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David Birdsong, Chair 201 W 21ST STREET STOP B7600, HRH 2.114A, AUSTIN, TX 78712 • 512-471-5531

Spring 2008


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
37080 MWF
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
HRH 2.106C

Course Description

Complementation, or subordination, is a field of study that can give rise to the investigation of a wide array of syntactic phenomena. At first sight, complementation seems to be irregular or unsystematic in Modern French: we find indicative complements (Jean croit qu'il partira), subjunctive complements (Jean regrette que Marie parte), infinitival complements (Jean commence à lire son texte); furthermore, in some contexts, both moods (indicative and subjunctive) are possible. This course seeks to bring students to discover the regularities or the rules of French complementation. Diverse set of issues relating to complementation will be examined. Themes that will be covered are given below. Different analyses that have been put forth to account for these phenomena will be discussed and evaluated. Comparison with other complementation systems (including that of English and that of Romance languages other than French) will be made when judged appropriate.

This course will be taught in French or in English, depending on the background of the participants. Students must have good reading skills in French. Intricate knowledge of syntactic principles is NOT necessary.

Content of the course

  • Classes of predicates and types of complement clauses: semantic compatibility
  • Finite (tensed) complements versus infinitival complements: what do they encode?
  • The indicative/subjunctive distinction: the distinction between the two moods
  • Subjunctive in negative and interrogative contexts: why is it possible?
  • Obviation (disjoint reference of the subjects of the main and subordinate clause) in subjunctive environments: some explanations
  • Negation of the main predicate: what effect does it have on complements (factivity versus implication)
  • Modal verbs: pouvoir, devoir, savoir
  • Causative verbs: faire, laisser
  • Perception verbs (voir) and their different interpretations
  • Three types of infinitival complements in French and their differing properties
  • Aspectual verbs, movement verbs and other predicates participating in restructuring


    Grading Policy

    Grade based on: reading assignments, class discussion, preliminary paper (short research project), final paper (research project), oral presentation


    Reading packet, selected readings among the following references and others:

    • Achard, M. 1998. Representation of Cognitive Structures. Syntax and Semantics of French Sentential Complements, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
    • Dixon, R.M.W. and A.Y. Aikhenvald (eds). 2006. Complementation. A Cross-Linguistic Typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • Lalaire, L. 1998. La Variation modale dans les subordonnées à temps fini du français moderne. Approche syntaxique, Bern/Berlin/Frankfurt/New York/Paris/Wien: Peter Lang.
    • Rochette, A. 1999. "The selection properties of aspectual verbs", in K. Johnson and I. Roberts (eds), Beyond Principles and Parameters: Essays in Memory of Osvaldo Jaeggli, 145-165, Dordrecht: Kluwer.
    • Rooryck, J. 2000. Configurations of Sentential Complementation. Perspectives from Romance languages, London: Routledge.
    • Soutet, O. 2000. Le Subjonctif en français, Paris: Ophrys.,
    • Wurmbrand, S. 2003. Infinitives: Restructuring and Clause Structure, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.


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