Michael Wagner: Focus and Givenness: A Unified Approach

Theories about information structure differ in treating focus-, contrast-, and givenness-marking as either a single phenomenon or as distinct phenomena. This paper argues for a unified approach, following the lead of Schwarzschild (1999), but a unified approach based on local alternatives (Wagner, 2005, 2006b).1 The basic insights of the local alternatives approach are captured using a new formalization, which aims to fix several problems in the original proposal noted in Bu ̈ring (2008). The unified approach is compared with alternative approaches that invoke separate mechanisms for givenness and focus: the disanaphora approach (Williams, 1997), the F-Projection account (Selkirk, 1984, 1995), and the reference set approach in Szendro ̈i (2001) and Reinhart (2006). All of these have fundamental problems, and the requisite revisions render them equivalent to the local alternatives approach.

Keywords: alternatives, focus, givenness, prosody, contrast, information structure

full paper

Preprint July 27 2010. Comments Welcome.