Article published in:Comparative and Contrastive Studies of Information Structure
Edited by Carsten Breul and Edward Göbbel
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 165] 2010
► pp. 15–50
Contrastive topics and distributed foci as instances of sub-informativity
A comparison of English and German
This programmatic study offers a comparison of the lexical, syntactic and prosodic devices used in English and German to encode the information structural category of ‘sub-informativity’, which subsumes occurrences of contrastive topics and of distributed (multiple) foci. Sentences are called ‘sub-informative’ if they answer the current ‘question under discussion’ only partially. Two major types of sub-informativity are distinguished, (i) focus-related sub-informativity (distributed foci) and (ii) topic-related sub-informativity. Topic-related sub-informativity is further sub-categorized according to the parameter ‘context-changing’ vs. ‘context-preserving’. While no major differences between English and German can be identified in the lexical or syntactic marking of sub-informativity, there seems to be a relatively clear contrast in the domain of prosodic marking: While German has a contour specialized for ‘context-changing (topic-related) sub-informativity’ (the ‘root contour’), English has no such specialized tune and uses the functionally very general fall-rise contour in most of the contexts under discussion. In addition to providing a comparative survey of the domain under investigation, the chapter is intended as a case study dealing with central challenges of contrastive information structure analysis, e.g. the question of how comparability can be established and what type of generalization should be aimed at.
Published online: 09 September 2010
Cited by 1 other publications
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