The prosody and interpretation of non-exhaustive narrow focus in Basque



Argitaratua 2009-04-16
Gorka Elordieta Aritz Irurtzun


In this paper we analyze the intonational properties of a type of focus construction that has not been discussed in the literature on focus in generative grammar. We refer to a type of answers to wh-questions in which the constituent that fills the variable does not do so exhaustively, that is, it does not provide an exhaustive answer because the speaker cannot commit to asserting that the other potential alternative candidates to fill the variable are cancelled. The type of narrow focus usually discussed in the literature is one in which a constituent fills the variable of the question exhaustively, with a concomitant cancellation of the rest of the focal alternatives. We call these types of narrow focus Non-Exhaustive Narrow Focus (NENF) and Exhaustive Narrow Focus (ENF), respectively. In our experiment, we measured peak scaling and alignment of accents in the subject and the verb in ENF and NENF utterances. The results show that NENF is distinguished from ENF in having a pitch accent on the verb with a higher F0 value, almost as if the verb were focalized. In fact, we compared the intonational patterns of NENF with Verum Focus constructions, in which the event expressed by the verb is focalized, and there were no significant differences in the verbal peaks in NENF and VF. As for subjects, only one of the three speakers had higher peaks in NENF, but another speaker showed categorical peak delay in NENF. The paper offers a semantic analysis of the differences between ENF and NENF, by claiming that NENF is a split focus construction, in which both the subject and the polarity (or rather, the pairing between the subject and the polarity) constitute the focus of the utterance.

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Elordieta, Gorka, eta Aritz Irurtzun. 2009. «The Prosody and Interpretation of Non-Exhaustive Narrow Focus in Basque». Anuario Del Seminario De Filología Vasca "Julio De Urquijo" 43 (1-2):205-30.
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