Modality, aspect and the progressive : the semantics of the present progressive in French in comparison with English
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Languages in contrast. - Amsterdam
, p. 113-132
University of Antwerp
This paper proffers a corpus-based study of the semantics of the French present progressive in comparison with its English equivalent. We describe the temporal and modal uses of 'be + -ing' and investigate to what extent they overlap with the uses of être + en train de. The observation that the use of the French present progressive is not obligatory and more restricted than that of the present progressive in English is taken as a sign of a less advanced stage of grammaticalization of the former. On the other hand, the two progressive constructions are alike in that they turn out to share the same basic, modal meaning, which we define as epistemic contingency in current reality. This meaning is, among other things, reflected in the (inter)subjective connotations that are often associated with the progressives.