LINGUIST List 15.2679

Tue Sep 28 2004

Diss: Syntax: Lee: 'Syntactically-Triggered...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


        1.    Miae Lee, Syntactically-Triggered VP Information Focus

Message 1: Syntactically-Triggered VP Information Focus

Date: 24-Sep-2004
From: Miae Lee <>
Subject: Syntactically-Triggered VP Information Focus

Institution: University of Southern California
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 25-Jun-1905

Author: Miae Lee

Dissertation Title: Syntactically-Triggered VP Information Focus

Linguistic Field(s):

Subject Language(s):
English Language Code: ENG
Korean Language Code: KKN

Dissertation Director:
Jean-Roger Vergnaud

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation highlights parallel constraints observed in head-internal relative clauses in Korean and existential there-sentences in English.

Analyzing 'kes' occupying the external head position of the head-internal relative as an expletive whose function is similar to that of 'there' in existential there-sentences, it is claimed that both constructions structurally license VP information focus in order to highlight the internal head and the postverbal DP, respectively, within the VP focus position. Hence, the argument externalization out of the VP thematic domain in both constructions does not take place and the respective argument remains within the VP. The presence of expletive is, therefore, required for the EPP feature checking, forcing both constructions to be subject to the VP-domain specific syntactic/semantic constraints such as the definiteness effect and the predicate restriction, triggered by the information focus effect.

By viewing the problem as syntactic phenomena in interaction with the discourse information structure of the argument, the proposed analysis in this thesis claims to resolve the main drawbacks of the previous analyses in syntactic, semantic or discourse functional approaches, which suffer from criticisms pertaining to an entirely syntactic, semantic condition or a pragmatic condition.

This thesis further proposes that existential there-sentences and cleft-sentences in English license ''syntactically-triggered'' information focus versus contrastive focus, respectively.

In sum, by treating the definiteness effect and the predicate restriction as the unified phenomena of the structural encoding of VP information focus, this study successfully identifies the main triggering factor behind the long puzzling constraints in existential there-sentences in English and head-internal relative clauses such as Korean as well.

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