, and I redefine the notion of transitivity as a property of verb tokens rather than of verb types.
In this perspective, verbs are lexically avalent - or at most monovalent, if one takes into account the event argument - and they may or not involve an object argument and a direct object depending on their context of use. I distinguish between default IIOs and specialized IIOs: I describe default IIOs as resulting from a mechanism of unfolding of the conceptual content of the verb, while specialized IIOs appear via a phenomenon of pragmatic enrichment of default IIOs. Finally, I put forward a situation-theoretic mechanism to account for the arising of DIOs.

*Keywords*: implicit objects, valency, pragmatic enrichment, semantic incorporation, situation semantics.