Chapter published in:The Grammatical Realization of Polarity Contrast: Theoretical, empirical, and typological approaches
Edited by Christine Dimroth and Stefan Sudhoff
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 249] 2018
► pp. 55–87
Verum focus, sentence mood, and contrast
Verum focus is a phenomenon which results from accentuation of a specific component (finite verb, complementizer, relative or wh-element) in the left peripheral position of a clause. It invokes the effect of emphasizing the expression of truth of a proposition as Höhle (1988; 1992), who coined the term, characterized the phenomenon. In German, verum focus typically appears in the left periphery in main as well as in embedded clauses. The distribution of the accent at the surface is driven by rather sophisticated conditions which relate the syntactic surface position of the accent to its PF and LF effects in systematic ways.The close connection of the phenomenon with the concepts of truth, contrast, and sentential force calls for a theory which interrelates these notions. This leads to a perspective that connects verum focus to the part of the sentence that spells out the intention (not the intension) of the sentence meaning: sentence mood. The proposed line of reasoning intends to promote the view that verum focus can be derived from the systematic interaction of sentence mood with the regular properties of focus assignment. Since focus assignment relates accent and contrast, ‘truth’ is achieved by verum focus, if the sentence mood function is fulfilled.
Keywords: verum focus, contrast, sentence mood, finiteness, truth
Published online: 30 November 2018
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