LINGUIST List 9.1651

Fri Nov 20 1998

Sum: Focus Condition on Heavy Shift

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Carsten Breul, Sum: Focus condition on Heavy Shift

Message 1: Sum: Focus condition on Heavy Shift

Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 09:31:20 +0100
From: Carsten Breul <>
Subject: Sum: Focus condition on Heavy Shift

Dear all

In LINGUIST 9.1618, I posted the following query:

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 have received 6 replies (all by native speakers of English, 
as far as I can tell). Once again a big THANK YOU to them 

It seems that for one or two of the informants my question 
does not make sense. This is either because they do not 
accept the construction 'buy something for somebody' 
(instead of 'buy somebody something') in the first place, or 
because I have not made clear enough what I am getting at in 
the formulation of the query. (By the way, I took the 
sentences from an article by Michael Shaun Rochemont 
("Phonological focus and structural focus", in. Culicover, 
Peter W. & McNally, Louise (eds.) 1998. _Syntax and 
Semantics_. Vol. 29. _The Limits of Syntax_. San Diego et 
al.: Academic Press. 337-363. The only thing I changed is 
capitalisation to indicate heavy stress on the names. To my 
knowledge, Rochemont is a native speaker of English.)

For 3 of the remaining 4 informants, sentence (1) is o.k. if 
highly marked and in need of a proper communicative 
situation. One of these 3 made a distinction between (1) 
and (2), i.e. accepted (1) but could not think of a situation 
where (2) would be appropriate. 

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