Focus and universal principles governing simplification of cleft structures

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Harris and Campbell (1995: Chapter 7) propose specific universals governing processes that simplify biclausal structures, including the simplification of focus clefts to monoclausal focus constructions. In particular, it is claimed there that after a biclausal construction is reanalyzed as monoclausal, the main verb governs the syntax of the single-clause structure, even though conservative coding rules (e.g. case marking, agreement, word order) at first make it appear that the derived auxiliary governs those constituents that originated in its clause. Since the writing of that book, another example has come to light. Synchronic data on the typology of focus in North East Caucasian (NEC) languages by Konstantine Kazenin (1994, 1995, 1996) provide the basis for the present study of diachronic development of biclausal and monoclausal focus structures in these languages and make it possible to test the claims referred to above. It is argued in the present paper that some NEC languages have a focus cleft and/or a monoclausal focus construction, historically derived from (1). It is shown that the derived monoclausal structures in various NEC languages have the range of properties predicted in Harris and Campbell (1995). Additional data show a different development of biclausal focus in Udi, a NEC language not treated by Kazenin.


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