LINGUIST List 16.156

Wed Jan 19 2005

Diss: Morphology/Syntax: Jo: ' Grammatical Effects...'

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        1.    Jung-Min Jo, Grammatical Effects of Topic and Focus Information

Message 1: Grammatical Effects of Topic and Focus Information

Date: 19-Jan-2005
From: Jung-Min Jo <>
Subject: Grammatical Effects of Topic and Focus Information

Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Jung-Min Jo

Dissertation Title: Grammatical Effects of Topic and Focus Information

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

Subject Language(s): Korean (KKN)

Dissertation Director:
Elabbas Benmamoun
Cedric Boeckx
Peter Lasersohn
James Hye-Suk Yoon

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation examines how topic and focus information are realized
within a sentence and how they affect sentence forms, i.e. what
morpho-syntactic processes are involved in deriving constructions
associated with topic and focus in Korean, in comparison with certain
constructions in English. Under the assumption that topic and focus feature
assignments are an integral part of syntactic computation, I show that the
topic feature is morphologically realized in-situ or by syntactic movement,
which is, in essence, driven by morpho-syntactic requirements, whereas the
focus feature is realized by a pitch accent in-situ with no syntactic
movement involved, consequently arguing against the existence of focus
movement in Korean.

Patterns of both nominal and predicate topics are examined and, in
particular, the morpho-syntactic patterns of the predicate topic
constructions are scrutinized, not only because the latter constructions
are less often studied than nominal topics, but also because they raise
theoretically and empirically challenging questions, and the examination of
both nominal and predicate topics is a necessary step to take for any
substantive claim about the grammatical effect of topic information in
general. Specifically the topic encoder is uniformly identified as the
particle -nun for both nominal and predicate topics. Predicate topic
constructions, so-called Ha- and R-constructions, are examined to identify
a variety of morpho-syntactic properties and provide a systematic account
of those properties. I claim that the two constructions are one and the
same construction as far as the syntax and semantics are concerned, but
that they arise as a result of morphophonological variation at
PF/Morphological Component. That is, the Ha- and R-constructions and their
variations arise as a result of the phrasal movement targeting a different
domain in the narrow syntax and an optional deletion process in the lower
copy in PF. The complex process involved with the predicate topic,w which
is different from the nominal topic, is in essence attributed to the
morpho-syntactic properties of verbal morphology and the topic particle.

As for focus information, I show that pitch accent is held accountable for
focus interpretation, with the apparent syntactic movement playing no
significant role as far as focus interpretation is concerned. Sentential
stress patterns and their implications for focus interpretation are
examined. In particular, this dissertation examines whether scrambling
(i.e., an instance of syntactic movement) has anything to do with focus, as
is claimed by some researchers. While I show that nuclear stress falls on
the most deeply embedded XP in the base position whether the sentence is
scrambled or not, Saito's (1989) early observation is maintained that
scrambling is an optional syntactic operation with no semantic effect as
far as focus interpretation is concerned. As for the question of syntactic
focus movement, constructions which are often claimed to be involved with
focus movement, so-called 'sluicing' and cleft constructions, are examined
only to refute the existence of syntactic focus movement. Also word order
variations in copular constructions are examined to see how topic and focus
information are relevant in restricting sentence word order. While the word
order of the pre-copular nominals is relatively free, I conclude that the
predicate nominal fronting is allowed only when it is construed with a
topic or topic-like interpretation, confirming the cross-linguistic
observation made by Partee (1998).

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