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Co-Auteur(s): Óscar Loureda (Heidelberg)

Informative focus and marked focus: An experimental study on Spanish focus particles incluso and German sogar

Abstract/Résumé: Assuming that utterances are processed on the basis of inferential operations, some linguistic elements are specialized in guiding the reader/listener to infer the intentionally communicated content in order to minimize his cognitive efforts in the interpretation process. Besides other mechanisms, discourse particles have been often described as fulfilling this function (Blakemore 1989, 1992, Portolés 1998). In our contribution we intend to empirically analyze to what extent additive focus particles condition the information structure and processing of texts. The basic hypotheses of our study are: 1. due to their prominent procedural meaning discourse particles play a decisive role in text processing and in particular they are extremely helpful as linguistic tools for extracting information; 2. differences in the semantic and pragmatic properties of discourse particles have a direct influence on the cognitive effort; 3. focus particles in particular have a strong effect in processing strategies. To empirically assess the accuracy of these hypotheses, we have conducted experiments based on eye-tracking and self-paced reading techniques, following previous research on argumentative connectives (Loureda & Nadal 2011) and metadiscursive markers (López & Loureda in press). Processing efforts can be measured taking into account the number and time of fixations, the length of saccadic movements and the number of regressions. In previous experiments we have observed that discourse particles are almost always fixed, they cause long saccadic movements and often forced the reader to go back to the precedent text (regressions) in order to reprocess it. These results in cognitive-experimental research can be interpreted as evidence for the role of discourse particles as guides in inferential processing and for the width of their scope in the utterance. Moreover, as discourse particles do not only function as tools in structuring text information but they are informative themselves, processing efforts would be also higher whenever they occur in the utterance. In the present contribution, our aim is to observe the differences in processing strategies regarding simple utterances with and without additive focus particles and the differences between additive focus particles with and without scalar meaning in Spanish and German.