Re-evaluating the importance of discourse-embedding for specificational and predicative clauses

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Abstract

This paper studies the discourse-embedding of specificational clauses, in contrast with predicative ones. Specificational clauses – which express a variable–value relation – are assumed to have a ‘fixed’ information structure. This follows from the widespread definition of information structure in terms of a presupposition–focus contrast, which is often conflated with the variable–value contrast, on the one hand, and with a given–new contrast, on the other. Against these conflations, this study demonstrates that the specification is a separate layer of meaning, which not only shows variation in terms of focus-marking (Van Praet and O’Grady 2018), but also in terms of its embedding in specific contexts of use. These findings urge us to revisit not only the basis for distinguishing specificational clauses from predicative ones, but also to separate out the different layers of coded and pragmatic meaning that have been conflated under the header of ‘information structure’
Original languageEnglish
JournalPragmatics
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • discourse-familiarity
  • specificational and predicative clauses
  • information structure
  • presupposition and focus
  • Reversibility
  • mirativity

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