Marc Olivier-Loiseau, (PhD Researcher)

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Phd Researcher Profile

Thesis title: A diachronic study of clitic placement in infinitival contexts in French legal and epistolary material between the 12th and 18th centuries

Topic: This research focuses on the structure of early to middle French, with data available from the 12th century to the 18th century. I aim to analyse change in clitic placement: pronominal clitics are absent from Latin, yet they are present in every Romance language and dialect. A rapid comparison between Italian, French and Portuguese shows that clitic placement varies and is language dependent, even though the constraints they obey share similarities. Data from Old French suggest the language patterned similarly to Modern Spanish and Modern Standard Italian, in having clitic climbing and infinitival enclisis. Although the loss of clitic climbing has been illustrated in texts from the Middle French period, very few studies focus on Old French. I intend to analyse the loss of enclisis and the rise of proclisis with infinitives, as well as the evolution of clitic climbing, until when the Modern French pattern is attested. Additionally, strong pronouns are opposed to clitics in Modern French, yet they seem to compete with clitics in infinitival contexts in Old French: this suggests that the pronominal system was undergoing some restructuration that I include in my study. So far, clitic placement in Old French has proven to be dependent on the structure of the clause, therefore the research includes the study of the Restructuring rule, stylistic fronting, topicalisation and V2 ordering. The research is led through the lens on Generative Syntax.

Methodology: Until the 12th century, Latin remains the language that is put down on paper, and very few texts are available in French - Rustica Romana Lingua. This forces me to work with a corpus that consists of a few texts for earlier periods, yet the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have more data to offer. I aim to give a probabilistic and data-driven language model while integrating gaps in the evolution. My corpus is limited to legal and epistolary material. This choice is motivated by the fact that the literary language does not mirror the vernacular, whereas legal exchanges were written down immediately with little time to bring in style, and letters had the sole purpose to deliver clear and prompt information. This research will eventually provide realistic figures of occurrences of the targeted structures.

Supervisors: Dr Christina Sevdali and Prof Raffaella Folli


After a baccalauréat in Literature and Drama, I studied a BA in English Studies at Université François Rabelais of Tours, France. During my undergraduate studies, I received training as an EFL teacher in French Secondary Education. After graduating, I moved to the UK and took on the role of language assistant within the School of Modern Languages at Ulster University, the Univeristy where I study my Master's. The latter ended up with a dissertation on the syntax of Old French entitled A diachronic study of proclisis-enclisis alternation on infinitives and imperatives in Old French. After graduating, I started a VCRS-funded PhD under the supervision of Dr Christina Sevdali and Prof Raffaella Folli in order to investigate the syntax of Old French more deeply. 



  • BA English Studies
  • MSc Language & Linguistics
  • PgCHEP Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Feel free to contact me at

Visit my website here 

Research Interests

Theoretical Syntax · Generative Theory · Morphology · Diachrony · Change & Variation · Proto-Romance · French.

Teaching Interests

Linguistic Theory · Theoretical Syntax · Diachrony · Morphology · Translation · French Foreign Language · EFL


  • PC Romance languages
  • French
  • Old French
  • Syntax
  • Word Order
  • Diachrony
  • Generative Syntax
  • Old Romance
  • Variation
  • Historical linguistics


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