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On the Syntax and Translation of Finnish Discourse Clitics

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Finnish has a set of morphemes called discourse clitics, which attach to words and express things like contrasting and reminding. This paper builds a formal grammar to specify the syntax and morphology of these clitics. The grammar is written in GF, Grammatical Framework, which has a distinction between abstract syntax (tree structures) and concrete syntax (surface structures such as strings). The abstract syntax of clitics defines their contribution to the discourse semantics of sentences, in particular the topic-focus structure. The concrete syntax defines the realization in Finnish. We also show another concrete syntax, for English, which makes it possible to translate between Finnish discourse clitics and corresponding devices in English. The paper shows a complete GF code of a small grammar demonstrating the main ideas and also gives a link to a web demo for translation. Theoretically, the work can be seen as a synthesis of a Montague semantics for clitics as proposed by Karttunen and Karttunen in 1976 and their explanation in terms of dialogue games following Lauri Carlson’s model of 1993.