Reconsidering a focal typology: Evidence from Spanish and Italian

Timothy L. Face, Mariapaola D'Imperio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Traditional work on focus has often drawn a division between languages that mark focus with word order and those that mark focus with intonation. While Spanish and Italian have traditionally been viewed as languages that mark focus mainly through word order, recent work in both languages has examined the intonational marking of focus. Nonetheless, a rigid division between languages that mark focus with word order and languages that mark focus with intonation is still often maintained. The present study examines studies of focus in Spanish and Italian from both word order and intonation perspectives and argues that a rigid division between languages that mark focus with word order and those that mark focus with intonation cannot be maintained as is. Specifically, it is argued that Spanish and Italian make use of both word order and intonation, but that these two markers of focus interact differently in these two languages. Based primarily on Spanish and Italian, but with consideration also of languages that are traditionally viewed as using intonation to mark focus, like English, a typological continuum is proposed. This continuum would account not only for the differences between word order and intonation languages in the marking of focus, but also for distinctions between languages - such as Spanish and Italian - that use both mechanisms of focal marking, though to different degrees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-289
Number of pages19
JournalItalian Journal of Linguistics
Volume17
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005

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