Constraints on the French [non-N] construction

Edwige Dugas


This paper aims at investigating the productivity of the [non-N] word-formation pattern in contemporary French (e.g. non-qualification ‘non-qualification’, non-Italien ‘non-Italian’, non-ville ‘non-city’) from a Construction Grammar perspective. On the basis of a corpus built from the nomenclature of the Trésor de la Langue Française informatisé, the Frantext database of literary texts (from 1900 onwards) and the internet/online press via the search engine GlossaNet, I show that the [non-N] construction can be considered very productive in contemporary French as it can host almost any noun (subject to semantics and morphological complexity). It is also demonstrated that the high productivity of the [non-N] construction is only apparent if we take into account the fact that it actually corresponds to three sub-constructions which have their own “constraints”, namely, the semantic properties of the base noun (which often correlate with formal properties) and pragmatic information provided by the context.


Construction morphology; prefixation; negation; productivity; French

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