Langue française n° 153 (1/2007)
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In this article we think over the use of « on » as the subject of the examples given in Les Verbes français, the electronic dictionary compiled by Jean Dubois and Françoise Dubois-Charlier. The frequency of the clitic, which is not part of the dictionary’s meta-language (where it is represented by the indefinite “quelqu’un (qn)”), corresponds to the fact that the verbal entries are systematically accompanied by examples. As a two-letter word, it is functional within sentences limited to 60 letters. As lexicographic tradition will have it, the examples are very complex, illustrating all the values of that omni-personal pronoun, in particular the equivalence “on/nous”, which reintroduces theoretically – out of context – factors of deictic interpretation which are left out for the indefinite “quelqu’un”. The examples thus open up on a new form of modern naturalness of the syntactically and semantically minimal utterance, inseparable from dialogue situations, whose conditions of use connected to the ordinary French of both our written and oral modernity it contributes to codify.