The meaning and functions of French 'je pense (que)': a constructionalist and interactional account

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This paper examines the meanings of the French construction je pense (que) (‘I think (that)’, henceforth JP), as well as its uses in social interaction. We propose an account of JP as a micro-construction with two basic elements of coded meaning, either one of which may be pragmatically foregrounded in a given context of use. As a direct result of its constructional meaning, which we argue is situated at the context level rather than at the content level of discourse, the expression frequently functions as a pragmatic marker in conversation. We show that uses of JP may fulfil both interpersonal, face-related functions and discourse-organizational ones. Our analysis has implications for the way JP and similar expressions in French and other languages are categorized and how their pragmatic functions may be seen to have developed. It also raises interesting questions with regard to the psycholinguistic processing of such constructions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies at the grammar-discourse interface
Subtitle of host publicationDiscourse markers and discourse-related grammatical phenomena
EditorsAlexander Haselow, Sylvie Hancil
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9789027259899
ISBN (Print)9789027208699
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Publication series

NameStudies in language companion series
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
ISSN (Print)0165-7763


  • Parentheticals
  • Epistemic verbs
  • Pragmatic markers
  • Construction Grammar
  • Interactional linguistics


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