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Multiple focus and cleft sentences

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Abstract

The information structure of English cleft sentences is discussed. A cleft sentence divides a proposition into two parts, which are interpreted as an exhaustive focus and a pragmatic presupposition. These two semantic components can be flexibly mapped onto the information structure categories of topic and comment to arrive at comment-topic (‘stressed focus’) clefts and topic-comment (‘informative presupposition’) clefts. Clefts thus introduce a cleft focus or even a pair of foci constructionally. They also exhibit an assertive (comment) focus, which may or may not correspond to the cleft focus. While only exclusive focus particles can associate with the cleft focus, additive and scalar focus particles can associate with the assertive focus in the cleft clause, thus giving rise to additional cleft sentences containing multiple instances of focus. Keywords: cleft; focus; presupposition; topic

References

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