Types Of Focus In Spanish: Exploring The Connection Between Function And Realization

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Abstract
This thesis revisits the divide between information focus and contrastive focus in Spanish. This divide is said to manifest itself not only in meaning differences, but in surface structure as well, resulting in different syntactic and phonological realizations depending on the intended pragmatic function of a focused sentence. According to previous accounts, an utterance in which focus is expressed by dislocating the relevant element to the end of the sentence is assumed to signify information focus, while a strategy utilizing a specific prosody change on the focused element is said to express contrast. This work argues, in opposition to previous assumptions from the literature, that there is not a strict divide between the realization of one kind of focus or another, and in fact, that these preconceived meaning divides are not themselves straightforward to characterize. Further, this work argues for the possibility that the choice of focus construction is highly influenced by speakers' communicative intentions and constraints. The conclusions reached in this thesis are the product of a combination of empirical and theoretical work. Empirical evidence is drawn from two sources: 1) data from an original elicitation experiment involving native speakers of Spanish producing focused constructions under different pragmatic situations; and 2) findings from the literature on on-line sentence processing studying focused constructions specifically. The first source of data points at the conclusion that the strict information-as-syntactic vs. contrast-as-phonological divide has no base in Spanish. The second source argues for the need for a more functionally-informed approach to focus constructions. A formal analysis of the data using the QUD framework also demonstrates that different kinds of focus can be represented under a single unified semantic approach.
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2013-05-26
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Rooth, Mats
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Diesing, Molly
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Linguistics
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M.A., Linguistics
Degree Level
Master of Arts
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dissertation or thesis
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