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Focus fronting and its implicatures

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Abstract

In this paper we investigate the essential semantic and pragmatic features associated with Focus Fronting (FF) in Italian, with the ultimate aim of identifying the actual trigger of this syntactic operation. After introducing the different contexts that could in principle be compatible with FF, we present the results of a syntactic experiment which show that FF is possible in <i>corrective</i> and <i>mirative</i> contexts, but not in <i>merely contrastive</i> contexts. This distribution proves that, contrary to claims that are dominant in the literature, contrast and/or givenness of the background are not necessary conditions for Italian FF. Our second experiment highlights a systematic prosodic difference between the two focus types, showing that the corrective and mirative interpretations are grammatically distinct. We claim that these special interpretations associated with FF are <i>conventional implicatures</i> which are syntactically encoded and which trigger syntactic fronting.

References

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