Multivalency: The French historical present in journalistic discourse

Monique Monville-Burston, Linda R. Waugh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


It is well known that the French present (Pr) tense2 is chameleon-like: it can have a variety of contextual interpretations such as gnomic truths, omnitemporal states, durative states, description, temporally bounded events, future time, past time, and so forth. However, it has not been as evident that in certain contexts two or more of these meanings may be simultaneously relevant, thus leading to semantic multivalency. We will study the exploitation in journalistic discourse of this pluralism in meaning and the contextual diversity which results from it for one type of use of Pr: namely, the historical present (HPr). 3 Our aim will be to show that, far from being a question of promiscuous, unrestricted polysemy or of problematic ambiguity, the double (or triple) meanings/readings are controlled by two interrelated factors: on the one hand, the semantic opposition between Pr and the other tenses of French, and on the other hand the symbiotic relationship between Pr (and HPr) and its context; moreover, the meanings created are equally viable in that context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDiscourse Pragmatics and the Verb
Subtitle of host publicationThe Evidence from Romance
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781315403571
ISBN (Print)0415057205, 9781138223783
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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