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Accenting and Deaccenting Arguments. Manfred Krifka Humboldt University Berlin Zentrum f ür Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) Berlin Workshop on Weak Words Schloss Freudental SFB 417 Konstanz & ZAS Berlin April 14-16, 2005. Three Questions about Focus Marking.

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Accenting and deaccenting arguments l.jpg

Accenting and Deaccenting Arguments

Manfred KrifkaHumboldt University BerlinZentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) BerlinWorkshop on Weak WordsSchloss Freudental SFB 417 Konstanz & ZAS BerlinApril 14-16, 2005


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Three Questions about Focus Marking

  • VP focus:What did he do first? — He first [cooked the potátoes]F.Was hat er zuerst gemacht? — Er hat zuerst [die Kartóffeln gekocht]F

  • (b) Object focus:What did he cook first? — He first cooked [the potátoes]F.Was hat er zuerst gekocht? — Er hat zuerst [die Kartóffeln]Fgekocht.

  • (c) V focus:What did he do with the potatoes? — He [cóoked]Fthe potatoes.Was hat er mit den Kartoffeln gemacht? — Er hat die Kartoffeln [gekócht]F

  • Question 1: Why is VP focus (a) expressed like Object focus (b)?

  • VP focus with previously mentioned object:He went to the market and bought potatoes, eggs, and salad. What did he do first when he came home?He [put on the ápron]F and [bóiled the potatoes]F / [boiled the potátoes]F.

  • Question 2: Why can VP focus (d) be expressed like V focus (c)?

  • VP focus with indefinite object pronounWhat did he do first? — He [put on the ápron]Fand [cóoked something]F.

  • Question 3: Why is VP focus (e) expressed like V focus (c)?


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Focus Ambiguities

  • Reporter, to Willie Sutton:

  • Why do you rob bánks?

  • Willie Sutton, to Reporter:

  • ‘Cause that’s were the money is!

  • Reporter’s interpretation:Why do you [rob banks]F?

  • Willie Sutton’s interpretation:Why do you rob [banks]F?


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Focus projection from the argument: Some history

  • Nuclear Stress Rule (Chomsky & Halle 1968, etc.): Under normal intonation (= broad focus), accent the last constituent.

  • [He [cooked [the potátoes]]]

  • Problems (Schmerling 1976):OV structures: He has [[some potátoes] to cook].Er hat [[die Kartóffeln] gekocht].

  • Subject accent: [[My púrse] is stolen].

  • Proposal: Focus projects from the argument.


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Focus Projection: Selkirk 1984

  • Assumptions:– Accent licenses F-Marking– F-Marking on Argument licenses F-Marking on Phrase – F-Marking on Head licenses F-Marking on Phrase

  • Example of “focus projection”:

  • He [cooked [the potátoes]] Accent on word

  • He [cooked [the potátoes]F] licenses focus on NP

  • He [cookedF [the potátoes]F] licenses focus on V

  • He [cookedF [the potátoes]F]F licenses focus on VP

  • No focus projection from adjuncts:He [cooked [the whole dáy]F]He [cóokedF [the whole dáy]F]F*He [cooked [the whole dáy]F]F

  • No focus projection from given constituents:He bought potatoes, eggs and salad. What did he do then?He [cóokedF[the potatoes]]F

  • cf. refined theory of Givenness in Schwarzschild (1999)


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Accent assignment: Gussenhoven 1983

  • Sentence Accent Assignment Rule (SAAR), simplified:

  • Domain assignment (phonological phrases):– focused constituents form a domain– focused Head+Argument constituents can form one domain.

  • Domains are assigned an accent; in Head+Argument domains, accent is assigned to the argument.

    Example of accent percolation in Head-Argument structure:

  • He [cooked [the potatoes]]F information focus

  • He [(cooked [the potatoes])]F domain formation

  • He [(cooked [the potátoes])]F accent assignment

  • Example of accent percolation in Head-Adjunct structure:

  • He [cooked [the whole day]]F information focus

  • He [(cooked) [(the whole day)]]F domain formation

  • He [(cóoked) [(the whole dáy)]]F accent assignment

  • No accent percolation on given constituents:

  • He bought potatoes, eggs, and salad. What did he do then?He [(cooked [the potatoes])]F

  • He [(cóoked [the potatoes])]F accent assignment on [–given]


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Accent Assignment: Jacobs 1993

  • Semantic integration of constituents, expressed by prosodic phrasing, cf. already Selkirk 1984, “sense units”

  • John saw that gasoline can explode.a. (Johnsaw) (that gasoline can) (explode)b. (John saw) (that gasoline) (can explode)

  • Interrelation: Focusation  Semantic Integration  Phrasingcf. also Steedman 2000.a. What did Bill do first? — (Bill) (cooked the potátoes)Fb. What did Bill cook first? — (Bill cooked) (the potátoes)F

  • Jacobs: Semantic and informational factors that lead to separation:

  • Topic-Comment articulation:([CJóhnson died]F) vs. ([TTrùman])([Cdiéd]F)

  • Quantificational domains are separated:weil (Hunde)(béllen)F vs. weil (Húnde bellen)F

  • Stativity vs. Episodicity of predicate:weil er (Pèter) (kénnt) vs. weil er (Péter kennenlernen will)

  • Arguments vs. Adjuncts:er hat (im Zèlt) (geráucht) vs. er ist (im Zélt geblieben)

  • Within the phonological phrase, given expressions and expressions marked [–accent] prevent accent:er hat (die Kartóffeln gekocht) vs. (sie gekócht) vs. (etwas gekócht)


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Why is focus marked the way it is?

  • There are several proposals to capture rules of focus marking, but few, if any, ask: Why are the rules the way they are?

  • Question 0: Why Argument / Adjunct distinction?

  • What did they do then? — They [stayed [in the tént]]F

  • What did they do then? — The [smóked [in the tént]]F

  • Answer, concept of semantic integration by Jacobs:

  • Formation of phonological phrase corresponds to semantic integration

  • Semantic integration is easier with Head+Argument, as the Head provides a slot for the Argument,Head an “unsaturated” meaning (Frege) tha getts saturated by the Argument They [ stayed [in the tent]] Semantic integration

  • They [ (stayed [in the tént] )] Phrase formation + Accent

  • They [smoked[in the tent]] No semantic integration

  • They [ (smóked) ([in the tént])] Phrase formation + Accents

  • Alternative answer, Winkler 1997:Head+Argument cycle fist, Adjunct cycle later (Lebeaux), Problem: We have to assume formation of phonological phrasessubstantially before syntactic structure is created.


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Question 1: Why does accent percolate to argument, not the head?

  • Why: He (boiled [the potátoes])F

  • not: He (bóiled[the potatoes])F

  • It is natural to assume that accent (prosodic highlighting) falls within the phrase that should be highlighted (the focus).

  • It is natural to assume that accent is realized only once per phrase; multiple occurrence of accent would indicate multiple focus:

  • *He (bóiled [the potátoes])FHe (bóiled)F (the potátoes)Fand (fríed)F (the éggs)F(Question: What did he do with which food item?)

  • If accent is normally realized on the argument, typically an NP, then deaccenting the argument can be used to indicate givenness.

  • He bought eggs, potatoes and ham. When he came home, he (put on his ápron)Fand (bóiled [the potatoes]).

  • Er hat sich (die Sch´ürze umgebunden)F und (die Kartoffeln gekócht)F

  • It is much less relevant to signal givenness of the head, as this is rarely ever a referential expression.


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Question 2: Why can VP focus be expressed like V focus?

  • He went to the market and bought potatoes, eggs, and salad. What did he do first when he came home?

  • He (put on the ápron)F and (cóoked the potatoes)F / (cooked the potátoes)F

  • Accent has to be realized on phonological phrases in focus.

  • Accent is prevented from realization on given expressions, if there is another option.

  • If the argument of a head-argument phrase is given, focus accent can be realized on the head.

  • Perhaps accent percolation / focus projection along head lineis a priori more natural, cf. Selkirk’s rule: Focus on head licenses focus on phrase?

  • This does not exclude that given expressions are accented, if there is no other way to realize focus:

  • He went to the market to buy some potatoes, eggs, and salad. What did he cook when he came home?He cooked (the potátoes)F.

  • .


An ot treatment of accent assignment l.jpg
An OT treatment of accent assignment

  • Constraints:

  • RAcc: Realize an accent on a domain.

  • AccArg: Realize accent on the argument.

  • *AccGiv: Don’t realize accent on given expression.

  • Ranking: RAcc > *AccGiv > AccArg

Let’s cook something. Here we have some potatoes. Let’s (put on the ápron)Fand (cook [the potátoes])F


Question 3 weak words and focus l.jpg
Question 3: Weak Words and Focus

  • Here are some potatoes. Let’s (put on the ápron)F and (cóok them)F / and (cóok’em)F

  • Explanation:Definite pronouns refer to given entities, hence they cannot receive stress per percolation, only if they are narrowly focused.

  • I’m hungry. Let’s (put on the ápron)Fand (cóok something).

  • .Explanation:Indefinite pronouns cannot refer to something given, or to a quantificational domain, hence default accent percolation to them would not be motivated, hence they are grammatically marked as [–accent]

  • This only applies to accent percolation and does not prevent accentuation in narrow focus:I don’t care what you eat, but I want that you eat (sómething)F(Sòmething) (álways)F (goes wrong)

  • Note that other indefinites should be able to express givenness distinctions:

  • Formation of quantificational domains: He (hátes) (people).

  • Specific / partitive interpretations:John bought potatoes and eggs. Let’s (cóok)(some potatoes).


Question 3 accent on weak words l.jpg
Question 3: Accent on Weak Words

  • A reason for accent on weak words:Accent has to be expressed to express Newness of the sentence, but should not be expressed on any content word to prevent interpretation as focus on that content.

  • Examples:

  • Do-support: Mary díd cook the potatoes; focus on truth value of proposition

  • Verum focus on auxiliary, finite verb or complementizer, cf. Höhle 1992:Maria hát die Kartoffeln gekocht.Maria kénnt Hans. ‘Maria dóes know Hans.’Peter weiß, dáss Maria Hans kennt. ‘Peter knows that M does know H.’

  • Accent pattern on subject of exclamatives, where content is presupposed:Ist dás aber schön! ‘That’s beautiful!’Bist dú aber dreckig! ‘Boy, you’re dirty!’

  • Thát’s nice!

  • Perhaps also the motivation of stressed clitics in Slovenian (B. Dvořák)?A ga vidiš? ‘Do you see him?’a) Vidim gá, ampak ne vsak dan. ‘I do see him, but not every day.’b)Gá. ‘I do.’ / ‘Yes.’


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