Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference

Skopeteas S, Fanselow G (2011)
Lingua 121(11): 1693-1706.

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Journal Article | Published | English
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The claim that focus evokes a set of alternatives is a central issue in several accounts of the effects of focus on interpretation. This article presents two empirical studies that examine whether this property of focus is independent of contextual conditions. The syntactic operation at issue is object-fronting in German, Spanish, Greek, and Hungarian licensed by contexts involving focus on the object constituent. This operation evokes the intuition that the fronted referent excludes some or all relevant alternatives. The presented experiments deal with the question whether this interpretative property obligatorily accompanies the operation at issue or not. The empirical findings show that in German, Spanish, and Greek this intuition depends on properties of the context and is sensitive to the interaction with further discourse factors (in particular, the predictability of the referent). Hungarian displays a different data pattern: our data does not provide evidence that the syntactic operation at issue depends on the context or interacts with further discourse factors. This finding is in line with the view that evoking alternatives is inherent part of constituent-fronting in this language.
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Skopeteas S, Fanselow G. Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference. Lingua. 2011;121(11):1693-1706.
Skopeteas, S., & Fanselow, G. (2011). Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference. Lingua, 121(11), 1693-1706.
Skopeteas, S., and Fanselow, G. (2011). Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference. Lingua 121, 1693-1706.
Skopeteas, S., & Fanselow, G., 2011. Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference. Lingua, 121(11), p 1693-1706.
S. Skopeteas and G. Fanselow, “Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference”, Lingua, vol. 121, 2011, pp. 1693-1706.
Skopeteas, S., Fanselow, G.: Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference. Lingua. 121, 1693-1706 (2011).
Skopeteas, Stavros, and Fanselow, Gisbert. “Focus and the exclusion of alternatives: On the interaction of syntactic structure with pragmatic inference”. Lingua 121.11 (2011): 1693-1706.
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