, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 583-622
Date: 28 Apr 2009

A new look at information structure in Hungarian

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It is a commonly accepted view in the Hungarian linguistic literature that sentence structure is determined by information structure, viewed as a phrase structure theoretic interpretation of the topic–comment articulation of the sentence. There is a designated topic position at the left edge of the sentence, namely SpecTopP, hosting constituents that are claimed to be in a predicative relation with the rest of the sentence. On this view, topic–comment and logical subject–logical predicate are considered to be synonymous notions. We argue that the notion of topic as used in the Hungarian literature poses some serious problems, which can only be eliminated if the pragmatic aspects of topichood are separated from its semantic function entailing the development of a two-level approach to information structure. Topic and logical subject belong to two different levels with topic being an essentially pragmatic notion and logical subject being a syntactico-semantic notion. On this analysis the basic syntactic structure of the Hungarian sentence is determined by the articulation “logical subject–logical predicate” rather than by the articulation “topic-comment”. The proposed analysis has important typological consequences.