The interplay of focus structure and syntax

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I examine Italian and Sicilian main-clause word order drawing upon Van Valin (1993, 1999, 2005) and Van Valin & LaPolla (1997). Van Valin’s (1999) hypothesis on the typology of the interplay of focus structure and syntax is corroborated by micro-parametric variation. Although Italian is subject to a syntactic constraint and a pragmatic constraint on the canonical position of the subject, it proves to be rigid pragmatically and relatively flexible syntactically. Contrastingly, Sicilian turns out to be flexible in both ways. As a result of its pragmatic flexibility, Sicilian does not exhibit a topicalization strategy which is found in Italian and involves the association of a syntactic position with a specific pragmatic role. The analysis of the space which is outside the core of the clause indicates that the positions which define the potential focus domain of a language need not be adjacent.


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