Linguistic Variation Yearbook 2010
  • ISSN 1568-1483
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9900
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In this paper a novel approach is proposed for a particular type of cleft-like construction in Somali, the waxaa sentence, in which wax is a scope marker. As such, it operates a function choice in the alternative set overtly expressed in the embedded clause, which serves as a semantic restrictor. In this line of analysis, wax requires the realization of a bi-clausal, copular construction in which the relativized presupposition (i.e. the restrictor) is merged in subject position, while the focused phrase is the predicate. Indefinite wax is located in the position dedicated to focused constituents in Somali and incorporates the Focus Marker baa, allowing for the realization of an in situ Focus (an option otherwise excluded in this language) and obtaining a specific interpretation for the unfocused part of the sentence. Indeed, based on corpus analysis and interface considerations, evidence is provided that baa and waxaa constructions are by no means interchangeable narrow Focus constructions. Focusing by means of waxaa implies a context in which unfocused information is not properly ‘given’; rather it conveys a type of ‘weakly familiar’ information that contributes somehow to the informative part of the sentence. A discussion about the function and formal properties of internal Topics in Focus-prominent languages concludes the work. Keywords: cleft construction; discourse; (weak) familiarity; (narrow) Focus; presupposition; relative clause; scope marker; specificational (copular) sentence; internal Topic


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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