The 4th International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages

Nijmegen, The Netherlands
May 13-16, 2014

Grounding Topic and Focus in Biological Codes

Matthijs Westera

Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A compositional theory of English intonational meaning is presented that is derived from Gussenhoven’s [1] biological codes. The resulting theory is compared to the more top-down approaches to focus and contrastive topic in the literature, suggesting how such stipulated semantic/pragmatic notions as ‘alternative’ and ‘strategy’ can be grounded – and revealing how they might be amended.


  1. Gussenhoven, C. (2004). The phonology of tone and intonation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Index Terms: Intonational meaning, biological codes, pragmatics, topic and focus.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Westera, Matthijs (2014): "Grounding topic and focus in biological codes", In TAL-2014, 134-137.