Speech Prosody 2002

Aix-en-Provence, France
April 11-13, 2002

Contrastive FOCUS vs. Presentational focus: Prosodic Evidence from Right Node Raising in English

Elisabeth Selkirk

Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, USA

This paper reports a difference in English between the prosodic properties of contrastive FOCUS and presentational focus entities when they are immediately followed within the sentence by a presentational focus. In this context, the contrastive FOCUS shows not only a L+H* pitch accent, but also a following phonological phrase break, marked by both a L- phrase accent and temporal disjuncture. In the same context, presentational focus shows a pitch accent H* and no phonological phrase break (no L- and no disjuncture). Since these differences in prosody correlating with different Focus types are not plausibly construed as the realization of distinct tonal morphemes, I suggest that the contrastive/presentational contrast is present in the interface informational/syntactic structure itself, and makes itself felt in the phonological representation through the action of syntax-phonology interface constraints which distinguish the two Focus types.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Selkirk, Elisabeth (2002): "Contrastive FOCUS vs. presentational focus: prosodic evidence from right node raising in English", In SP-2002, 643-646.