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Pitch accent, focus, and the interpretation of non-<i>wh</i> exclamatives in French

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Abstract

This paper examines the cross-linguistic realization of the class of exclamatives in the Romance languages. I argue that, while the syntactic and semantic properties of exclamative sentences are usually viewed as being licensed by <i>wh</i>-morphology, other grammatical features such as <i>f(ocus) marking</i> may serve a similar purpose in the construction of exclamative meaning. In particular, I argue that exclamations with focused gradation quantifiers, such as the Qu&#233;bec French sentence <i>J&#8217;ai vu un film ASSEZ bon</i>! &#8220;I saw SUCH a good movie!&#8221; display many of the same semantic properties that have been observed with <i>wh</i>-exclamatives. I propose that the semantic content of this new type of exclamative is a gradation construction with an implicit threshold clause and focus on the quantifier. I propose that the exclamative operator binds the threshold yielding an extreme degree reading, and that the presence of this operator is licensed by the focus structure of the sentence.

References

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