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In fact, en fait, de fait, au fait: a contrastive study of the synchronic correspondences and diachronic development of english and french cognates

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

This article examines the relation between the English expression in fact and the cognate French expressions en fait, de fait and au fait. All expressions are combinations of the English and French words for 'fact' with a preposition. While in English it is only in fact which has developed adverbial and discourse marker use, French fait combines with three different prepositions (en, de, au) and all three phrases have developed into expressions with adverbial and pragmatic meanings. The four words display distinct meanings and functions in present-day language uses, although their similarity in form suggests historical links, and results from present-day translation data also show connections and partial overlaps on the semantic-pragmatic level. The question is how the different forms came to follow divergent paths of change, at what time, and what types of factors and contexts led to the different developments. On the basis of a detailed analysis of English and French corpus data, the study traces the cognates' meanings back to their earliest uses. Similarities and differences in the historical developments are interpreted in the framework of grammaticalization / pragmaticalization and (inter)subjectification.
Journal: Neuphilologische Mitteilungen
ISSN: 0028-3754
Issue: 4
Volume: 111
Pages: 433 - 463
Publication year:2010