Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1–30 | Cite as

Grammatical marking of givenness

  • Ivona Kučerová


Schwarzschild (Nat Lang Semant 7:141–177, 1999)’s account of givenness elaborates a notion of complementarity of givenness and focus in an intricate way: while givenness is semantically interpreted, focus is grammatically marked. It has been noticed, however, that under certain circumstances givenness in English is grammatically marked as well. Movement plays a role in this process. This paper provides further evidence for givenness marking. I present a case study of three Slavic languages (Czech, Russian, and Serbo-Croatian) in which givenness is always grammatically marked. In these languages, given elements must linearly precede new elements. If this relative ordering cannot be achieved by base generation, the ordering can be achieved by movement. I offer an account of the data in terms of givenness and the Maximize Presupposition principle of Heim (1991). In particular, I argue for an operator that marks elements in its scope as given. The operator divides the structure between a given and a new part. The role of Maximize Presupposition is to enforce that every given element is in the scope of the operator. The operator and Maximize Presupposition work in tandem with an economy condition on movement that licenses movement only if it yields an otherwise unavailable semantic interpretation. The proposal thus provides independent evidence for competition in grammar and for the role of Maximize Presupposition in the process.


Givenness Maximize Presupposition Word order Slavic languages 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and Languages, Togo Salmon Hall 608McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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