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Who are they ? On the reference of collective ils (‘they’) in French

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)
Author Johnsen Laure Anne,
Project Syndèse et asyndèse dans les routines paratactiques du français
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Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)

Book Conference Proceedings of The 8th Discourse Anaphora and Anaphor Resolution Colloquium
Editor , Branco A. et al.
Publisher Edições Colibri, Lisbonne
Page(s) 23 - 38
ISBN 978-989-689-143-5
Title of proceedings Conference Proceedings of The 8th Discourse Anaphora and Anaphor Resolution Colloquium

Abstract

This paper describes the use of collective "ils" ("they") in regard to the notion of discourse anaphora by examining attested contemporary French data. Collective "ils" designates as set of individuals whose identity remains more or less specified, depending on semantic and contextual factors. On the basis of semantic distinctions proposed in previous work on the subject, this study shows that collective "ils" is related to the notion of indirect anaphora, in that the (more or less) identified referent can be inferred from the domain of reference set up by the context. The “collective” nature of the denoted class, as well as its identification, needs to be considered as a gradual property, depending on semantic and contextual recognition from the speaker and the addressee.
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