I present a corpus analysis of three marking strategies for contrastive subjects – the specific topic marker quant à ‘as for’ + pronoun (1a), emphatic pronouns (1b) and contrastive adverbs (1c) – in spoken French (interviews), journalistic written French (national & regional newspapers), and informal written French (discussion forum).
(1) Le moineau domestique adore les graines de tournesol.
‘The house sparrow loves sunflower seeds.’
a. Le rouge-gorge, quant à lui, préfère les vers de farine.
‘The robin, as for him, prefers mealworms.’
b. Le rouge-gorge, lui, préfère les vers de farine.
‘The robin, him, prefers mealworms.’
c. Le rouge-gorge, par contre, préfère les vers de farine.
‘The robin, on the other hand, prefers mealworms.’
All three markers are syntactically mobile, as illustrated in (2) for contrastive adverbs.
(2) [Par contre] le rouge-gorge [par contre] préfère [par contre] les vers de farine [par contre].
‘[On the other hand] the robin [on the other hand] prefers [on the other hand]
mealworms [on the other hand].’
I show that both the choice for a certain marking strategy and the choice for a specific syntactic position is influenced by a combination of discursive and syntactic factors, which are registerdependent. With respect to spoken French, I also analyze the interaction between the use of contrastive adverbs and prosodic cues, in a case study on clause-initial par contre ‘on the other hand’ followed by a preverbal accentuable subject, as in (3).
(3) Par contre le rouge-gorge préfère les vers de farine.
‘On the other hand the robin prefers mealworms.’
This study provides evidence for the hypothesis that prosodic cues (i) can delineate the potential domain of contrast set by a sentence-initial contrastive adverb and (ii) are used to obtain similar discursive effects as those achieved by adverb placement in formal written French.