Focus and Topic
This book aims to provide a Minimalist account of Focus and Topic constructions on the basis of a Syntax-Phonology Interface analysis. The aim we pursue is twofold. First, we want to analyze the structural nature of Focus and Topic elements across the various levels of Grammar, i.e., their point of lexical insertion, the operations they are submitted to by the computational system and their realization in the prosodic component. Our second goal is to identify the specific properties which distinguish these two marked constructions1 and make them interpretable to interfaces. In other words, we aim to identify what piece of syntactic information is made visible to Phonetic Form (PF) in order to guarantee the correct PF interpretation for Focus and Topic (see also Section 1.5 below).
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- 1.As the analysis will show, our generalizations do not concern unmarked Focus structures (i.e., `all new sentences’) but only narrow Focus constructions (see 1.1 below).Google Scholar
- 2.This is an abbreviation of the title of De Mauro’s (ed. 1993) book Lessico di Frequenza dell’Italiano Parlato. For LIP structure and content, see Chapter 3, notes 2 and 21)Google Scholar
- 3.The extension of a narrow Focus can vary. For the purposes of the present work the analysis concentrates on Focus-marked words.Google Scholar
- 5.It is important to underline that the notion of local relation is to be understood derivationally and not representationally.Google Scholar
- 7.Moreover, unlike Substitution, Adjunction is not necessarily derived from movement: base-generated Adjuncts, such as adverbial expressions or parenthetical clauses, are also allowed.Google Scholar
- 8.The notion of ‘more closeness’ of a category X with respect to a target Y can be defined as the structural condition for which Y c-commands X and Y is located in the minimal domain which dominates X directly (see Chomsky 1995, 335ff.).Google Scholar
- 9.The existence of the C constituent is much debated. Hayes (1989), Vogel (1989), and Nespor (1993) assume C to be necessary, while Booij (1995) and Selkirk (1995) argue against its existence since — in their opinion — there are no relevant phenomena requiring it to be accounted for. Though not relevant to the issues of the present study (but see Section 2.8.4, in which Serbo-Croatian data on Topic supports the existence of a C level), we agree with Hayes and Nespor and Vogel’s analyses and assume the presence of the C in the prosodic hierarchy.Google Scholar
- 10.The validity of the SLH has been challenged in recent works (cf., among others, Ladd 1986, Prince and Smolensky 1993, Selkirk 1995), in which the need for some recursivity in prosodic constituency is invoked. As will be shown, Italian data strongly supports the inviolability of nonrecursivity — at least for prosodic levels above the Word.Google Scholar
- 12.The lexical categories which Prosodic Phonology considers as N-Heads are Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives. Other syntactic Heads, such as Auxiliaries, Prepositions, Determiners and Complementizers cannot have this phonological status.Google Scholar
- 13.Structural representations are given in ‘pre-Split-INFL’ hypothesis terms (Pollock 1989), in line with Nespor and Vogel’s (1986) syntactic framework. Though a Minimalist revision of prosodic constituents would be important, it is not relevant here.Google Scholar
- 14.It should be noted that the presence of a parenthetical expression (i.e., come sai),which forms an Adjunct to the sentential node IP, triggers a Topic position for the SUBJ DP.Google Scholar
- 15.The present analysis will show that the presence and typology of Focus and Topic constituents is a determining factor in the definition of I boundaries.Google Scholar