Cleft partitionings in Japanese, Burmese and Chinese

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The article presents the first comparative overview and analysis of clefting and related focusing strategies involving clauses with nominalizers in three (South) East Asian languages: Japanese, Burmese, and Mandarin Chinese. The three languages exhibit parametric variation as to whether focusing requires the overt partitioning into a focused cleft constituent and a background clause with a nominalizer (Mandarin) or not (Japanese, Burmese). A major finding is that syntactic partitioning is brought about in two different ways in the languages under discussion: Base-generated clefts (Japanese, Burmese) vs. movement clefts (Japanese, Mandarin). Semantically, cleft structures come with an exhaustive interpretation in all three languages. We hypothesize that, crosslinguistically, syntactic partitioning is a necessary, though not a sufficient condition for exhaustiveness effects with focus. Keywords: Cleft; exhaustiveness; partitioning; shì…de-cleft; nominalizer; East Asian; South East Asian; Mandarin Chinese; Burmese; Japanese


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