Langues et civilisations
à tradition orale

          CNRS           INSHS home          Other web sites          
cnrs paris3 inalco paris3 paris3
Intranet Lacito français

  Home > Research at the Lacito > Information structuring and typology of detachment constructions

Detachment constructions in languages and discourses

Program of the
CNRS Federation TUL (Typologie et Universaux Linguistiques, FR 2559),
Federation for Linguistic Typology and Universals


Scientific coordinator

M.M.Jocelyne FERNANDEZ-VEST, Laboratoire de Langues et Civilisations à Tradition Orale (LACITO, Laboratory for Oral Languages and Cultures), UMR 7107, CNRS – Universités Paris 3 & Paris 4 m.m.jocelyne.fernandez-vest@vjf.cnrs.fr



Universal tendencies of Information Structuring: theory and description of detachment constructions, their grammaticalization and evolution in the relation oral-written language, in connection with language typology.



– Members from CNRS laboratories partaking in the Federation (list of laboratories)

1/ Researchers and University teachers

2/ PhD Students

– Members from French University teams

Karl-Erland Gadelii (Scandinavian Studies Department, Paris 4), Marie-Ange Julia (CPGE Henri IV & Centre Alfred Ernout, Paris 4).

– Correspondents abroad:

Nomi Erteschik-Shir (Ben Gurion University) ; David Gil (Max Planck Institute, EVA, Leipzig); Marja-Liisa Helasvuo (Turku) ; Larry Hyman (UC Berkeley) ; Elena Kalinina (Academy of Sciences in Moscow) ; Ritva Laury (Helsinki) ; Helle Metslang (Tartu) ; Karl & Renate Pajusalu (Tartu) ; Maria Polinsky (Harvard); Heete Sahkai (Institute of the Estonian Language, Tallinn) ; Peter Slomanson (Århus) ; Robert Van Valin (Buffalo, NY & Düsseldorf).


Languages studied

Around thirty languages, starting from the specialty languages of the permanent members of the program, i.e.:

  • Indo-European languages – French and Romance, Celtic, Germanic languages (English, German, Scandinavian languages), Slavic languages (Bulgarian, Russian);
  • Finno-Ugric and Uralic languages – Samic (Northern Sami and Anar Sami), Fennic (Estonian, Finnish), Volgaic (both Mordvin), Hungarian and Ob- Ugric languages;
  • Amerindian languages (Quechua, Guarani);
  • Ancient languages (Latin, Greek ; Aramaic);
  • Indonesian languages (dialects of Sumatra and Riau);
  • Hebrew – Biblical, michnic and modern;
  • Basque;
  • Standard Burmese and Arakanese dialect
  • Chinese;
  • Korean;
  • Japanese;
  • Thai;
  • Vietnamese.


Agenda and partnerships

• Already performed:

– 2 international Workshops

I. Structure Informationnelle et typologie des langues : marquage du focus, constructions détachées, hiérarchie des enchaînements thématiques, Université Paris 3 & Fédération TUL, 21-22.XI.2008.

II. Structure Informationnelle et typologie des questions et des réponses / Information Structure and typology of questions and answers, Université Paris 3 & Laboratoire LACITO, 2-3.IV.2009.

– Launching Symposium


• Length of the program: 4 years

Quarterly meetings and chat room starting from 2010. Collective Publication Program (articles in peer-review journals and books), International Colloquium at the end of the period. The program will rely upon already well-established European partnerships – EVA (Evolutionary Anthropology), Max Planck Institute, Leipzig; collaborative project ELDIA (European Language Diversity for All), PCRD 7.

• Goals of the Program

We aim at analyzing and comparing
          – in a set of typologically diverse languages (see above)
          – and from distinct theoretical and methodological approaches: one of the main process involved in Information Structuring

Detachment constructions (= detached Theme/Topic and the Post- Rheme/Mneme), from the point of view of word order and prosody. As it focuses on detachment constructions in a textual perspective, this program will deal with the impact of Initial Detachments (ID) and Final Detachments (FD) on the structuring of the Rheme(/Focus), and the role played by detachments in sentence combining.

We will particularly raise the following questions:
           • Are detachment constructions favored by some discourse registers (life story, impromptu speech…) or by some speech situations (e.g. simultaneous interpretation vs. consecutive interpretation)?
           • Is it possible to establish a correlation between the frequency of use of either construction (ID vs. FD) and the morphosyntactic characteristics of the languages involved –for instance with the argument structure (nuclear arguments vs. oblique arguments, cf. Uralic languages with very rich case morphology)?

Two main approaches will be confronted:

1. The formal semantics approach that gives a central role to syntax.
The question of configurationality of languages will be raised:
           If some languages can be considered more configurational than others, is it possible to show that configurational languages breed more truthconditional ambiguity than non configurational languages with a flexible word order directly reflecting the semantic structure?

2. The functional and enunciative approach, that hypothesizes a double tripartite information organization (3 levels, 3 enunciative constituents), for the study of both sentences and discourses, in a continuum //everyday conversation – mediated discourse//
           In this perspective, the discourse organizational hierarchy (prosody – DIPs – word order) builds upon the Minimal Communicative Utterance, common core of binary strategies 1 (Theme-Rheme) and 2 (Rheme-Mneme).

The theorization of detachment operations is enriched
           • on the one hand, by observing the typological evolution of oral languages surrounded by a written environment,
           • on the other hand, by applying the methodology to monolingual or multilingual dialogues of simulated oral speech (theatre, novel) and to their translations.

• Expected results

One of the strong points of this program lies in the fact that it combines already well-established theories on widespread (mainly Indo-European) languages with the exploring, innovative though temptative works on languages sparsely described from the points of view of syntax and information structuring.

The systematic analysis of around thirty different languages,concentrated on the core processes of "thematization" and "postrhematization",
           – will enable us to take a stand on some deeply-held notions (particularity of "configurational" languages ?, absence of prosodic organization in tonal languages?
           – and will provide arguments for a typologist vs. universalist interpretation of Information Structuring.

Beyond measuring the orality degree of a language and/or its registers, the larger issue of discourse linearization and its underlying cognitive processes leads us back to the yet unsolved though classic question:
–––> What is a "neutral" word order?


ISTY Seminar & Workshop

ISTY-QAPEFCO IVth. Estonian-French Seminar "Questions and answers in Estonian" CNRS-Villejuif, 1 June 2012 Program

ISTY VI. International Workshop Paris, 2 June 2012 Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 - Maison de la Recherche - 4 rue des Irlandais 75005 Paris Program

Imprimer Contacter le webmestre Plan du site Crédits Accueil