This chapter takes a corpus linguistic approach to the investigation of reflexive, or metacommenting, expressions in French, primarily si tu veux/si vous voulez (STV/SVV). STV and SVV form part of a range of frequently occurring reflexive devices which function to flag a speaker’s hesitancy about a lexical choice, as we can see in the following example:
le cierge à trois branches consist- était + euh + un p- un chose un + un pied si vous voulez + dont + trois branches
‘the candle with three branches consist- was + er + a f – a thing a + foot if you like + with + three branches’
The chapter discusses the challenges associated with applying classic variationist approaches to discourse-pragmatic items, and presents the distributional frequencies and collocates of STV/SVV across time-dated corpora of spoken French. The chapter concludes by suggesting that an onomasiological approach offers some promise in the investigation of discourse-pragmatic variation and change and that corpus approaches can go some way to meet the challenge posed by the operationalisation of the ‘envelope of variation’ when studying pragmatic markers.
Beeching, K. (2017). Reflexivity and discourse-pragmatic variation and change. In H. Tyne, M. Bilger, P. Cappeau, & E. Guerin (Eds.), La variation en question(s) Hommages à Françoise Gadet (157-179). Brussels: Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b10950