Topic-focus articulation in Taqbaylit and Tashelhit Berber

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This paper deals with the form/function mapping of information structure on word-order in two Berber lects, Taqbaylit (Kabyle) and Tashelhit (Shilha). We claim that the general assumption according to which Berber should be strictly vso is wrong, and we argue for a more cautious approach, that takes into account language variation inside Berber. We show that pragmatics trigger the emergence of (relatively stable) discourse-configurationality, without giving rise to a vso>svo shift. We compare Taqbaylit and Tashelhit in terms of information structure and word order variation, and come to the conclusion that, while there is good reason to classify Taqbaylit as discourse-configurational, Tashelhit is somewhat more restrictive in terms of word order flexibility. We link those characteristics with case-marking: the distinction between free state and annexation state is more clearly a dependency-oriented phenomenon in Taqbaylit, while it corresponds more closely to a subject (or marked nominative) versus absolute case system in Tashelhit.


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