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En réponse à bnathyuw <[log in to unmask]>:

>
> what about phrases such as 'il est medecin', 'OEdipe
> roi', &c ? is there a further rule that french doesn't
> use articles on ( unqualified ) predicative nouns ?
>

No. It's just that the construction "il est" can only be followed in French by
an adjective, or something that behaves that way. So "médecin" in this sentence
is not really a noun. The sentence "il est médecin" maps with "il est grand",
where "médecin" and "grand" have exactly the same role. On the other hand, you
cannot say *"il est un médecin" or *"il est le médecin". You have to
say: "c'est un médecin" or "c'est le médecin". "Il est" can only be followed by
an adjective, and thus in "il est médecin", "médecin" is really an adjective
(Note that only nouns of occupations can become adjectives like that).

As for "OEdipe roi", it's a structure willingly archaising (coming from a time
where the French article was not mandatory yet), and purely written language.
It's the name of a play, and only for that it can be used. Normal French syntax
would have "le roi OEdipe" or "OEdipe le roi". Note the article always present.

> why could that be ?
>

In Written French, you still don't normally put an article in front of a noun
in apposition to another (a little like "OEdipe roi" above, but apposition is
normally always marqued by a comma between the nouns). So for instance you
have: "cet homme, grand écrivain s'il en fût...". But like the title above,
it's an archaising construction, and in Spoken French you always add an
article, which article depends on the meaning of the apposition. For instance,
my little litterary phrase would become in Spoken French: "cet homme, un grand
écrivain comme pas d'autre...". Written French carries on habits and rules that
are not valid nowadays. Appositions without articles are like the use of the
simple past: sign of an elevated written register which is prescriptively
taught but never used except by authors.

Christophe.

http://rainbow.conlang.free.fr

Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.