Topic and focus construction asymmetry

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This paper compares and contrasts key constituents of topic and focus constructions in the Benue-Congo language Emai. It examines the grammatical character of topic and focus positions, their associated main clauses and the resumptive function relating them. Relative to these three constituents, various grammatical forms show asymmetric distribution. Although the resulting patterns reflect the differential influence of pragmatic presupposition or shared knowledge between speaker and hearer, they also reveal a determining role for main clause grammatical relations on resumptive function shape and on acceptability levels of postdeterminer modifiers. As a consequence, we reassess relations between emphatic constituents and their main clauses, emphasizing adjacency only for focus constructions, and recognize for emphatic constituents an information value heritage derived from corresponding canonical main clause grammatical relations.


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