Speech Prosody 2010

Chicago, IL, USA
May 10-14, 2010

Information Focus in French

Claire Beyssade, Barbara Hemforth, Jean-Marie Marandin, Cristel Portes

LLF. Université Paris Diderot, France

Our aim is to characterize the prosodic marking of Information Focus in French. The issue is highly controversial (see the divergent claims in Di Cristo 1999, Féry 2001, Beyssade et al. 2004 a. o.). Assuming as a working hypothesis that the Question/Answer pair yields a criterion to identify the information focus (IF) in utterances –the IF is that part of the content of answers that resolves the question (i.a. Kadmon 2001)–, we set up three experiments whose results yield the empirical basis for the two claims we present here. The first one is descriptive. Phrases that resolve a question may be set off by two types of intonational marks: they host the nuclear contour (NC) on their right edge and/or they are prosodically highlighted (PH). The second one is theoretical. IF marking should be distinguished from question/answer congruence marking. NC placement is sensitive to the Focus- Ground partition of utterances, while prosodic highlighting (PH) is sensitive to any type of distinguishedness: semantic or pragmatic. As such, it is a wild card that can be used to cue the role of question-resolver that phrases play in answers and that, in line with the Focus-Ground partition or independently from it.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Beyssade, Claire / Hemforth, Barbara / Marandin, Jean-Marie / Portes, Cristel (2010): "Information focus in French", In SP-2010, paper 109.