A contrastive analysis of the present progressive in French and English
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Studies in language. - Amsterdam
, p. 846-879
University of Antwerp
In this study, we address the semantics of the present progressive constructions in French and English by looking into their present-day uses and their diachronic evolution. Corpus data show that both constructions are frequently used in contemporary English and French to stress the atypical nature of situations. This suggests that these constructions share an epistemic core meaning, which we define as 'contingency in immediate reality'. However, in terms of concrete usage types which elaborate this meaning in context, the two progressive constructions differ significantly: the French progressive occurs in fewer types of context than its English counterpart and it is, overall, less frequently used and not obligatory for referring to present-time events, as is usually the case in English. We argue that these differences can be systematically related to the different diachronic evolutions that have shaped the present-tense paradigms in both languages.