The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 2/4 - Christopher Tancredi

Speaker: Christopher Tancredi (Keio University)
Title: The Grammar of TOPIC, FOCUS and Givenness
Date: Thursday, February 4
Time: 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Theories of contrastive topic, focus and Givenness overlap to a high degree in what phenomena they explain. Each theory, however, uses its own primitives to explain its share of the phenomena. This suggests the possibility of reducing the number of primitives appealed to and also eliminating one or more of the explanations in favor of the other(s). I argue in this talk that such a reduction is not possible. The argument is made by showing that Givenness cannot be reduced to a side effect of focus or of contrastive topic, and nor can the revers reduction be made, and finally by showing that focus and contrastive topic show distinct phonological behavior that requires their being differentiated in the syntax. I finally show how this result is consistent with the analysis of focus and contrastive topic of Constant 2014.