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Information StructureTheoretical, Typological, and Experimental Perspectives$
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Malte Zimmermann and Caroline Féry

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570959

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570959.001.0001

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Subject focus in West African languages *

Subject focus in West African languages *

(p.234) 10 Subject focus in West African languages*
Information Structure

Ines Fiedler

Katharina Hartmann

Brigitte Reineke

Anne Schwarz

Malte Zimmermann

Oxford University Press

In chapter 10 ‘Subject Focus in West African Languages’, Ines Fiedler, Katharina Hartmann, Brigitte Reineke, Anne Schwarz, and Malte Zimmermann investigate the peculiarities of subject focus marking in three West African language groups. After a discussion of various strategies of focus realization, it is shown that most languages in the sample exhibit a subject/non‐subject asymmetry with respect to focus marking: While focus on non‐subjects can often go unmarked, subject focus must always be marked. The grammatical ways of subject focus marking vary widely across the languages under discussion. Strategies used include syntactic, morphological and prosodic focus marking, as well as the reorganization of the entire clause into a thetic statement. It is argued that the special status of focused subjects follows from the fact that the default interpretation of subjects is a topic interpretation. In order to avoid this default reading, a focused subject must be marked as such.

Keywords:   focus marking, subject focus, non‐subject focus, marking asymmetries

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