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The main objective of this joint work is to bring together some ideas that have played central roles in two disparate theoretical traditions in order to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between focus and the syntactic and semantic structure of sentences. Within the Prague School tradition and the branch of its contemporary development represented by Hajičová and Sgall (HS in the sequel), topic-focus articulation has long been a central object of study, and it has long been a tenet of Prague school linguistics that topic-focus structure has systematic relevance to meaning. Within the formal semantics tradition represented by Partee (BHP in the sequel), focus has much more recently become an area of concerted investigation, but a number of the semantic phenomena to which focus is relevant have been extensively investigated and given explicit compositional semantic analyses. The emergence of ‘tripartite structures’ (see Chapter 2) in formal semantics and the partial similarities that can be readily observed between some aspects of tripartite structures and some aspects of Praguian topic-focus articulation have led us to expect that a closer investigation of the similarities and differences in these different theoretical constructs would be a rewarding undertaking with mutual benefits for the further development of our respective theories and potential benefit for the study of semantic effects of focus in other theories as well.
KeywordsWord Order Formal Semantic Joint Work Linguistic Meaning Categorial Grammar
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- 1.This approach is intended as a continuation of the syntactic theories of European structural linguistics, especially of the Prague School.Google Scholar
- 2.The intent here is to offer as theory-neutral a term as possible, realizing that this is a domain where theory-neutrality is well-nigh impossible, for a syntactic description that is supposed to serve as the syntactic side of the syntax-semantics interface; this is the underlying syntactic representation in HS’s theory, the analysis tree in Montague grammar or categorial grammar, the single syntactic tree in GPSG, the level of LF in GB, etc. In what follows we will sometimes refer to it as the interface representation.Google Scholar
- 3.Among the approaches to the issues of focus in constituency based frameworks, Chomsky’s (1971) view has much in common with the Prague tradition, similarly as the views of S. Kuno, of B. Grosz (whose “focus list” comes close to the Praguian notion of “activated items”), of E. Prince, or, even more recently, those of E. Engdahl and E. Vallduví.Google Scholar
- 4.Whether these two characterizations of the TRs (as interface or as syntactic structure) are compatible or incompatible is itself an issue that initially divides us (see Section 3).Google Scholar
- 5.This will be illustrated and discussed in Section 6.2.1.Google Scholar
- 6.We thank our colleagues, including our three anonymous referees, for their many suggestions for potential additions that could improve the book. We have adopted some of those suggestions, but others would have required substantial exploration of other lines of research which we have not felt competent to comment upon in any detail, or in one or another respect have to be considered to be beyond the scope of this work.Google Scholar