Contrasting c'est -clefts and it-clefts in discourse

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Although the French c’est-cleft and the English it-cleft appear at first glance to share similar syntactic and pragmatic properties (they are both what Lambrecht 1994 calls “argument focus” constructions), their use in discourse is not always the same. One finds a number of situations in which the c’est-cleft is required but the it-cleft is pragmatically odd. The reason for this discrepancy has to do with French prosodic restrictions that do not exist in English, thus creating a motivation for the cleft in French that is not found in English. In addition, various c’est-cleft types and c’est-cleft “lookalikes” in French correspond to different types of constructions in English, demonstrating the importance of analyzing naturally occurring discourse to determine pragmatic well-formedness.


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