Le temps vu de l'espace

Source document: Études romanes de Brno. 2010, vol. 31, iss. 1, pp. [55]-64
  • ISSN
    1803-7399 (print)
    2336-4416 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
This paper deals with the problem of the present tense (indicative mood) and mainly with its capacity of referring either to the past or to the future, as it can be seen in most linguistic works on the question of tenses. The paper adopts as a starting point typical sentences cited by grammar books (J'arrive à l'instant), and tries to prove by giving a large number of examples that, on the one hand, adverbials of time are not always relevant as far as the temporal orientation of the process is concerned, and that, on the other hand, all verbs are not likely to be used in such constructions. Those verbs that can be used this way owe this capacity to their sense and mainly to aspectual characteristics such as perfectivity. These observations lead to the following findings: 1. these verbs express movement and have direction as a semantic feature, 2. their orientation towards future or present will be chosen according to the relevant spatial point of the utterance (cf. final point: J'arrive à l'instant. vs initial point: Je pars.), 3. if the characteristics of the verb lead to ambiguity, the relevant point will be determined by the localization of the speaker at the moment of the utterance, 4. clues considered essential by grammar books are often missing, optional or different (apart from adverbials of time, adverbials of space and other types of adverbials can be used). This analysis taking into consideration both time and space shows that the interpretation of the present tense depends on aspectual characteristics of verbs and also on the localization of the speaker at the moment of the utterance; thus, we are dealing with a phenomenon that is determined by both aspectual and semantic characteristics of verbs.
[1] Dictionnaire de la langue française Lexis. Paris: Larousse, 1992.

[2] ARRIVÉ, Michel et al. La grammaire d'aujourd'hui. Paris: Flammarion, 1986.

[3] BOONS, Jean-Paul. La notion sémantique de déplacement dans une classification syntaxique des verbes locatifs. Langue française, 1987, no 76, pp. 5–40. | DOI 10.3406/lfr.1987.4729

[4] DUBOIS, Jean; DUBOIS-CHARLIER, Françoise. Les Verbes français. Paris: Larousse-Bordas, 1997.

[5] KELEMEN, Jolán et al. Grammaire du français contemporain. Budapest: Tankönyvkiadó, 1989.

[6] RIEGEL, Martin et al. Grammaire méthodique du français. Paris: PUF, 1994.

[7] WILMET, Marc. Grammaire critique du français. Paris, Bruxelles: Hachette-Duculot, 1998.