Linguistics

A Flexible Theory of Topic and Focus Movement


From the first of May 2006, the Department of Linguistics has hosted an AHRC-funded project on the syntax and interpretive effects of topic and focus movement. The project will end in September 2009.

The basic idea of the project is that topic and focus movement do not take place in order to check a syntactic feature [+focus] or [+topic] in the specifier of a designated functional projection. In fact, we believe that there is evidence that such features and such projections do not exist. Instead, we argue that topic and focus movement take place in order to facilitate the mapping between syntax and information structure. More specifically, the comment associated with a topic and the background associated with focus will in many cases not be constituents (see (1)) unless topic or focus are moved (see (2)).

 
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We therefore suggest that these movements serve to mark material as belonging to the comment or the background.

The two post-docs involved in this project are Ivona Kucerova and Reiko Vermeulen. Other researchers involved are Michael Brody, Ad Neeleman (P.I.), Kriszta Szendroi, and Hans van de Koot.

A workshop on Interface-based Approaches to Information Structure was held in 2008, to explore these issues in more detail.

UCL also hosts two related PhD projects, one on the syntax and semantics of clefts (Matthew Reeve, to be completed in 2009) and one on information structure in Russian (Elena Titov, to be completed in 2011).


The current output of the project is listed below:

2007
Ackema, Peter, and Ad Neeleman. 2007. Restricted Pro Drop in Early Modern Dutch. The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 10: 81-107. [Related publication exploring the distribution of null arguments, which is relevant to the analysis of displaced topics, and the relation between topichood and conditions on anaphora].
Neeleman, Ad, and Kriszta Szendroi. 2007. Radical Pro Drop and the Morphology of Pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 38: 671-714. [Related publication exploring the distribution of null arguments, which is relevant to the analysis of displaced topics]
Vermeulen, Reiko. 2007. Non-topical wa-phrases in Japanese. Ms. UCL. [Core publication exploring the status of the alleged topic marker wa]
Vermeulen, Reiko. 2007. Japanese wa-phrases that aren't topics. In Breheny, Richard and Nikolaos Velegrakis (eds) UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 19, 183-201. [Core publication exploring the status of the alleged topic marker wa]
2008
Kucerova, Ivona. 2008. Givenness and Maximize Presupposition. In Alte Grønn (ed.) Proceedings of SuB12, Oslo: ILOS 2008, pp. 353-366. [Core publication exploring the nature of givenness]
Kucerova, Ivona. 2008. Null subjects and the T-extension requirement. In Hui Cao et al.  (eds.), UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 20: 45-62. [Related publication exploring the trigger for movement to the left periphery in Czech]
Neeleman, Ad, Elena Titov, Hans van de Koot, and Reiko Vermeulen. 2008. A Syntactic Typology of Topic, Focus and Contrast. Ms. UCL. To appear in J. van Craenenbroeck (ed.) Alternatives to Cartography. Berlin: Mouton. [Core publication exploring the crosslinguistic distribution of discourse functions]
Neeleman, Ad, and Hans van de Koot. 2008. Dutch Scrambling and the Nature of Discourse Templates. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 11: 137-189. [Core publication spelling out the central idea behind the project, namely that topic and focus movements mark the discourse status of the material left behind by these movements, rather than the discourse status of the moved constituents]
Vermeulen, Reiko. 2008. Nonconstituent coordination in Japanese: a case of phonological reordering. Linguistic Inquiry 39: 345-354. [Related publication that originated in research into the distribution of nominal particles in Japanese]
2009
Neeleman, Ad, and Elena Titov. 2009. Focus, Contrast, and Stress in Russian. Linguistic Inquiry 40: 514-524. [Core publication arguing that contrastive and new-information foci in Russian share the same underlying position]
Kucerova, Ivona. 2009a. T-extension and null-subject licensing. In Suzi Lima et al. (eds.) Proceedings of NELS 39. (In press). [Related publication exploring the trigger for movement to the left periphery in Czech and the distribution of null arguments, which is relevant to the analysis of displaced topics]
Kucerova, Ivona. 2009b. Grammatical Marking of Givenness. Ms. UCL. (Submitted) [Core publication exploring the relation between syntactic position and givenness]
Kucerova, Ivona. 2009c. The T-extension condition. Ms. UCL. (Submitted) [Related publication exploring the trigger for movement to the left periphery in Czech]
Kucerova, Ivona. 2009d. The Syntax of Null Subjects. Ms. UCL. (Submitted) [Related publication exploring the distribution of null arguments, which is relevant to the analysis of displaced topics]
Ad Neeleman: Szendroi, Kriszta. 2009. A flexible approach to discourse-related word order variations in the DP. (Submitted to Special Issue of Lingua on DP-internal information structure) [Core publication exploring the extent to which discourse related A'-movement is available in the noun phrase]
Vermeulen, Reiko. 2009a. Topics, Contrast and Contrastive Topics in Japanese. In Vermeulen, Reiko and Ryoskuke Shibagaki (eds.) MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 58: Proceedings to the 5th Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics (WAFL 5), 361-372. [Core publication exploring the distribution of topics in Japanese, as well as the nature of the alleged topic marker wa]
Vermeulen, Reiko. 2009b. Topics in Japanese: A unified analysis of contrastive and non-contrastive topics. Ms. UCL (submitted). [Core publication exploring the distribution of topics in Japanese, as well as the nature of the alleged topic marker wa]
Vermeulen, Reiko. 2009c. On the Syntax of External Possession in Korean. In Takubo, Yukinori (ed.) Japanese / Korean Linguistics 16. Stanford: CSLI Publications. (In press) [Related publication exploring displacement out of DP, which is relevant to the evaluation of cartographic approaches to sentence structure]
In preparation
Kucerova, Ivona, and Ad Neeleman (eds.) Contrasts and Positions in Information Structure. [Core publication bringing together papers from a conference of information structure held at UCL]
Neeleman, Ad, and Hans van de Koot. (2009) Scope Inversion. Ms. UCL. [Core paper exploring the syntax of in-situ topics and foci, their relation to moved topics and foci, and consequences of this for the LF interface]
Neeleman, Ad, and Reiko Vermeulen (eds.) A Flexible Theory of Topic and Focus. [Core publication providing an overview of the main ideas to come out of the project]
 
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