LINGUIST List 15.1668

Thu May 27 2004

Diss: Syntax/Phonology: Dominguez: 'The Syntax...'

Editor for this issue: Tomoko Okuno <>


  1. ldp, The Syntax and Prosody of Focus in Spanish

Message 1: The Syntax and Prosody of Focus in Spanish

Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 20:41:19 -0400 (EDT)
From: ldp <>
Subject: The Syntax and Prosody of Focus in Spanish

Institution: Boston University
Program: Graduate Program in Applied Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Laura Dominguez

Dissertation Title: Mapping Focus: The Syntax and Prosody of Focus in Spanish

Linguistic Field: Language Description, Phonology, and Syntax 

Subject Language: Spanish (code: SPN)

Dissertation Director 1: Paul Hagstrom
Dissertation Director 2: Victor Manfredi
Dissertation Director 3: Jonathan Barnes
Dissertation Director 4: Ad Neeleman

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation investigates the realization and interpretation of
information structure in Spanish. Focused constituents may appear in
the right-periphery, in the left-periphery or in situ in
Spanish. Recent studies have addressed the relative weight of
syntactic and phonological cues in the realization of information
structure, but have not adequately accounted for these three types of
focus. Syntax-based accounts, asserting that focused phrases move to
the left-periphery to check features, fail to account for focus in the
right-periphery. So-called prosody-based accounts, which in fact
depend on the syntactic requirement that focus has to be aligned with
nuclear stress, are unable to account for focus in a position other
than final. Experimental data from a pilot study reported in this
dissertation suggest that prominence in all three types of focus is
determined by a prosodic structure without syntactic motivation.

Focal prominence is signaled by high pitch peaks in Spanish, and
elements in final position are always realized with high peaks
regardless of the information status of the final element. This
suggests that a distinction between unmarked and marked stress is
required, corresponding to information focus and contrastive focus
respectively. Further, differences in semantic interpretation support
the view that three different focus types exist in Spanish:
contrastive (in the left-periphery) contrastive (in situ) and
information (in the right-periphery). I provide evidence that
information focus does not have a focus feature, but in contrast, I
show that movement to the left periphery of all contrastive phrases
always applies, either overtly or covertly, for feature checking
purposes. The possibility of contrastive focus appearing in situ is
prosodically licensed. In such cases, movement to the left periphery
applies at LF as supported by the fact that contrastive phrases in
situ show weak crossover effects.

More broadly, this dissertation contributes to the general discussion
of the Syntax-Phonology interface. The above results suggest that a
prosodic structure mediates between the Syntax and the Phonology,
supporting the view that phonological processes must be accessed by
the syntactic component before Spell-Out.
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