Phrasing, register level downstep and partial topic constructions in Neapolitan Italian

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In this paper, we analyze data from Neapolitan Italian showing that register level downstep across prosodic phrases can be a function of information structure and specific discourse strategies. Specifically, we hypothesized that in NP VP sentences, Partial (and thus contrastive) Topic NP phrases are followed by a phrase break and by a downstepped register level in the VP phrase, while this is not true in non-contrastive constructions. We also show that this type of register level downstep is not to be confused with the extreme register compression effect caused by early, contrastive focus (on the sentence-initial NP), though both Partial Topic and Contrastive Focus on a Subject NP appear to induce a phrase break between the NP and the VP phrase.


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