Focus, Presupposition, and Propositional Attitude
A focus in an uttered sentence is the word of greatest prosodic prominence in the sentence. Most formal frameworks of focus are based on Hamblin’s theory of questions, which represents a question as the set of possible answers (cf. ). Contrary to these approaches, this paper proposes a formal theory of focus in which propositional attitudes of communication partners play a crucial role. The central hypothesis of this theory is the following:
S uses focus either for information supply or for correction, namely
(a) in order to give H particular information that H would need or
(b) in order to point out something false about H’s belief.
Hence, when S uses focus,
(a) S presupposes that H lacks particular information or
(b) S presupposes that H believes something false.
These speaker’s presuppositions can be specified by using discourse congruence, namely question-answer congruence indicates presupposition (a) and binary contrast indicates presupposition (b). In this paper, I will show how to describe problems related to interpretation of focus, such as question-answer congruence, binary contrast, contrast in discourse structure, partial negation, and focal presupposition.
KeywordsInformation Supply Partial Negation Propositional Attitude Discourse Structure Dynamic Semantic
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