Article published in:Meta-informative Centering in Utterances: Between Semantics and Pragmatics
Edited by André Włodarczyk and Hélène Włodarczyk
[Studies in Language Companion Series 143] 2013
► pp. 59–100
Attention-centered information in language
In this chapter we outline the concept of attention centering in the MIC theory, and explain how it is linked with the old or new meta-informative status. We distinguish two meta-informative levels giving rise to two different meta-informative types of utterances: base and extended utterances (in the latter, the speaker establishes a contrast between old and new meta-informative status). We define subject and object, topic and focus as global and local attention-driven phrases (ADP) respectively, expressing attention-centered information in both kinds of utterances: base and extended ones. We raise the problem of the truly predicative distinction between subject and object, as well as arguing that subjects, be they used in an active or passive voice utterance, should be defined as one and the same concept, namely, as the attention-driven phrase pointing at the attention-centered information. We examine the possibility of leaving the subject implicit and distinguish this problem from the possibility of using anonymous (impersonal) subjects (AnS). We tackle the difference between subjects in base utterances and topicalised objects in extended utterances. We claim that it is necessary today to revise, in the light of meta-informative centering, the typological distinction between subject-prominent and topic-prominent languages. The last paragraph briefly raises the matter of word-order in connection with attention-centering. In the so-called rigid word-order languages, word-order concerns mainly the first meta-informative level (that of the subject and object of base utterances) whereas in the so-called free word-order languages, word-order is used essentially (but not exclusively) as a marker of the second meta-informative level (that of extended utterances with topic and/or focus).
Published online: 18 December 2013