The intonation of topic and focus

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A follow-up of the CorpAfroAs project, this paper presents a typologically-oriented study of the intonation of Topic and Focus in four Afroasiatic languages (Zaar, Tamasheq, Juba Arabic and Tripoli Arabic), in relation to their phonological and information structures. The different prosodic systems represented in the study — i.e. the demarcative accent system of Berber, the lexical stress system of Tripoli Arabic; the pitch accent system of Juba Arabic; and the tone system of Zaar — give ground to the study of the correlation between these prosodic systems and their intonation structures; and more particularly, how declination, wich seems to be a universal of the intonation of declarative sentences, interacts with other sentence types, such as Yes/No-Questions, WH-Questions, Exclamations, etc. Likewise, the paper explores the correlation between the prosodic systems and the intonational exponents of Topic and Focus. The paper starts by setting up the concepts and typological frame used for the study. Then, it presents a case study of the four languages, examining their prosodic systems, and the prosodic exponents of topic and focus. Finally, the paper compares the four systems, drawing conclusions from a typoligical point of view. A general rule seems to emerge from the study: lack of a specific intonation pattern for a specific intonation structure is supplemented by morpho-syntactic marking. In other words, the more a structure relies on morpho-syntax, the less it relies on intonation.


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