A flexible approach to focus and the syntax-prosody interface

by Kriszta Szendröi (University College, London)

This paper addresses ‘a central question for […] any theory of the syntactic prosodic constituency relation’ (Selkirk, 2011, 17): how to best characterize the notion of ‘clause’ in ALIGN/MATCH constraints related to the syntax-prosody mapping of the intonational phrase. It will be proposed that the notion of ‘clause’ should be determined in each construction by making reference to the overt position of the finite verb (or auxiliary). We show how this theory of the syntax-prosody mapping determines the typology of prosodically-driven word order variations associated with focus and topic.  We will discuss data from the Bantu language, Bàsàá, and the Finno-Ugric language, Hungarian, as well as English and Italian.

A video of the talk can be found below.

This paper was read at the Philological Society meeting in London, Room 3D, Garden Halls, University of London, 1 Cartwright Gardens, WC1H 9EN, on Friday, 20 October, 4.15pm. 

TPS 115(1) – Abstract 3

Reduction in Remoteness Distinctions and Reconfiguration in the Bemba Past Tense

by Nancy Kula (University of Essex)

Bantu languages are well-known for having multiple remoteness distinctions in both the past and the future. This paper looks at the 4-way remoteness distinction of Bemba (central Bantu) showing that the system is undergoing change that is resulting in the loss of an intermediate past tense by merger with the remote past. Two factors are central in driving this change; a merger of forms by tone loss and neutralisation and a shift in the scope of semantic function. Because the Bemba tense-aspect system manifests the so-called conjoint-disjoint alternation there is also some reconfiguration of the TA system that accompanies the merger. The different factors involved in this change are unified under a cognitive multi-dimensional approach to tense, which is here extended to account for language change in tense systems.

DOI: 10.1111/1467-968X.12084