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Seminar: On the French subjunctive imperfect and the use one man has allegedly made of it, Bert Peeters, 12 Aug

Australian National University

Date: 10 August 2016

Seminar: On the French subjunctive imperfect and the use one man has allegedly made of it

Speaker: Bert Peeters

When: Friday 12 August, 3.30-5pm

Where: Engma Room (5019), HC Coombs Building, ANU

Abstract:

French has a subjunctive mood that shows signs both of regeneration and degeneration. Two of its tenses are particularly threatened: the imperfect and the pluperfect. The subjunctive imperfect continues nonetheless to provide fodder for conversation. It enjoys a degree of media interest mainly fueled by (often biased) comments on those who continue to use this tense for whatever purpose. Those who employ the subjunctive imperfect without the stated aim of trying to illustrate its potentially incongruous nature often draw attention to themselves. One of these individuals is a rather unknown Frenchman by the name of Jean-Marie Le Pen. I present an outline of how, over the last 30 years, various commentators in France (and occasionally in other French-speaking countries) have addressed the topic of Le Pen’s alleged idiosyncratic use of the subjunctive imperfect. Special attention is paid to the ulterior motives of the former leader of the Front National, and it is suggested that he may have relied on these increasingly rare verb forms to get a better hearing for his widely condemned political views.

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