<i>It</i>-clefts in the meta-informative structure of the utterance in Modern and Present-day English

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This chapter focuses on the <i>it</i>-cleft construction and aims at, first, profiling it from the perspective adopted in Meta-Informative Centering Theory (hereafter, MIC) and, second, describing the major tendencies yielded by a diachronic corpus-based analysis. <i>It</i>-clefts deserve a specific place in an account of English constructions because of at least two specific characteristics: the expletive nature of its introducer and the difficulty of accounting for the postverbal subordinate clause by resorting to grammatical concepts such as relativisation, detached postmodification, or even some kind of right dislocation. The English <i>it-cleft</i> will be presented here as a device of focalisation used for establishing a meta-informative contrast with the second part of the utterance, making it possible, in a Strict Word Order (SWO) language as English, to put this focalised constituent at the front of the utterance (thus contradicting the neutral order: given-before-new). The study presented here illustrates the quite recent consolidation of the mechanism of clefting as a thematising meta-informative strategy in the English language. This consolidation of the <i>it</i>-cleft construction is corroborated both quantitatively and qualitatively. By means of this system, the speaker focuses on the referent of the Local CA constituent that occupies the X-position and places heavy (normally available) information in final location within the background rightmost clause.


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