Project A5 (Zimmermann)

Focus realization, focus interpretation, and focus use from a cross-linguistic perspective


The project continues its cross-linguistic investigations of focus-semantic phenomena, with particular attention to the relation between the grammatical realisation of focus, on the one hand, and its semantic interpretation and/or pragmatic function, on the other. The project contributes to a growing trend in modern semantics to investigate semantic phenomena in non-European languages from a formal semantic perspective. As in the current funding period, the project’s empirical focus lies mostly on languages from West Africa and (South) East Asia, namely: (i.) the Yobe-state languages Ngamo, Ngizim, and Bole (West Chadic, Afro-Asiatic) (PhD researcher: Mira Grubic); and (ii.) Burmese and Chin (Tibeto-Burman, Sino-Tibetan) (PhD researcher: Pavel Ozerov). In addition, the PI continues his ongoing research on the exhaustiveness of Hungarian focus; on focus-sensitive expressions in Salish and other languages; and on the exhaustiveness of wh-questions.

Empirically, the project aims at investigating the following focus-semantic phenomena P1 to P3 in non-European languages:

P1. Focus realisation and focus interpretation / focus use

P2. Association with focus

P3. Realisation and interpretation of predicate-centred focus.

More generally, the project will investigate the theoretical implications of the empirical findings on focus marking, focus interpretation and association with focus in non-European languages for the theory of focus and association with focus in natural language at large.

Apart from its empirical and theoretical objectives, the project aims at developing reliable methods for cross-linguistic (focus-) semantic fieldwork. Next to the use of direct elicitations of translations and judgments on the well-formedness, truth, and felicity of utterances in context (Matthewson 2004), which are employed for answering detailed analytical questions, the project will also make use of the query methods of the questionnaire for focus-semantic data (QUISsem) from project D2 (Renans et al. 2010). Moreover, as some of the focus-semantic questions have proven to be difficult to answer on the basis of isolated utterances, the project will also employ corpus-based methods for discourse-semantic analysis in Hausa and Burmese and web-based experiments for Hausa, maybe for the first time in a major West African language.

Full description 3rd phase SFB 632 / A5 (extract from the proposal) pdficon small


publish Description   user Staff   document-library Publications   communication Activities   archives 2nd Phase