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Topic and focus fields in Naki

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Abstract

Naki, a mostly undescribed Bantoid language of Northwest Cameroon with svo as its canonical word order, makes use of an interesting information-structure encoding construction wherein a non-object focused element is shifted into immediately postverbal position. In this respect, Naki is similar to Aghem and Noni, two other languages of the area. However, unlike these languages, this word order shift is associated with special tone marking on the verb, and, in transitive sentences, it typically triggers fronting of objects to a preverbal position. This paper presents an analysis of this construction, situating it both with respect to general properties of Naki information-structure encoding and with respect to current theoretical approaches to information-structure sensitive word-order shifts. An important conclusion of the study is that Naki surface syntax seems better characterized in terms of linear fields than in terms of constituency trees.

References

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