Back to list

Detail of contribution

Auteur: Anna-Maria DE CESARE

Focus adverbs in noncanonical word order: information patterns and discourse functions in Italian and in a contrastive perspective

Abstract/Résumé: Focus adverbs (or particles) – such as It. anche, solo, perfino, Fr. aussi, seulement, même, E. also, only, even, G. auch, nur, sogar etc. –, are one of the possible linguistic means of highlighting information, alongside with different types of noncanonical word orders (subject-verb inversion, fronting, dislocations and cleft constructions). In the literature, it is sometimes suggested that different languages are inclined to use different types of focusing mechanisms (Miller 2006). According to this view, which is basically rooted on the idea that focus adverbs and noncanonical word orders are functionally equivalent, lexical and syntactic focusing devices are considered alternative linguistic resources. This, in turn, leads to suggest that these devices would not occur together. The goal of the paper is to draw attention to the cases in which a focus adverb is indeed found in a noncanonical syntactic structure and to describe the information patterns and discourse functions associated to the resulting complex constructions. In particular, the paper will argue that the occurrence of focus adverbs in noncanonical word orders is attested in different Romance (Italian, French) and Germanic (English, German) languages, but that the resulting constructions are overall relatively marginal in terms of their frequency of use. Zooming on Italian, we will then show that these complex lexico-syntactic constructions are associated with different information patterns, which are in part motivated at the level of discourse organization. The analysis provided in this paper is based on the ICOCP corpus, a collection of comparable, journalistic texts amounting to roughly 1.8 million words in four languages (600’000 in Italian, 400’000 in French, 425’000 in English and 350’000 in German). The corpus includes original (i.e. non translated articles) news items from the so-called pay and free press collected from the internet over the same period of time (the last quarter of 2011) and from the same sections of the news (politics, business/economy, sports etc.). The theoretical model we use in the description of both the information structure and discourse functions associated with focus adverbs in noncanonical word orders is outlined in Ferrari et al. 2008. References Ferrari, A. / L. Cignetti / A-M De Cesare / L. Lala / M. Mandelli / C. Ricci / E. Roggia 2008, L’interfaccia lingua-testo. Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso. Miller, J. 2006, «Focus in the languages of Europe», in Bernini, G. / Schwartz, M. L. (eds), Pragmatic Organization of Discourse in the Languages of Europe, Berlin-New York, de Gruyter, pp. 121-214.