Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0929-998X
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9765
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In research on information structure and discourse cohesion, contrast has been defined in different ways, depending on the pragmatic/semantic relation established between the propositions involved in the contrast, on the text types and on other discourse conditions. As a whole, despite – or possibly because of – its vagueness, contrast has proved to be a useful heuristic tool for characterizing discourse cohesion phenomena. This paper focuses on results from our research concerning cohesion phenomena in elicited discourse in Romance (Italian, French) and Germanic (German, Dutch) languages and aims to offer a more precise characterization of contrast against several variation parameters. We take into consideration earlier work on three tasks (, , ) and add a new one (). The comparison between the results allows us to disentangle the following variables: information units involved in the contrast relation; discourse conditions (monologue vs. dialogue); speakers’ access to information (shared vs. non-shared); effect of contrast on information in the common ground (alternative maintained vs. rejected). The aim is to achieve a more fine-grained definition of contrast relations, which allows us to identify and characterize the divergent behavior of Romance and Germanic languages, and to relate intra- and crosslinguistic differences revealed by speakers’ preferences in speech with structural specificities of the two language groups.


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