A Formal Analysis of the French Temporal Connective alors

Myriam Bras, Anne Le Draoulec, Nicolas Asher


This paper presents an analysis of the French
adverbial alors (then, at that time, so). Among the
linguistic markers that establish a temporal relation between the
eventualities introduced by two clauses, we define as \textit{temporal
connectives} those that introduce at the same time some sort of
discourse relation. We argue that alors can be such a
connective. Within the framework of Segmented Discourse
Representation Theory
, our investigation concerning the discourse
information conveyed by sentence initial alors reveals at
least three sorts of relations close to the Result relation of SDRT.
Alors alone conveys a weak causal relation, which we formalize
using Lewis’ counterfactual, and encode in the discourse relation
Weak-Result. We distinguish it from Strong-Result, which is inferred
when lexical or other contextual information suggests a causal,
discursive link. We also show that alors can, when Weak-Result
is blocked, suggest an inferential relation, which we express using the
weak conditional already present in SDRT.

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