EDITORS: Lee, Chungmin, Matthew Gordon & Daniel Büring
TITLE: Topic and Focus
SUBTITLE: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives on Meaning and Intonation
SERIES: Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy 82
Philip W. Davis, Rice University
This volume contains fourteen chapters that are the product of a workshop held
in 2001 during the LSA Summer Institute at UC Santa Barbara. ''The workshop was
designed to lay the groundwork for collaborative efforts between linguists
devoted to the study of meaning and linguists engaged in the quantitative study
of intonation'' (vii). Eleven of the chapters are descriptive studies of Topic or
Focus. Three (Gil, Steedman, von Heusinger) are concerned with other semantics
of intonation. Twelve languages constitute the empirical base: Basque
(Elordieta) Polish (Eschenberg), Riau Indonesian (Gil), Chickasaw (Gordon),
English (Gussenhoven; Hedberg & Sosa; Krifka; Steedman; von Heusinger), Dutch &
Italian (Krahmer & Swerts), Korean (Lee), Japanese (Nakanishi), Taiwanese (Pan),
Bengali (Selkirk), and German (von Heusinger). Focus receives the most
attention. It is the subject of chapters by Elordieta, Eschenberg, Gordon, Gil,
Gussenhoven, Hedberg & Sosa, Krahmer & Swerts, Krifka, Pan, and Selkirk. Topic
is addressed by only three authors, Hedberg & Sosa, Lee, and Nakanishi. Steedman
and von Heusinger address situational semantics more broadly. Each chapter has
its own bibliography, and there is no index.
In the review that follows, the chapters are discussed in their printed order in
the collection. The first paragraph gives a straightforward description of what
I think the chapter is about. The second paragraph, if there is one, contains
more evaluative remarks about the chapter. At the end of the review, I add
evaluative comments about the book as a whole.
Gorka Elordieta. ''Constraints on Intonational Prominence of Focalized
Constituents''. Elordieta discusses one dialect of a variety of Northern Bizkaian
Basque, Lekeitio Basque (LB). The language is S IO O V, with the expression of
Focus placed in immediate preverbal position and accompanied by ''intonational
prominence'' (1) or ''main prominence'' (3). ''Prominence is realized as H*+L pitch
accent'' (6). LB distinguishes in this way ''neutral declarative sentences'' (3) or
''broad focus'' (11) from utterances with ''narrow focus'' (9) and from those with
''corrective focus'' (15). Elordieta is concerned more specifically with examples
in which the preverbal constituent is compound, containing a genitive possessor
followed by a possessed. In that context, a distinction between accented and
unaccented words (5) is necessary since only accented words may carry prosodic
prominence. An unaccented word may acquire a ''derived accent'' (5, 12) by being
the second of the possessor + possessed pair, but not the first. If both
possessor and possessed are accented lexical items, either may be differentially
narrowly focused. But there arises an asymmetry in the expression of Focus in
the possessor + possessed pair when the possessor is unaccented. The inherently
unaccented possessor does not have derived accent and cannot therefore be more
prosodically prominent. This asymmetry is absent when Corrective Focus is
expressed. The pattern of focal expression is further modulated by variation
Ardis Eschenberg. ''Polish Narrow Focus Constructions''. Eschenberg describes the
occurrence of Focus with the S and O constituents of Polish. Assuming that the
language has a neutral order of SVO (23), Narrow Focus is marked by ''prosodic
prominence'' (30) and order. If the S or the O occur in their neutral positions
and carry the prominence, the result is an expression of Informational Focus.
The non-neutral orders of OV or VS accompanied by intonational prominence on the
O or the S yield Identificational Focus (31, 39). S and O constituents differ in
their co-occurrence with 'even' and 'also' and intonational prominence. An O
must appear only in the neutral position of Informational Focus, while the S may
be used in both the SV and the VS positions. In the VS position, the Focus is
''presentative'' (33). Eschenberg's two spectrograms (26) show that Polish - like
Lekeitio Basque - prosodically distinguishes a Corrective Focus, his ''correction
paradigms''. From the cited examples, immediate preverbal position and immediate
postverbal position seem to be the ones involved in noncanonical Focus. Although
Eschenberg asserts that it is more accurately sentence final position that is
relevant, i.e. Polish has a VOS order (33), but not a VSO, the chapter contains
no example to show this. All examples with a postverbal transitive S have the O
Since several of Eschenberg's examples (PIOTR spiewal 'Péter sang' , Spiewal
PIOTR 'Péter sang' , and SPIEWAL Piotr 'Peter sáng' ) show that an S may
appear stressed or unstressed both before and after a V, it may be that word
order is independent from the prosodic prominence of Focus, representing a
separate grammar and a separate semantics. O's do not interact with word order
in the same way as S's. There may then be at least three components to the
patterns of Polish Narrow Focus: the syntax and semantics of word order itself,
the intonation and semantics of Focus, and the semantic makeup of the S and O
functions. In addition to the semantics of 'agent' and 'undergoer', the S and
the O functions seem to have additional semantic coloring that associates them
with Focus in contrasting ways.
David Gil. ''Intonation and Thematic Roles in Riau Indonesian''. The ''main
concern'' of Gil's chapter is to disprove ''the purported correlation between
intonation and thematic roles'' (57) in Riau Indonesian. He does this in the
following way. The four basic Riau Indonesian intonation contours (57) are shown
to occur with each of the four basic sentence patterns (58): Actor precedes
activity, Undergoer precedes activity, Actor follows activity, and Undergoer
follows activity. Then it is demonstrated that none of the cooccurrences of
intonation contours and sentence patterns has a significant
association/disassociation. Because of the absence of any correlation between
intonation patterns and the presence of a role, the two are independent and
intonation does not signal role. Riau Indonesian sentence patterns differ (from
the Eurocentric perspective) in the absence of a contrast between actor and
undergoer (63), either preceding or following the activity.
Except for a brief excursus into the use of intonation patterns to signal Focus
(54-56), this chapter appears to have only slight connection with the theme of
the book as a whole. It is, however, interesting on other grounds. Gil claims
that Riau Indonesian fails to distinguish roles in any fashion, grammatically or
semantically, and thus organizes its propositions following principles other
than roles and voice.
Matthew Gordon. ''The Intonational Realization of Constrastive Focus in
Chickasaw''. Gordon ''examines the prosodic realization of sentences involving the
contrastive focus on subjects and verbs [actually objects, PWD]'' (71).
Contrastive Focus is marked by -akot for subjects and by -akõ: for objects.
Fundamental frequency and duration are the two prosodies examined. Differences
in both frequency and duration are present and associated with Contrastive
Focus; but since neither is contrastive, their use is variable across categories
and across speakers.
The technique which yielded these results relied on Chickasaw speakers' ability
to respond to an English stimulus: ''Focus was elicited by offering English
translations emphasizing the focused element'' (71). It is not clear how, or
whether, the English stimulus in fact reflects Chickasaw semantics, especially
''since the precise semantic conditions that give rise to contrastive focus [in
Chickasaw] are not completely understood'' (71).
Carlos Gussenhoven. ''Types of Focus in English''. Gusshoven's chapter on English
consists of two parts. The first contends that ''the way pitch accents express
information structure in English is subject to structural constraints'' (83),
paraphrased either as ''the 'focus-to-accent' relation ... [is] indirect, and
mediated by the linguistic structure'' (85) or as ''the relation between the pitch
accent and the focus is mediated through the predicate-argument structure of the
sentence'' ( 97). The Stress Accent Assignment Rule (87) is a concrete embodiment
of this assertion and demonstrating its working is support both for the SAAR and
for the supposition that has created it. The second portion of the chapter lists
and illustrates seven types of Focus: presentational, corrective,
counterpresuppositional, definitional, contingency, reactivating, and
There is so much to react to here that it is not possible to do so without being
arbitrary. Certainly Focus interacts with its semantic environment, but
attempting to understand the semantics of Focus and the nature of its
interaction with its semantic context(s) might constitute a reasonable
alternative approach to more mechanical ones that use expressions such as
''causing the predicate to be accented'' (87) and ''an indirect object ... licenses
the unaccented predicate'' (88-89). Such an approach might also provide a
perspective on the types of Focus. Are there only seven? Why not eight or six?
How are they interrelated? Cf. the Conclusion below.
Nancy Hedberg & Juan M. Sosa. ''The Prosody of Topic and Focus in Spontaneous
English Dialogue''. Hedberg & Sosa present an analysis of spoken English from the
perspective of information structure and intonation (101 et passim).
''Information structure'' here means five categories: contrastive focus, plain
focus, contrastive topic, unratified topic, and ratified topic (101-102).
''Intonation'' is represented in terms of the tones and break indices notation
(ToBI Labelling). The strategy was for the first author to examine a written
transcript of the text to be analyzed (a television broadcast), using a priori
specifications of the five information structure categories and marking the text
when they were thought to be present. The next step was for the first author
then to listen to the videotape of the text to ''confirm these codings'' (101).
The second author examined a select portion of the text and assigned the ToBI
Labelling. The ''major goal'' (108) was to examine several ''hypotheses'' about the
relation between the categories of information structure and their association
with specific ToBI labelled intonations. Any connection between the two appears
to be partial. The results of the study are described in terms of a ''best fit''
(111), categories that ''are only sometimes marked'' (114), uses of intonation
that ''contrary to the predictions in the literature'' (115), and an hypothesis
that ''is not borne out by the data'' (118). The one mostly positive discovery is
that ''Except for ratified topics, which tended to be unaccented, most phrases in
each information structure category are marked H* [a peak accent, PWD]'' (112).
I find the technique puzzling. Why would one assume that any specimen of any
language communicated some meaning without simultaneously noting the portion of
the utterance that gave expression to that meaning? The interesting question in
the analysis is ''What did the first author in fact hear that confirmed the
initial codings?'' If it were those ToBI Labellings, the analysis could never
have been completed.
Emiel Krahmer & Marc Swerts. ''Perceiving Focus''. Dutch employs pitch accent to
indicate the locus of content being focused. Italian does not. Krahmer & Swerts
devise an experiment to demonstrate that speakers of Dutch can perceive
alternative placements of pitch on an adjective + noun sequence while speakers
of Italian ''fail completely'' (135) in an analogous task.
If pitch accent marks Focus in a language, then its speakers can by and large
hear it in an experimental context, and if it is not so used, speakers gain no
meaning from it, and they fail in the same task. They do not hear it. The
authors seem to have discovered the Phonemic Principle (Swadesh 1934).
Manfred Krifka. ''The Semantics of Questions and the Focusation of Answers''.
Krifka considers the English expression of alternative questions, multiple
constituent questions, and the Focus patterns of answers to constituent
questions. He is concerned to demonstrate that ''Alternative Semantics does not
predict the correct patterns of answer focus ... [and that] The Structured
Meaning theory, on the other hand, does not have these problems'' (139). Krifka
concludes that ''it appears that the careful consideration of focus in answers to
constituent questions argues against the alternative semantics account, and for
the structured meaning account, of questions and answers'' (150).
The proof of Krifka's thesis relies upon a formal logic, the notation of which
the reader must be familiar with in order to gain access to the content of the
Chungmin Lee. ''Contrastive (Predicate) Topic, Intonation and Scalar Meanings''.
Lee demonstrates the existence of a Contrastive Topic (CT) in Korean (157),
distinguished from Non-Contrastive Topic by intonation (153). It is elicited by
contexts such as this (157): ''After hearing that Inho didn't come, regarding his
friend Yengswu'' the speaker utters ''Yengswu-nun w-ass-e'' (Yengswu-CT
come-PAST-DEC) 'YengswuCT came'. ''The crucial requirement of CT is that
potential Topic of sum must precede or be assumed to precede it'' (158). The
Korean CT has a specific relation to scalar implicatures: ''A typical CT with an
appropriate contour evokes a scalar implicature conventionally by default ...''
Kimiko Nakanishi. ''Prosody and Scope Interpretations of the Topic Marker wa in
Japanese''. Like Korean, Japanese has a contrast between a Contrastive Topic and
a Non-Contrastive one (Nakanishi's ''thematic wa'' ) distinguished by
intonation pattern (181). Nakanishi demonstrates the contrast and then
demonstrates a corresponding contrast in scope when the Topic is minna
'everyone' and the predicate is negated: Minna-wa ne-nakat-ta (everyone-TOP
sleep-NEG-PAST) 'Everyone didn't sleep'. When minna-wa has the intonation of a
Non-Contrastive wa, the sense of ''It is the case that everyone did not sleep'.
No one slept. When the intonation is contrastive, the sense is 'It is the case
that not everyone slept'. There is someone who didn't sleep (182-183).
Nakanishi (179) illustrates the sense of 'contrastive' using the utterance
''Naoya-wa nonbiri-si-teiru ga Maria-wa nonbiri-si-tei-nai'' (Naoya-TOP relax
do-PROG but Maria-TOP relax-do-PROG-NEG) 'Naoya is relaxing, but Maria is not
relaxing', with Contrastive intonation on Naoya-wa. But 'contrastive' may be too
narrow a semantic interpretation of this intonation. ''Naoya-wa nonbiri si-teiru''
(Naoya-TOP relax-do-PROG) 'Naoya is relaxing', with contrastive intonation, can
also be pronounced as a retort to the assertion ''Naoya-wa nonbiri-si-tei-nai''
'Noaya is not relaxing', with Non-Contrastive intonation, to yield a sense of
'Naoya is too relaxing [contrary to what you said]'. (Personal communication
from a native speaker of Japanese, which I hope I have not misunderstood.) Since
both the assertion and the retort contain the same Topic, Naoya, the meaning
'contrastive' requires some modification, perhaps something in the direction of
'insistence'. Kuroda (2005:7) shows that ''thematic wa'' may carry the meaning of
Focus in that it can answer wh- questions. It might be interesting to consider
the possibility that contrastive intonation with wa is signaling the presence of
some variety of Focus on that constituent. Kuroda's (2005:26-28) contrast of
''asserting'' and ''affirming'' (''wa sentences assert while non-wa sentences
affirm'') may be relevant here if the contrast describes a dimension in place of
a dichotomy. Lee (153) notes an analogous debate in the literature concerning
Contrastive Topic in Korean.
Ho-Hsein Pan. ''Focus and Taiwanese Unchecked Tones''. Taiwanese has seven lexical
tonal contrasts, which have morphophonemic variants depending upon where they
occur in a ''tone group''. Narrow Focus is manifest suprasegmentally in Taiwanese,
and Pan describes its allomorphy in the context of tone morphophonemics and also
in the context of the syntactic position of Focus in the utterance. Pan
considers the positions of Focus in a short SVO utterance. Focus is realized by
an intonational combination of duration, range in fundamental frequency (F0),
and in mean F0 values.
Elisabeth Selkirk. ''Bengali Intonation Revisited: An Optimality Theoretic
Analysis in which Focus Stress Prominence Drives Focus Phrasing''. Bengali is an
SOV language that distinguishes intonationally between (i) a Neutral or Broad
Focus declarative expression, (ii) the same as (i), but a yes-no question, (iii)
a declarative expression that contains an Informational Focus either on the V or
a constituent preceding, and (iv) the same as (iii) but a yes-no question. The
Informational Focus is a H+L+H contour that covers the focused constituent
(233). The issue of the chapter is the presence of the Grenzsignalende second H
of Focus. ''Focus Prominence Theory ... predicts a phonological phrase edge at
only one edge of a focus constituent, the edge where the focus prominence is
located ... [but] a focus constituent in Bengali is flanked by phonological
phrase edges ...'' (216), i.e. the two H's. Selkirk solves the contradiction with
''constraints and rankings'' (240).
The Bengali equivalents of 'Did I give money for the king's pictures?'' with
Neutral Focus (227) and the declarative 'I gave money for the king's pictures'
with Focus on the V (233) have these intonational contours, respectively: L*H L*
H L* [HL]QUES and L*Hp L* Hp L* H[L]. Removing the nonphonetic parts of the
notations, there is one intonation, L*H L* H L* HL, and there appears to be a
single Bengali sentence with two glosses. Selkirk does not discuss this homophony.
Mark Steedman. ''Information-Structural Semantics for English Intonation''.
Steedman discusses English pitch accents, e.g. L+H* and H* (248-250), in
combination with ''intonational boundaries'' (247), e.g. LL% and LH% (250 251).
The meaningful contrasts of the pitch accents are attributed to ''information
structure'' (245), i.e., '''not given' information'' (246) and ''theme'' & ''rheme''
(246), and to ''contentiousness'' (245), i.e. whether ''mutually agreed'' (246) or
not. The contrasts in intonational boundaries ''distinguish the speaker or the
hearer as responsible for, or ... committed to, the corresponding information
unit'' (247). The resulting patterns are expressed in terms of Steedman's
Combinatory Categorial Grammar (255 259).
The interactional, situated meanings which Steedman treats are always difficult.
They themselves can be contentious, and for that reason, they are interesting.
In the nondiscrete world of pitch and intonation, it is not surprising that
''trained ToBI annotators show quite low inter-annotator reliability'',
particularly in distinguishing between H* and L+H* (259). This reprises a
concern I had above about Hedberg & Sosa's chapter. Situated expectation as well
as phonetic skill (professionally acquired or native) will affect what we think
we hear. More than once, I have thought, ''I didn't mean to say what you thought
you heard.'' Explaining to your spouse that you lost control of the intonational
contour is no excuse. You said it, you meant it. One hears meaning, not sound.
Klaus von Heusinger. ''Discourse Structure and Intonational Phrasing''. Setting
aside the ''discourse functions of pitch accents and boundary tones'' (that were
the focus of Steedman's chapter) and drawing examples from German and English,
von Heusinger ''argue[s] that intonational phrasing determines minimal discourse
units which serve as the building blocks in a discourse representation'' (265). A
discourse ''consists of sentences that are related to each other by relations,
such as causation, explanation, coherence, elaboration, continuation ..., which
can then be represented in a tree ...'' (270, 283). von Heusinger ''argue[s] that
the semantics of intonational phrasing can best be accounted for in terms of
discourse units ... defined by their function to serve as arguments in discourse
relations'' (266, 283). von Heusinger elaborates briefly five such discourse
relations: non-restrictive modification, backgrounding, enumeration,
topicalization, and frame-setting (285ff.) The result is expressed in terms of
Discourse Representation Theory (266 et passim).
There is no such thing as an objective evaluation. The fairest I can be is to
admit to the persistence of bias, explain briefly what those biases are, and
then try to be consistent within them. My belief has been that language exists
because it means and that the form of language is secondary and exists only
because it has meaning. The possible formal resources to express meanings are
contrasts in linear sequences, paradigmatic substitutions, and suprasegmental
contrasts (essentially, Bloomfield's taxemes). The complexity of language lies
in the meaning and not in the form. Certainly, any ''explanations'' of language
follow from understanding its meaning.
The title ''Topic and Focus'' is what drew me to this book. I was even more
excited to see a subtitle ''Cross-linguistic Perspectives on Meaning ...'' and
then ''and Intonation''. Intonation was less attractive, but still OK. The
chapters are descriptive studies of specific languages from this perspective,
and the promise is that the reader will find unknown ways these languages
construct and organize the semantics of Topic and Focus ... in so far as they do
it with intonation.
So what is there new about the semantics of Topic and Focus?
There is an impressive number of Focuses cited. I counted at least 16, and I may
have missed some. While we find familiar, traditional terms used, others are
more special. These are the Focuses I have recorded: ''broad'' (e.g. Gordon, 71 &
73; Krahmer & Swerts, 130-131, Pan 199) versus ''narrow'' (e.g. Elordieta, 9 & 11;
Eschenberg; Gordon, 71 & 73; Krahmer & Swerts, 130-131; Pan, 199),
''informational'' (e.g. Eschenberg, 31) versus ''identificational'' (e.g.
Eschenberg, 31; Gussenhoven, 96); ''corrective'' (e.g. Elordieta, 14-15;
Eschenberg, 26; Gussenhoven, 91); ''contrastive'' (e.g. Gordon; Hedberg & Sosa,
111; Selkirk, 217, 221); ''presentative'' (e.g. Eschenberg, 33), ''presentational''
(e.g. Gussenhoven, 91); ''counterpresupposition'' (e.g. Gusshoven, 92),
''definitional'' (e.g. Gussenhoven, 92); ''contingency'' (e.g. Gussenhoven, 94);
''reactivating'' (Gussenhoven, 95); ''plain'' (e.g. Hedberg & Sosa, 112); ''neutral''
(e.g. Selkirk, 217), and ''big'' versus ''small'' (Selkirk, 220). Some of the
variety appears to be just a matter of labels. ''Broad'' Focus seems to be the
same as ''plain'' and ''neutral''. Answers to wh-questions are ''corrective'' for
Elordieta (14), ''narrow'' (either ''identificational or ''informational'') for
Eschenberg, ''presentational'' for Gussenhoven (91), ''narrow'' for Pan (199), and
''contrastive'' for Selkirk (221). Clearly, authors will use the terms a bit
differently. That is not really a complaint, but the proliferation of types may
be. Clark & Marshall (1981.22 23) enumerate ''eight major uses of the [English]
definite article'': the anaphoric use, the visible situation use, the immediate
situation use, the larger situation use based on specific knowledge, the larger
situation use based on general knowledge, the associative anaphoric use, the
unavailable use, and the unexplanatory modifier use. The list omits the generic
use. The question is where does the list end? Is there a tenth use somewhere
waiting to be discovered? Such a circumstance indicates to me that a fundamental
understanding is missing, and I sense the same in the large number of Focuses
cited in these chapters.
Consider briefly Identificational Focus. Kiss (1998.245) has associated it with
''exhaustive identification.'' Identificational Focus has been proposed for
English (Kiss 1998.256-260 et passim, Eschenberg, 31, Gussenhoven, 96) and
located in cleft sentences. I believe that in English, Informational Focus does
not exist as such. It is a contextual variant of whatever English Focus is
otherwise. Its establishment as a distinct type of results from a failure to
separate the semantic contribution of the pitch accent from the semantic
contribution of the morphosyntax of the clefting. Cp. ''It was the dark that
scared him'', with pitch accent alternately on ''dark'' and on ''scared'', or even
''was''. And if the pitch accent is on dark, then the following ''that scared him''
may have a lower level intonational contour to its end or a non-level contour
with a slightly higher pitch and prominence on scared. Intonational matters seem
very distinct from the morphosyntax. and within the morphosyntax of the cleft,
there is a further contrast between the choice of it as subject versus some
other pronoun, e.g. ''It's the plumber'' versus ''He's the plumber'' in response to
''Who's that in the kitchen?'' (Declerck 1983). Each of which may be followed by
''... that you called yesterday''. Only ''It's the plumber'' is a felicitous answer
to ''Who did you say is coming this morning?'' Identificational Focus is the
outcome of choosing copular morphosyntax with a subject ''it'', choosing (or not)
to follow the copular complement with a dependent clause (and choosing an
intonational contour for that clause), and then placing the pitch accent of
Focus. Identificational Focus appears when all those semantics come together. In
English, Identificational Focus is at best an ''allo-Focus''. (Cf. also my
comments above on Eschenberg's description of Polish Narrow Focus.) This is not
to say that a distinctive Identificational Focus is absent from all languages.
Except for descriptive information about specific languages, I think a broader
understanding of the semantics of Focus is little advanced by this book.
Topic is discussed in English, Korean, and Japanese. In their paper on English,
Hedberg & Sosa employ a ''ratified'' Topic, an ''unratified'' one, and a
''contrastive'' one (102 et passim). Hedberg & Sosa's primary goal is to identify
the Topics by their intonational marking (101, 112, 114), but I find no
discussion of the semantics. Ultimately, the Contrastive Topic and the
Unratified Topic are (apparently) dissolved and referred to as ''Contrastive
Focus'' (111). Lee relies on the common criterion of 'about' in discussing Topic;
''It is something talked about by the Comment ...'' (Lee, 132). He extends
'aboutness' to the Korean Contrastive Topic (154-155): ''... a CT is 'about' a
given part in the previous discourse and locally 'about' the rest of the CT
utterance. Hence it is topical.'' (I think I understand what this says, but it
seems to be expressed backwards; the CT is Topic not because it is 'about'
something, but because something is 'about' it.)
Nakanishi accepts wa as a marker of Japanese Topic and also Kuno's (1973)
characterization of Topic as ''anaphoric or generic'' (187). 'Aboutness' is not
invoked for Japanese. Each author spends most their effort on the semantics of
Contrastive Topic, either in terms of scalar implicature (Lee) or scope (Nakanishi).
The ''quantitative study of intonation'', which the editors consider to be one of
he defining components of the book, is manifest primarily in the use of
spectrograms (Elordieta, Eschenberg, Gordon, Hedberg & Sosa, Lee, Nakanishi, and
Pan). Pan includes several tables detailing measurements of differing vowel
lengths. ToBI Labeling has recently become prominent in the notation of English
intonation. The basic publication appears to be Beckman & Ayers Elam (1997). It
is accessible through this url: http://www.ling.ohio
state.edu/research/phonetics/E_ToBI/. Some of the ToBI publications warn that
the labeling is not a substitution for a phonetic notation. It is a broad
phonetic system specific to English, and there will be as many ToBI labeling as
there are language varieties. In addition to English, it used in the chapters on
Basque, Bengali, and German, but there is no comment about any language specific
adaptation. This is not a review of ToBI labeling. Suffice it to say I miss Pike.
In sum, I learned something about the languages described, but much less than I
had hoped about Topic and Focus. I was not greatly entertained. _Topic and
Focus_ is no _Subject and Topic_.
Beckman, Mary E. & Gayle Ayers Elam. 1997. ''Guidelines for ToBI Labelling.
Version 3.'' Columbus: The Ohio State University Research Foundation.
Clark, Herbert H. & Catherine R. Marshall. 1981. ''Definite Reference and Mutual
Knowledge.'' In _Elements of Discourse Understanding_, ed. by Aravind Joshi,
Bonnie L. Webber, & Ivan A. Sag. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Declerck, Renaat. 1983. '''It is Mr. Y' or ''He is Mr. Y'?'' _Lingua_ 59.209 246.
Kiss, Katalin E. 1998. ''Identification Focus versus Information Focus.''
Kuno, Susumu. 1973. _The Structure of the Japanese Language_. Cambridge: The MIT
Kuroda, S.-Y. 2005. ''Focusing on the Matter of Topic: A study of wa and ga in
Japanese.'' _Journal of East Asian Linguistics_ 14.1-58.
Swadesh, Morris. 1934. ''The Phonemic Principle.'' _Language_ 10.117-129.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Philip W. Davis is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, Rice University. His
interests have been language description and syntax and semantics.