LINGUIST List 9.1618

Mon Nov 16 1998

Qs: WHAT & HOW distinction, Focus condition

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  1. Ji Donghong, Distinction between WHAT and HOW
  2. Carsten Breul, Focus condition for Heavy Shift

Message 1: Distinction between WHAT and HOW

Date: Mon, 16 Nov 1998 17:46:05 +0800
From: Ji Donghong <>
Subject: Distinction between WHAT and HOW

Dear linguists or computational linguists,

I am wondering about whether the distinction between WHAT and HOW,
e.g., the following two distinctions, is important in linguistics.

 1) WHAT is syntactic structure? / HOW to determine syntactic structure?

 2) WHAT is meaning? / HOW to determine meaning? 

If it is, can someone tell me if there are any papers about the
distinction or if there are any theories which have answered (or have
tried to answer) the questions clearly? ( Maybe the answers to the
above WHAT and HOW questions should be different, like the answers to
the following two questions in Chemistry: WHAT is molecule structure
and HOW to determine molecule structure. )

 If it is not, one result may be to define WHAT in terms of HOW, e.g.,
to define syntactic structure through determining syntactic structure,
or to define meaning through determining meaning. If so, can someone
tell me whether this can lead to some problems in the justification of
the theories?

 If there is interest, I will submit a summary soon.


 Ji Donghong 
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Message 2: Focus condition for Heavy Shift

Date: Mon, 16 Nov 1998 12:27:38 +0100
From: Carsten Breul <>
Subject: Focus condition for Heavy Shift

Dear all,

There seems to be a focus condition for Heavy Shift constructions such
that the shifted constituent has to be the focus expression (or
contains the focus expression) to be acceptable/grammatical.

My question is whether marked sentence accentuation may override this
requirement. That is, is it possible to say e.g.

(1) Kelly bought for SAM a brand new computer.
(2) KELLY bought for Sam a brand new computer.?

Here, heavy (contrastive) stress is put on 'Sam'/'Kelly' in order to
prosodically mark them as the focus expressions with the object
shifted at the same time.

I would be very thankful for intuitions about this.

Dr. Carsten Breul
Englisches Seminar
Universitaet Bonn
Regina-Pacis-Weg 5
53113 Bonn
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