Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 141–177 | Cite as


  • Roger Schwarzschild


This paper strives to characterize the relation between accent placement and discourse in terms of independent constraints operating at the interface between syntax and interpretation. The Givenness Constraint requires un-F-marked constituents to be given. Key here is our definition of givenness, which synthesizes insights from the literature on the semantics of focus with older views on information structure. AvoidF requires speakers to economize on F-marking. A third constraint requires a subset of F-markers to dominate accents.

The characteristic prominence patterns of "novelty focus" and "contrastive focus" both arise from a combination of the Givenness Constraint and AvoidF. Patterns of prominence in questions as well as in answers to questions are explained in terms of the constraints, thanks in part to the way in which the Givenness relation is defined. Head/argument asymmetries noted in the literature on Focus Projection are placed in the phonology-syntax interface, independent of discourse conditions. Deaccenting follows when AvoidF is ranked higher than constraint(s) governing head/argument asymmetries.


Information Structure Characteristic Prominence Independent Constraint Discourse Condition Contrastive Focus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Schwarzschild
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA, E-mail

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