The decline of the French passe simple
Jacobs, Magdalene Sophia
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This thesis examines the decline of the passé simple and the concurrent rise of the passé composé across three periods of Classical French, a change which is typically treated as a case of grammaticalization. This study is based on a quantification of variable contexts through the construction and examination of historic corpora comprised of two different text types: letters and essays. Ultimately, the goal of this study is to provide concrete information on the diachrony of the opposition between the passé simple and the passé composé through a statistical analysis of the factors that influenced their use during the time periods in question. Factors analyzed in this study are text-type, temporal and adverbial reference, Aktionsart (lexical aspect), semantic class, object plurality, clause type, grammatical person, and negation. Diachronically, the multivariate analyses indicate an increasing restriction on the factors that favored the passé simple over the passé compose.