Towards a theory of assertion structure

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This paper argues for a bi-clausal analysis of clefts related to an assertion structure with a presupposition and an assertion. It draws evidence from two constructions in Colombian Spanish. One structure involves a focalizing copular verb that occurs low in the clausal structure, and the other involves an expletive, demonstrative-like element that occurs in complementary distribution with the copular verb. The distributional differences result from combining syntactic requirements and assertion structure: the copular verb can only merge below tense because it must be c-commanded by tense, the expletive can only merge above T. Both constructions interact with nuclear-stress assignment to yield different assertion structures: the copular construction allows for narrow focus, whereas the expletive construction typically results in broad focus.


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