What does oral speech tells us more about the functioning of passive turns?

 One-Day symposium


organised by

Badreddine HAMMA


University of Orleans – Departement of linguistics

LLL, UMR 7270

Thursday, November 14, 2019


What does oral speech tells us more about the functionning of passive forms


In the literature on the passive voice (both in popular works and in specialized linguistic works), the examples usually quoted are very often represented by a somewhat minimalistic and well-structured phrasal canon following the pattern: NP-SUBJECT + BE-FLEXION + V- PAST PARTICIPLE (+AGENT), that is illustrated by classic and quasi fixed sentences such as: The mouse will be devoured by the cat; The cheese was eaten by the mouse (5ème 2010)[1]; The knight is loved by the lady; Children are raised by parents; The culprit is discovered by the detective (5ème, 2008)[2]. Such examples may also be inspired and adapted from various kinds of writings: from literary texts (Candide was raised in a beautiful castle, Hansel and Gretel were abandoned in the forest), or from journalistic writings reporting all types of events related in  the news (cf. The body of a man was found on Monday on the platform, etc.), or also from historical and scientific writings (cf. Radioactivity was discovered in 1896, America was discovered by Christopher Columbus, etc.). This kind of examples have all in fact been purposely selected, forged, simplified and of a written style. Whereas what blatantly lacks in the study of passive forms is the use of authentic oral exemplification, collected from uncontrolled exchanges and which are part of dialogical and interactional approaches.

This exclusive resort to the canonical forms taken from written literature (along with the exclusion of oral forms) can be explained globally by various factors: for educational purposes, for instance, there is a tendency to believe that the use of easy and simplified sentences might be more beneficial and helpful during grammar courses, which echoes common representations according to which written forms are more reliable and more correct than oral forms, considered unstable, fluctuating and repetitive, and therefore an unattractive object to be avoided, whereas their value with  variationists and oralists is greater than ever, especially recently. Finally, it cannot be denied that the development of theoretical and in particular technical and technological tools for dealing with spoken data has only been able to make significant breakthroughs in recent decades. Nowadays, we have a real array of tools for dealing with spoken utterances, large corpora, such as PFC, CLAPI, ESLO, etc., signal processing tools that are constantly refined, from collection to analysis, through signal processing, annotation, searching and archiving or diffusion, in addition to platforms for hosting them and consortia to set and discuss good practices to adopt in this nascent field.

Therefore, it is quite legitimate to think that historically, the nature of the data used in the tradition has had a consequence on the methods employed and the glosses that we have been able to associate to passive forms, among others, in relationship with the notions of "occultation" and "saliency" and that additional work remains to be done on its interactional uses. Especially given the fact that nominal or lexical passive subjects are very rare in oral speech and that the so-called "long" (with agent) passive turns don’t admit, from the point of view of their relevance, to omit their agent realized spontaneously in a given conversation. Here are the main axes that will be dealt with during this symposium and which will focus on highlighting the contribution of oral and interactional approaches to the study of  passive:

- Passive forms in spoken French or in other languages
- Forms and status of passive in microsyntax and macrosyntax
- Meaning and uses of passive forms in uncontrolled conversations
- The diamesic variations around passive turns
- Canonical (periphrastic) and non-canonical passive turns (pronominal, factitive, adjectival, nominal, etc.)
- Oral passive turns and grammar teaching

A publication of the acts of this symposium is scheduled.

[1] Beltrando, B. (2010). L’atelier de langage. 5ème Éditions Hâtier

[2] Hélène Potelet (2008), Français livre unique, 5ème. Editions Hatier.


To submit:

Proposals will not exceed 500 words (excluding bibliography) and should be sent to the following address : badreddine.hamma@univ-orleans.fr or passif-oral@sciencesconf.org 


Important dates:

  • June 25th:  call for proposals
  • August 25th: 1st deadline to send proposals
  • September 05th: 2nd deadline to send proposals
  • September 15th September 25th : Notification of acceptance or refusal
  • November14th : date of the JE



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