Edges and Gaps: Contrast at the Interfaces

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Abstract

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In this paper we discuss the role of contrast in the theory of grammar and show that it is a complex concept cutting across focus and topic. We identify its main characteristics at the interface between syntax-phonology and pragmatics. Our main claim is that contrast is a complex information-structural notion that serves a double function: like focus, contrast is a highlighting device, and like topic, it has the function of discourse linking. This dual character of contrast has previously unrecognized consequences for its linguistic realization and its interaction with givenness. In opposition to unilateral approaches to focus (e.g. Rooth, 1992a) or givenness (e.g. Schwarzschild, 1999), we provide new empirical evidence that contrast marking by movement (topic or focus) to the edge of the domain, and gap formation by deleting the given material at PF are complementary processes. We refer to these interacting operations as the Edges and Gaps Hypothesis. The proposal, however, is challenged by the fact that the impact of contrast on linguistic structure differs cross-linguistically. The fine-grained comparison of three genetically and typologically related Germanic languages shows that the contrast-related differences are related to word-order and discourse-dependent specifications of edges and gaps.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature

Keywords

  • Contrast, Left edge, Gap, Topicalization, Ellipsis, Split topicalization, Language comparison
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1392-1415
JournalLingua
Volume120
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes