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Conference Papers Year : 2013

French Polar Questions : a corpus study


French has three types of polar questions: an interrogative with est-ce-que, or an inverted clitic, or a questioning declarative clause: est-ce-que-clause Est-ce que Paul sera là ? (will Paul be there ?) inv-clause Paul sera-t-il là ? Q-declarative Paul sera là ? Marandin 2005, Beyssade-Marandin 2006 argue that Q-declaratives in French, unlike interrogatives, have a content of type proposition, and make hypotheses about their use. The only corpus studies available are Mosegaard-Hansen 2001 with 4h35' recording (83% of the polar questions are Q-decl), and Bazillon et al. 2011 with the EPAC corpus (20h of a radio talk show 'le téléphone sonne') who find an more even distribution (28% inv-cl, 31% Q-decl, and 39% est-ce-que-cl), with a preference depending on speaker's status: inv-cl for callers, est-ce-que-cl for experts and Q-decl for the host. We use the same radio corpus with further parameters, to study the differences among the three types. Q-declaratives differ from interrogatives, in being compatible with epistemic markers and question tags, like other declaratives : (1) on va commencer peut-être avec Étienne Boisserie ? ('we'll start maybe with E B ?') (2) le seul moyen de trouver du travail en Irak, c'est dans les services de sécurité, non ? ('the only mean to find a job in Iraq, it's in the security services, no ?') Q-declaratives resemble interrogatives in expecting an answer, but they differ in their response type: 74% get a confirmation, but only 29% of the est-ce-que-cl and 26% of the inv-cl. Q-decl also differ from interrogatives by their appeal to the addressee: 45% use a 2d person subject (only 7% of the est-ce and 14% of the inv-cl); 47% use a vocative (only 11% of the est-ce-que and 13% of the inv-cl). Unlike an interrogative, a Q-decl presents a proposition, but the speaker hands it over to the addressee to endorse it (Abeillé, Godard, Marandin 2013). Q-decl are never used by callers, who ask for information or advice; they are mainly used by the host for conversation management (1) and topic management, with the discourse topic often presented as left or right dislocated (2,3): (3) [about a new cancer hot line] il est d'ores et déjà opérationnel ce numéro ? (it's already in service, this number ?) To test our observations, we annotate the corpus with 9 parameters: speaker's status, subject person, vocative, coordination, dislocation, tag, tense, response type, conversation management. We fit three mixed effect logistic regression models, each predicting a clause type given the annotated factors. It remains to be seen whether our results hold in other corpora and other dialog situations.
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hal-00936493 , version 1 (26-01-2014)


  • HAL Id : hal-00936493 , version 1


Anne Abeillé, Benoît Crabbe, Danièle Godard, Jean-Marie Marandin. French Polar Questions : a corpus study. Congrès international des linguistes, Jul 2013, Genève, Switzerland. ⟨hal-00936493⟩
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