Focus and the exclusion of alternatives on the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference

  • The claim that focus evokes a set of alternatives is a central issue in several accounts of the effects of focus on interpretation. This article presents two empirical studies that examine whether this property of focus is independent of contextual conditions. The syntactic operation at issue is object-fronting in German, Spanish, Greek, and Hungarian licensed by contexts involving focus on the object constituent. This operation evokes the intuition that the fronted referent excludes some or all relevant alternatives. The presented experiments deal with the question whether this interpretative property obligatorily accompanies the operation at issue or not. The empirical findings show that in German, Spanish, and Greek this intuition depends on properties of the context and is sensitive to the interaction with further discourse factors (in particular, the predictability of the referent). Hungarian displays a different data pattern: our data does not provide evidence that the syntactic operation at issue depends on the context orThe claim that focus evokes a set of alternatives is a central issue in several accounts of the effects of focus on interpretation. This article presents two empirical studies that examine whether this property of focus is independent of contextual conditions. The syntactic operation at issue is object-fronting in German, Spanish, Greek, and Hungarian licensed by contexts involving focus on the object constituent. This operation evokes the intuition that the fronted referent excludes some or all relevant alternatives. The presented experiments deal with the question whether this interpretative property obligatorily accompanies the operation at issue or not. The empirical findings show that in German, Spanish, and Greek this intuition depends on properties of the context and is sensitive to the interaction with further discourse factors (in particular, the predictability of the referent). Hungarian displays a different data pattern: our data does not provide evidence that the syntactic operation at issue depends on the context or interacts with further discourse factors. This finding is in line with the view that evoking alternatives is inherent part of constituent-fronting in this language.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Stavros Skopeteas, Gisbert FanselowGND
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2011.05.005
ISSN:0024-3841 (print)
Parent Title (English):Lingua : international review of general linguistics
Publisher:Elsevier
Place of publication:Amsterdam
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2011
Year of Completion:2011
Release Date:2017/03/26
Tag:Exclusion of alternatives; Focus; Pragmatic inference; Pseudocleft; Word order
Volume:121
Issue:11
Pagenumber:14
First Page:1693
Last Page:1706
Organizational units:Humanwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Psychologie
Peer Review:Referiert