The concept of preconstruction in enunciative linguistics

The concept of preconstruction has received various acceptations in enunciative linguistics and consequently has been described as “highly plastic” by Marie-Anne Paveau (Paveau, 2017). Drawing an inventory of what has become of the term since its first introduction into discourse linguistic studies in the 1970s, she underlines what she considers to be one of its main characteristics, namely that it refers to a construction that is an “interpretative gesture” as well as a “recognition procedure” and which mobilizes cultural as well as cognitive resources.
Within the framework of the Theory of Enunciative and Predicative Operations (TEPO), the concept of preconstruction has often been differentiated from that of presupposition, a distinction pointed out by Antoine Culioli as he discussed the concept in his 1975-76 seminar. The preconstructed, he says, is a text and a metatext (Culioli, 1975-76, session 5), in other words, it is a linguistic form that refers to a sequence of operations, and its operative form is a way out of the presupposed, whose meaning and usage vary according to authors and study fields, from the philosophy of language (Russel, Frege and Strawson) to pragmatics (Fillmore, Stalnaker, among others), and in particular integrated pragmatics (Ducrot and Anscombre) (see Ducrot 1969, Zuber 1975, or more recently Kleiber 2012, Deloor 2012).
However, if the preconstructed element, in the sense given to the term in the TEPO, is a metaform, it differs from an underlying structure for at least two reasons: i) it refers to a linguistic form that could be attested and which is reconstructed from an attested utterance (Fisher 1983: 168, quoted by La Mantia 2020:167); ii) it refers to an operation (implicit or explicit) taking place prior to the on-going utterance and not to an abstract representation of that utterance. The preconstructed element also differs from an underlying structure because, as text (in the sense of a sequence of operations) and metatext, it is part of a family of paraphrases that allow to adjust meaning in discourse. As such, they differ from the natural logic inferences of the philosophy of language because of their formal and metalinguistic nature. Thus, the answer to the question Who can read English? Jean can read English refers to more than one preconstructed element and at least the following two: i) At least Jean can read English and ii) Only Jean can read English (1975-76 Seminar, session 8, p. 102). The objective is, says Culioli, to propound forms that make it possible “to bring out rigorously the way the utterance is constructed and to see how it can be represented so as to be assigned such or such value accordingly” (idem). Selecting the preconstructed element will, therefore, be part of the language activity (the epilinguistic activity) of the speaking subjects, an activity that precedes every on-going utterance. As such, it will be necessary to try and determine which criteria are engaged in the non-conscious selection of the preconstructed element (prosodic, contextual, situational, etc., cf. Wyld 2014).
Yet, though the form given to the preconstructed element must be reusable (Culioli 75-76, session 5) and result from a calculation (Culioli 75-76, session 9, p.114), the way it is generated remains to be defined. It is associated with an anaphora-like operation (for instance, in the functioning of the French imparfait or the BE-ING form in English) or with an “effect of relating to a preconstructed element”, again for the imparfait (Chuquet 2000: 69), although it seems hardly possible to distinguish the preconstructed element and the operation from which it results. One could, thus, speak of a certain vagueness of the preconstructed.
The lack of a stabilized definition has been emphasized in papers written within the framework of the TEPO, some of which put forward an approach in terms of validation of the predicative relation relative to a locator disconnected from the on-going situation, which results in a relation that is pre-asserted or non-asserted in the on-going discourse (Bouscaren and Chuquet, 1987). This approach has been particularly productive in works on verbal nominalizations, aspectual forms (BE-ING, HAVE-EN, imparfait), relative clauses, THAT-noun clauses in indirect speech and in focalizing structures (extraposition, cleft sentences, etc.), as well as works on subordination in general (cause, condition, concession, purpose, etc.), which relate to locators that are said to be preconstructed.
In order to further reflect on the concept, we invite submissions for presentations questioning its very theoretical background, the distinction between glosses, paraphrases and the preconstructed, between the preconstructed, the presupposed and prediscourse, and the part they play, for instance, in irony, argumentation and figures in discourse, which revisit analyses of markers that have been extensively studied along these lines (cf. supra) and propound analyses of markers that have been overlooked so far, particularly in oral discourse (such as like, genre, du coup, say, etc.), which question the functioning of the preconstructed in incipits, in text poetics and genetics, in brief genres (motto, proverbs, ads, for instance), etc.

Cited references
Bouscaren, J. & J. Chuquet, 1987, Grammaire et textes anglais, guide pour l’analyse linguistique, Gap/Paris, Ophrys.
Culioli, A., 1975-76, Transcription du séminaire de D.E.A de M. A. Culioli, « Recherche en Linguistique Théorie des opérations énonciatives » par les étudiants, transcription réalisée par Solenn Aliji et Lionel Dufaye, col. Archives et transcription, le LISAA éditeur.
Deloor, S., 2012, « Bref aperçu des travaux sur la présupposition », Langages n° 186 :3-20.
Ducrot, O., 1969, « Présupposés et sous-entendus », Langue française n° 4, La Sémantique : 30-43.
Chuquet, H. 2000, « L’imparfait français est-il traduisible en anglais ? Le cas de l’imparfait dit ‘de rupture’ » in Linguistique contrastive et traduction, Tome 5, Gap, Ophrys, 67-85.
Fisher, S., 1983, « Postface », S. Fisher et J.-J. Franckel (dir.), Linguistique, énonciation. Aspects et détermination : 165-170.
Kleiber, G., 2012, « Sur la présupposition », Langages n° 186 : 21-36.
La Mantia, F. 2020, Pour se faire langage. Lexique élémentaire de la Théorie de Opérations Prédicatives et Enonciatives d’Antoine Culioli, Lexica n°1, Academia.
Paveau, M-A, 2017, « Le préconstruit, généalogie et déploiement d’une notion plastique », F. Bréchet, S. Giai-Duganera, R. Luis, A. Mezzadri & S. Thomas (dir.), Le préconstruit, approche pluridisciplinaire, 192, Classique Garnier, Rencontres, 78-2-406-06807-5. HAL Id: hal-01672261,
Wyld, H., 2014, « Constructing reality: on the operation of validation in T.O.E. », Travaux linguistiques du CerLiCO, Du réel à l’irréel, 25 (1) : 297-302.
Zuber, R., 1975, « À propos du statut sémantique de la présupposition », Études de linguistique appliquée 19 : 43-51.

Submission guidelines
We welcome submissions of abstracts on any language (500 words + bibliography), in French or English, for 30 min presentations + 10 min discussion.
Please send your submission to :  and

The conference will take place at Université Gustave Eiffel, Champs-sur-Marne. Half a day will be dedicated to communications by Master’s and PhD’s candidates.

Submission deadline: Sept. 15th, 2023.
Notification of acceptance: Oct. 15th, 2023.

Plenary Speakers
Francesco La Mantia, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy.
Marilia Blundi Onofre, Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar) and Jacqueline Jorente IFSP (Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia de São Paulo), Brazil.

Christine Copy, Université Gustave Eiffel, EA 4120 LISAA
Lionel Dufaye, Université Gustave Eiffel, EA 4120 LISAA

Scientific committee

Jean Chuquet-Université de Poitiers
Monique De Mattia-Viviès-Université Aix-Marseille
Françoise Doro-Mégy-Université Paris-Est Créteil
Hugo Dumoulin- Université Paris Nanterre
Catherine Filippi-Université de Rouen
Jean-Jacques Franckel-Université Paris Nanterre
Isabelle Gaudy-Campbell-Université de Lorraine
Lucie Gournay-Université Paris-Est Créteil
Lise Hamelin-Université de Cergy
Sylvie Hanote-Université de Poitiers
Marge Käsper- Université de Tartu, Estonie
Agnès Leroux-Université Paris Nanterre
Julien Longhi- Université de Cergy
Raluca Nita-Université de Poitiers
Sylvester Osu-Université de Tours
Philippe Planchon-Université de Tours
Graham Ranger-Université d’Avignon
Wilfrid Rotgé-Université Paris-Sorbonne
Sarah de Vogüé-Université Paris Nanterre

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