Information Structure Continued

3. “Focus devices” in Mandarin Chinese (Cheng 1983) 3.1 Introduction Focus devices are those constructions in which the focused element is highlighted so that it is more easily identified than otherwise. Focus “is an element on which the addressee, according to speaker’s judgment, will focus his attention for its significance of message.” Devices for expressing focus: Focus devices are of two types: one makes the focused element prominent by stressing it or placing it in the most prominent position of the sentence; the other makes all or some unfocused elements improminent (in Chinese, by deleting, topicalizing, or repeating them). Expression of focus can be achieved most effectively when the two types of devices are used together. In Chinese, the most prominent position in the sentence is usually the first position of a constituent that is predicated by a modal verb (shi for confirmation, hui for conjecture, yao for volition), or modal adverb (keneng for possibility, dagai for probability, and yiding for certainty). 3.2 Identification of focus through sentence-level structural analysis (35) Q: Ni zai nar du-de jia? you at where spend-DE vacation ‘Where did you have your vacation?’ A: Wo zai Beijing du-de jia. I at Beijing spend-de vacation ‘I had my vacation in Beijing.’ There are sentence constructions in which the focused element is highlighted so that it is more easily identified than otherwise. Major focus devices in Chinese: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) (vii) Deletion of Unfocused Elements (Del); Topicalization of Unfocused Elements (Top) Repetition of Unfocused Elements (Rep) Parallel Constructions (Para) Inclusion of Focus in shi-Predicate (Shi) Inclusion of Focus in a Predicate led by a Modal (Mod) Interrogative Constructions (Q)

Shi d. A parallel construction always involves repetition of unfocused elements.’ e. Wo dujia-de difang shi Beijing. Shi 2 . (36) Q: Ni zai nar du-de jia? you at where spend-DE vacation ‘Where did you have your vacation?’ Answers: a. Wo dujia shi zai Beijing du-de. not at other place spend-DE vacation ‘It was in Beijing that I had my vacation. Zai Beijing (in Beijing) c. Wo shi zai Beijing du-de jia. I had it in Beijing. Shi Top. I SHI at Beijing spend-DE vacation ‘It is in Beijing that I had my vacation. I spend.’ i. Shi zai Beijing.’ Shi Rep. Wo shi zai Beijing du-de jia.’ Para (Rep).vacation ‘I had my vacation in Beijing and not anywhere else. Wo dujia zai Beijing du-de. b. Top. I SHI at Beijing spend-DE vacation bushi zai biede difang du-de jia. I spend. Wo zai Beijing du-de jia mei I at Beijing spend-DE vacation not zai biede difang dujia. Shi h. Para (Rep) at other place spend. I spend.’ Del Del Del. Beijing.vacation-MM place be Beijing Where I had my vacation was in Beijing.vacation at Beijing spend-DE ‘As for my vacation.• • The first four deals with unfocused elements.’ g. it is in Beijing that I had it. Top Rep.vacation SHI at Beijing spend-DE ‘As for my vacation. SHI at Beijing ‘It is in Beijing.’ f.

2.’ b. ni xihuan chi ma? cake you like eat Q ‘Speaking of cake. the less elements are left in the sentence and it becomes easier for the addressee to identify the focused element. Ta chang ge cheng-de he sing song sing-MM ‘He sings very well.3 Repetition of unfocused elements Repetition of the main verb is common when its adverb or complements are focused without focusing the verb. (38) a. and therefore. do you like to eat it?’ 3. which usually includes focus.1 Deletion of unfocused elements (37) Q: Ni zai nar du-de jia? you at where spend-DE vacation ‘Where did you have your vacation?’ Answers: a. that-CL book I already return-PERF ‘That book. if there is any. b.3.2 Topicalization of unfocused elements Topicalization of unfocused elements is a focus device because the more elements are topicalized the less elements will be left in the predicate. 3. Dangao. I have already returned it. identification of focus becomes easier.2.’ hen hao.2. Beijing. I had it in Beijing. Wo dujia zai Beijing du-de.’ b.vacation at Beijing spend-DE ‘As for my vacation. Na-ben shu. wo yijing huan-le. (39) a. very well 3 . Zai Beijing (in Beijing) Del Del The more unfocused elements are deleted. I spend.

’ c. he want eat noodle I want eat rice ‘He wants to eat noodles. SHI Zhangsan ask I go-DE ‘It is Zhangsan who asked me to go there. movie TOP he want see I not want see ‘As for the movie. ‘It was last year that he arrived in the U.S.3.4 Parallel constructions In a parallel construction. wo yao chi fan.2. wo bu yao kan. he SHI last.’ d. Zhe shi Zhangsan-de this be Zhangsan-MM ‘This is Zhangsan’s book. but I want to eat rice. he borrow-PERF one-CL book ‘He borrowed a book.year arrive-DE U.’ shi in the focus construction (42) a. the repeated elements are unfocused.5 Inclusion of focus in a shi predicate shi ‘to be” (41) a. *Ta jie-le shi yi-ben shu-de. Those that are not repeated are focused. Ta shi qunian dao Meiguo-de. he SHI last.’ (43) a. I SHI at Beijing spend-DE vacation ‘It is in Beijing that I had my vacation. Wo shi zai Beijing du-de jia.’ b.year arrive U.’ b.’ b. he borrow-PERF shi one-CL book-DE Intended: ‘It is a book that he borrowed. he wants to see it but I don’t. ta yao kan. Ta shi yisheng. book .S. (40) a.-DE ‘It was last year that he arrived in the U.S. he be doctor ‘He is a doctor.’ b. Ta jie-le yi-ben shu.’ 3.2. Dianying a. Shi Zhangsan rang wo qu-de.’ 4 shu.S. Ta yao chi mian. Ta shi qunian dao-de Meiguo.

’ (47) Wo mingtian yiding lai. he yesterday SHI eat-PERF very much ‘He did eat a lot yesterday. Ta zuotian shi chi-le hen duo. I tomorrow definitely come ‘I will definitely come tomorrow. dique ‘definitely. he yesterday eat-PERF SHI very much-DE Intended: ‘He ate a lot yesterday.’ c.’ ta. he yesterday eat-PERF very much ‘He ate a lot yesterday. Zhangsan be 1970 year graduate-MM student ‘Zhangsan is a student who graduated in 1970. Zhangsan shi 1970 nian biye-de1 (xuesheng).’ d. *Ta zuotian chi-le shi hen duo-de.2. he borrow-DE SHI one-CL book ‘What he borrowed was a book. indeed’. he 5 . {the default reading} Zhangsan SHI 1970 year graduate-DE ‘It is in 1970 that Zhangsan graduated. Ambiguity (45) a.6 Inclusion of focus in a predicate led by other modals Modal verbs such as hui ‘may probably’. Zhangsan shi 1970 nian biye-de2. Ta zuotian chi-le hen duo. Ta jie-de shi yi-ben shu. keneng ‘possible’ and adverbs such as yiding ‘certainly’.c.’ b.’ 3. Ta zuotian chi-de shi hen duo. shi and what follows form a predicate that can be called a shi-predicate. and dagai ‘probably’ (46) Wo mingtian hui zai gongyuan-li jian I tomorrow will at park-inside see ‘It will be in the park that I see him tomorrow.’ b.’ Syntactically.’ (44) a. he yesterday eat-DE SHI very much ‘He indeed ate a lot yesterday.

“Sentence focus” 4. “narrow focus”. There is a topic that is within the presupposition. Namely. Ni zai nar du-de jia? you at where spend-DE vacation ‘Where did you have your vacation?’ b. and “sentence focus” • Predicate focus is statistically the most common of the three. if a question word and shi-predication should occur in the same sentence. Zhangsan shi shei? Zhangsan be who ‘Who is Zhangsan?’ (49) Ni yao chi fan haishi yao you want eat rice or want ‘Do you want to eat rice or noodles?’ chi eat mian? noodle It is possible to have more than one question word in a sentence ((50)). 6 .7 Interrogative constructions An interrogative construction is a type of focus device because it includes a question form which signals the speaker’s request for the addressee to replace it with an answer. where and whom did he deceive?’ pian-le shei? deceive-PERF who (51) a. (50) Ta zai shenme shihou shenme difang he at what time what place ‘When. (48) a. It involves an assertion with an unmarked topic-comment structure. *Ni shenme shihou shi zuo feiji lai-de? you what time SHI take plane come-DE *‘When is it by plane that you came?’ 4. Ni shi shenme shihou zuo feiji lai-de? you SHI what time take plane come-DE ‘When was it that you came by plane?’ b. the domain (scope) of the focus is then the comment (predicate). But there can be only one shi-predication in the same sentence (except in parallel or conjoined constructions). and within this there is an unmarked focus position.1 Lambrecht’s three main types of focus structure Three main types of focus structure (Lambrecht 1994): “predicate focus”.3.2. usually the object position. the two should coincide ((51)).

(53) Q: A: English (NP focus accent) Italian (è-cleft) French (c’est cleft) Japanese (ga-marking) Chinese (shi-cleft) • Sentence focus: It requires little or no presupposition. J’ai ma voiture qui est en panne. (La mia macchina) si è rotta. (54) Q: What happened? A: a. Kuruma ga koshoo-shi-ta. c.’ 4.2. They do this by placing the new referent in the postverbal focus position. Mi si è rotta la macchína. (Wo de chezi) huai le. My car broke down. (Ma voiture) elle est en panne. “thetic” statement (e.(52) Q: How’s your car? A: a. b. Kuruma ga koshoo-shi-ta. c. (Kuruma wa) koshoo-shi-ta. just. C’est ma voiture qui est en panne. the rest of the assertion is within the presupposition. Shi wo chezi huai le. the focus of the assertion is the entire sentence. b. È la mia macchina che si è rotta. d. 7 . [Other terms for the sentence focus sentence: “neutral description” (Kuno 1972). My car/it broke down. My car broke down.now come-PERF one big group hoodlum ‘A group of hoodlums just arrived. c. I heard your motorcycle broke down? a. Sasse 1987)] A sentence focus sentence is generally presentational.2 Presentative sentences in Mandarin 4. e. b. English (accented subject NP) Italian (inverted subject NP) French (clefted subject NP) Japanese (morphological marking) (55) A: Fasheng-le shenme shi? happen -PERF what affair ‘What happened?’ B: Gang lai-le yi da dui liumang.1 Entity-central presentative sentences Entity-central presentative sentences introduce a new referent into a discourse. d. e. d. presenting either a state of affairs or a new referent. • English (subject-predicate) Italian (subject-predicate) French (topic-subject-predicate) Japanese (topic-comment) Chinese (topic-comment) Narrow focus or “contrastive focus” structure”: In a narrow focus structure only a single NP is in focus.g.

and those which introduce the referent with a verb of motion ((57)). In (56a) yuanzi-li ‘in the yard’ is not focal.Li and Thompson (1981: 509-519) classify such sentences into two types. a two-clause structure where a referent is introduced in the first clause.’ “Presentational amalgam construction”: “a construction usually considered ungrammatical in English. come asp one class guest ‘There came a guest. Wo mai le yi-jian yifu hen hao kan. 8 .’ (57) Lai le yi ge keren. yet it is focal. Ta you yi-ge meimei hen xihuan kan dianying. but it is also not a topic about which an assertion is being made. (56) a. (LOC) yard-inside exist one-CL dog ‘In the yard there is a dog. (Waimian) you yi-ge ren xiang jian ni. as assumed by Li and Thompson. You yi-zhi gou zai yuanzi-li. According to LaPolla (1995). in which the locus and presentative phrases are reversed. 1SG buy ASP one-CL clothes very good look ‘I bought a piece of clothing (that is) very good looking. but are actually examples of what Li and Thompson (1981: 611-618) call the “realis descriptive clause sentence”. examples such as (56b)).’ b. those which simply state the referent’s existence or location (the “existential presentative sentence” in (56)). the locative serves simply to anchor the new referent in the discourse. as the dog is. 3SG have one-CL younger. and then an assertion is made about it in the following clause.’ b. • (58) a. (Zai) yuanzi-li you yi-zhi gou.sister very like look movie ‘S/He has a younger sister (who) likes to watch movies.’ c. are not existential presentative sentences like (56a). It merely acts as a locative reference point. exist one -CL dog LOC yard-inside ‘There is a dog in the yard. but nonetheless used very often” (59) I have a friend of mine in the history department teaches two courses per semester. (outside) have one-CL person think see 2SG ‘There is a person (outside) who wants to see you.’ • In (56b) the yard is identifiable. so it is not being introduced as a new referent.

4. Lai keren le. and focus (63) a.2. in (60b) there is only one assertion. that I bought a piece of clothing.’ 9 . fall snow SFP ‘It’s snowing. Zhangsan seven year die-PERF father ‘His father died when Zhangsan was seven years old. in (60a) there are two assertions. Zhangsan diao-le liang-ke ya. so this type of structure will often not include referentially specific NPs. and that it is too big.’ 5. what is being asserted is the existence (happening) of an event. Zhangsan fall-PERF two-CL tooth ‘Two of Zhangsan’s teeth have fallen off. not the existence of an entity.2 Event-central presentative sentences In “event-central” presentative sentences. Wo mai-le yi-jian tai da-de yifu. fall rain SFP ‘It’s raining. Zhangsan qi sui si-le fuqin. (61) a. that I bought a piece of (a particular type of) clothing.(60) a.’ • What is important is that in (60a) an assertion is being made about the clothing.’ “Event-central comment” (62) a. If anything is incidental. Xia yu le. Xia xue le.’ b. That is. 1SG buy-PERF one-CL clothes too big ‘I bought an outfit that turned out to be too big.’ b. that it is too big. No such assertion is being made in (60b). Verb-medial sentences. come guest SFP ‘There came a guest. not the information which is being asserted. Wo mai-le yi-jian yifu tai da. it is the information in the relative clause. topic. 1SG buy-PERF one-CL too big-MM clothes ‘I bought an outfit that was too big.’ b.

Ta ba shu huan-le he BA book return-PERF ‘He has returned the book.’ (64) a. Verb medial word order has the function of distinguishing topical or non-focal NPs from focal or non-topical NPs. not “definite” and “indefinite” NPs.’ b.b. Keren lai-le. LaPolla’s (1995) position: Topical or non-focal NPs occur preverbally and focal or nontopical NPs occur post-verbally. and the object to have an indefinite reference. 10 . Ta shi ((yi)-ge) gongren. guest(s) come -PERF ‘The guest(s) have come. he be one-CL worker ‘He is a worker.’ Chao (1968): There is a very strong tendency for the subject to have a definite reference.

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