Cognitive Constraints on Assertion Scope

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Cross-linguistic studies have shown that various adverbial subordinating conjunctions can also function to introduce independent assertions. In the domain of causal conjunctions, there is a striking cross-linguistic trend for subordinating ‘because’ to supersede the corresponding coordinating conjunction. This study presents a corpus-based analysis of the use of French <i>parce que</i> in spoken discourse. It looks at the full array of uses of <i>parce que</i> and analyzes them within the information-structure framework of Lambrecht 1994. It shows that <i>parce que</i> clauses are always focal, whereas the main clause can be either focal or topical. If it is topical, the two clauses can be prosodically integrated into a single unit. If it is focal, the two clauses must be separated by some kind of break, allowing the hearer to reinterpret the matrix proposition as a presupposed topic before the causal proposition is processed. This obligatory break can be formally realized by overt lexical material or by a pause, following an utterance-final falling intonation contour on p.


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