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LINGUIST List 19.755

Thu Mar 06 2008

Diss: Disc Analysis/Syntax: Calude: 'Demonstrative Clefts in Spoken...'

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        1.    Andreea Calude, Demonstrative Clefts in Spoken English

Message 1: Demonstrative Clefts in Spoken English
Date: 06-Mar-2008
From: Andreea Calude <acaludegmail.com>
Subject: Demonstrative Clefts in Spoken English
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Institution: University of Auckland
Program: The Linguistics Programme
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Andreea Simona Calude

Dissertation Title: Demonstrative Clefts in Spoken English

Dissertation URL: http://www.calude.net/andreea/thesis_final.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Jim Miller
Frank Lichtenberk

Dissertation Abstract:

The research focuses on the organisation of syntax in spoken New Zealand
English. Work over the past twenty five years has demonstrated that the
syntax of spoken language, especially unplanned speech, differs greatly
from the syntax of written language. More specifically, while some
constructions are only/mainly found in writing, others are mostly found in
speech. Among the latter, we find examples such as (a) 'That's what I had
in mind' and (b) 'That's what I thought'. These types of clefts are much
more frequent in spontaneous spoken English than other cleft types: twice
more frequent than IT-clefts, three times more common than basic WH-clefts,
and over ten times more widely used than reversed WH-clefts.

Despite the fact that the construction exemplified in (a) and (b) has not
been investigated in great detail, its existence and frequency in spoken
language has been noted in the literature and various suggestions have been
put forward regarding its classification. Some researchers consider it to
be a reversed WH-cleft (Collins 2004, Hedberg 1988, Lambrecht 2001, Weinert
and Miller 1996), while others regard it as an IT-cleft (Huddleston and
Pullum 2002), and others still (Biber et al 1999) treat it as separate
cleft type altogether. An earlier paper by Ball (1977) introduced the label
TH-cleft, as a cover term for examples similar (though not identical in
structure or function) to those given above, e.g., (c) 'Those are my
cigarettes you are smoking!', which she argues should be classified as

The current work investigates the two types of clefts exemplified in
(a)-(c) in terms of 23 different properties, relating to their structure
and syntax on the one hand, and their function in discourse on the other.
These properties have been identified by consulting existing literature on
clefts and data from the Wellington Corpus of Spoken New Zealand English
(approx. 200,000 words of spontaneous conversation). The clefts are
contrasted and compared with IT-clefts, WH-clefts and reversed WH-clefts
found in the same portion of the data.

One of the most problematic features investigated concerns the fact that
clefts are often 'un-integrated' or loosely integrated inside the
syntactic structure which they are part of, while still being tightly
connected within the discourse portion in which they are found. Examples
include: 'That's what you have to do is rest', and 'That is what he thought
about all day his work'. Previous studies suggest that in spoken language
the distinction between the syntax of clauses and the overall organisation
of a piece of discourse is not clear; clauses that do not appear to be
syntactically subordinate may nonetheless be subordinate in terms of the
discourse. This is problematic for existing syntactic theories which rely
on tightly integrated structures.

The research contributes to existing knowledge of the grammatical
constructions used by speakers of New Zealand English and English
worldwide. Given the significant differences between the grammar of spoken
language and the grammar of written language, this work adds to our
understanding of the barriers that have to be crossed in the teaching and
learning of spoken language, as well as those which arise for second
language learners.

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