1

Parmi les tournures ci-dessous laquelle est correcte ?

Sur le plan de la syntaxe et non plus du sens.

ou

Sur le plan de la syntaxe et non plus de sens.

Moi, je pensais que c'était la deuxième et pas la première. Or, j'ai rencontré la première dans un livre.

3

TL;DR Use the definite article (du sens).


The long version is that in cases like this, we can ask two questions:

  1. Is there any reason to use a definite article?
  2. Is there any reason not to use a definite article?

In the sentence you cited, we see that the author has used a definite article in both cases. The two main reasons that come to mind to use a definite article in French are that it is indeed definite, i.e. something previously identified, or that it's a universal noun or type (e.g. « l'amour est aveugle »).

To my mind, either reason could apply in this sentence. « La syntaxe » can certainly denote a universal, and though « le sens » feels a little less like one, I suspect that's what's meant here. (Note that if sens couldn't be a universal, the alternative wouldn't be « non plus de sens » but a different noun that can serve as a universal, e.g. « non plus de la sémantique ».)

On the other hand, they could both be strictly definite, i.e. implicitly referring to the syntax and meaning of some sentence under discussion. We would need to see the context to decide.


Now on to the reasons to avoid a definite article. A few come to mind.

One is that after a negation, you generally delete the definite article. In my original version of this answer, I assumed this is what you had in mind since you only asked about the second definite article and not the first. That would be a situation like this:

Il mange de la farine.
Il ne mange pas de farine.

However, I believe this rule only applies to verbal complements. Your example is about nominal complements. Quel plan ? (a) de la syntaxe ; (b) du sens.

A second case is constructions that involve quantities: « une boîte de billes » or « beaucoup de farine » or « absence de sens ». We can see that « plan de X » isn't this kind of construction since it's rather a genitive that characterizes the plan.

However, a third case appears to be much closer to this one. This is the case of « type de X » and similar words. Previous questions on this suggest that there is no article (not least because otherwise the singular and plural would be easier to distinguish). But if we think hard about it, we realize that in "type de syntaxe", we aren't using "syntaxe" to say what kind of "type" it is, the way that we're using "syntaxe" to identify what kind of "plan" it is. Another way of stating this observation is that we can paraphrase the one as "plan syntaxique" but the other is not the equivalent of "type syntaxique".

Since none of those rules apply, we have no reason to delete the definite article. But any further analysis from scholars or native speakers is welcome!

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    Que quelqu'un de plus instruit me corrige si besoin ! – Luke Sawczak May 23 '18 at 3:24
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    Rien à redire. C'est bien d'avoir des gens dont le français n'est pas la langue maternelle: ils sont parfois bien plus à même de voir ce qui accroche dans la compréhension. Je n'avais pas même remarqué que «non plus» pouvait prêter à confusion. +1 – ﺪﺪﺪ May 23 '18 at 3:30
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    @Montéedelait C'est ça. C'est aussi pourquoi je ne voudrais pas enseigner l'anglais comme langue seconde ! – Luke Sawczak May 23 '18 at 3:43
  • On dit pourtant « absence de sens ». Je ne pense donc pas que cette explication soit la bonne. Je pense que c'est plus subtil. Dans l'exemple donné, la présence de sens n'est pas ce qui est nié, c'est la nature de l'observation qui a changé. Tout ça est compliqué, parce que dans la phrase « On parle (de la / de) syntaxe et non (du / de) sens », les quatre possibilités (au total) sont envisageables. Mais dans celle donnée en exemple après « le plan », la présence d'un un article défini est nécéssaire et la construction de contraste n'y change rien. – Stéphane Gimenez Aug 10 at 13:43
  • @StéphaneGimenez The « absence de sens » example, as a counter to my claim that negative polarity only obviates the definite article in verbal complements, appears more compelling than it is. I don't claim that negation is the only way a definite article can be eliminated, but that negation only has this effect in verbal contexts. I think a different "eliminator rule" is at work in « absence de sens », namely the same one at work in « présence de sens » : quantity + noun. That rule is irrelevant to « plan du sens » which is a different genitive. – Luke Sawczak Aug 10 at 14:25

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