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Topic and Focus in Old French V1 and V2 structures. Marie Labelle (UQAM) & Paul Hirschbühler (U. d’Ottawa). Problem. Traditional analysis: Old French = V2 of the Germanic type : V2 in CP  : [ CP XP V [ TP ….]] (e.g. Adams, Vance…)

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topic and focus in old french v1 and v2 structures

Topic and Focus in Old French V1 and V2 structures

Marie Labelle (UQAM) &

Paul Hirschbühler (U. d’Ottawa)

problem
Problem
  • Traditional analysis: Old French = V2 of the Germanic type :
    • V2 in CP  : [CP XP V [TP ….]] (e.g. Adams, Vance…)

(or V2 in TP  : [TP XP V [VP ….]] (e.g. Lemieux))

  • Rinke & Meisel (2009) : Old French as Topic initial  :
    • V under T; SpecTP = Topic : [TP XPTop V [VP …...]Foc ]
    • R&M: “[Subject] inversion in Old French is contingent on the topicalisation of a non-subject constituent” (like contemp. It., Sp., Port.)
    • R&M: “An incompatibility of the post-verbal subject with an interpretation as information focus or as part of a thetic sentence would cause the subject to move to the pre-verbal position.” (p.17)
rinke meisel
Rinke & Meisel

German

Old French

Preverbal constituent

topic

adverb that links with the previous discourse (+/- topic)

Postverbal subject

(part of the) focus

(based on Villehardouin & Les 7 sages de Rome, beginning 13th c.)

  • Preverbal constituent
    • topic
    • informational focus
    • contrastive focus
    • adverbthatisneithertopicnor focus
    • Postverbal subject
    • topic
    • (part of the) focus
old high german hinterh lzl petrova
Old High German(Hinterhölzl & Petrova)
  • Hinterhölzl & Petrova (2005, 2010) :
  • « ... the position of the finite verb serves to distinguish the information-structural domains of Topic and Focus in sentences of the Old High German period. » (2005:2)
    • verb-second = topic initial : [XPgiv/acc]TOP [Vfin ...…]COMMENT/FOCUS
    • verb-initial = all focus : [Vfin…XPnew…]FOCUS
  • (Modern German = grammaticalization of V2)

Hinterhölzl & Petrova. 2005. Rhetorical Relations and Verb Placement in Early Germanic Languages : Evidence from the Old High German Tatian Translation (9th century)

aims of the study
Aims of the study
  • Evaluate the hypothesis that, in Old French, the preverbal position hosts topics & that constituents belonging to the focus remain in postverbal position.
  • Identify and date eventual grammatical changes in the discursive functions of preverbal elements and postverbal subjects.
  • Evaluate the possibility that a Topic-first stage intervened in the transition from V2 to SVO:

V2 > Topic first > Subject first

definitions topic
Definitions Topic
  • “The topic constituent identifies the entity or set of entities under which the information expressed in the comment constituent should be stored in the [Common Ground] content.”

(Krifka 2007 Basic notions of information structure)

  • Typically a definite constituent, referring to an entity given in the discourse or accessible.
information focus
Information focus
  • Pragmatic principle of progression (e.g. Charolles 1978):

If a sentence is to be informative, it must contain material that is new in relation to previously known information.

  • The part of the sentence containing new information that should be stored in the common ground.
  • Gundel & Fretheim (2004) : Topic/Information Focus = Theme/Rheme, Topic/Comment... : relationally given/new information respectively. (In Handbook of Pragmatic Theory.)
definitions information focus
DefinitionsInformation focus
  • Some sentences may be all-focus (Thetic)
    • e.g. presentative sentences: There are two cats in the garden.
  • Büring (2005:5): not all the information in a comment is new:

A: When did [Aristotle Onassis]Topic marry Jacqueline Kennedy?

B: [He]Topic [married her [in 1968]Focus]]Comment (Krifka 2007: ex. 41)

« a focused expression would be an informative part of the sentence, a backgrounded one an uninformative one. »

definitions contrastive focus
DefinitionsContrastive Focus
  • Contrastive Focus : “material which the speaker calls to the addressee’s attention, thereby often evoking a contrast with other entities that might fill the same position.” (Gundel & Fretheim 2004)

(Krifka 2007: Focus indicates the presence of alternatives that are relevant for the interpretation of linguistic expressions.)

definitions contrastive focus10
DefinitionsContrastive Focus
  • Contrastive Focus : “material which the speaker calls to the addressee’s attention, thereby often evoking a contrast with other entities that might fill the same position.” (Gundel & Fretheim 2004)

(Krifka 2007: Focus indicates the presence of alternatives that are relevant for the interpretation of linguistic expressions.)

  • May be marked by expressions like: even, only, also
definitions contrastive focus11
DefinitionsContrastive Focus
  • Contrastive Focus : “material which the speaker calls to the addressee’s attention, thereby often evoking a contrast with other entities that might fill the same position.” (Gundel & Fretheim 2004)

(Krifka 2007: Focus indicates the presence of alternatives that are relevant for the interpretation of linguistic expressions.)

  • May be marked by expressions like: even, only, also
  • A contrastive focus may be part of a topic.
    • A: What do your siblings do?
    • B: [My [SIster]Focus]Topic [studies MEDicine]Focus, and

[my [BROther]Focus]Topic is [working on a FREIGHT ship]Focus.

the corpus
The corpus
  • 19 parsed Old French texts dated between 980 and 1309

(7 in verse, 12 in prose – from MCVF & Penn supplement)

  • All positive declarative matrix IP’s with a full DP subject
  • V1 and V2 clauses only
v1 clauses

V1 clauses

Are post-verbal subjects in V1 clauses always (part of) the focus of the clause?

v1 clauses other than those where v introduces direct discourse
V1 clauses other than thosewhere V introduces direct discourse*
  • Taking into account the context, coding of subjects as being
    • T = Topics; F = (part of) Information Focus; Unclear

(Only strict V1 clauses considered, i.e. not introduced by a coordinator)

*These will be discussed independently.

v1 clauses other than those where v introduces direct discourse15
V1 clauses other than thosewhere V introduces direct discourse*
  • Taking into account the context,we coded subjects as being
    • T = Topics; F = (part of) Information Focus; Unclear
  • “It does not seem that the postverbal position in V1 sentences is pragmatically specialized.” (Rouveret 2004: 196)

(Only strict V1 clauses considered, i.e. not introduced by a coordinator)

*These will be discussed independently.

examples topic subjects
Examples Topic subjects
  • Curecerent s' en les princes des Philistiens

get-angry-PST refl-gen the princes of the Philistians

‘Got angry at this the princes of the Philistians’

(1170-QLR1-2,.1332)

  • Cunuit Brandans a l' air pluius

‘knew Brendan from the wet wind

Que li tens ert mult annüus.

‘that the weather was very worrysome’

(1120-BRENDAN,56.675)

slide17

Orange underline: prose texts

  • Alternation between Topic & Focus before 1200
  • V1 declaratives disappear around 1200.
  • When they re-emerge at the end of the 13th c., the subjects seem to
  • be foci; but few examples.
v1 with verbs introducing direct discourse
V1 with verbs introducing direct discourse
  • VS = V1
    • Dit Roland: « ... »
  • SVX = V2 with preverbal subject
    • Roland dit: « ... »
  • XVS = V2 with a postverbal subject
    • Ço dit Roland: « ... » = preverbal object
    • Donc dit Roland: « ... » = preverbal adverb
  • Same informational function of the subject:

signal a new speaker or a change of speaker

slide19

Excluded (subjectalways postverbal):

  • Parentheticals:

"Deus",dist li quens, "or ne saijo que face." (1100-ROLAND,148.2000)

  • Clauses following the direct discourse:

"Si fus," (ce) dist li empereres. (1267-CASSIDORUS,659.4349)

rinke meisel23
Rinke & Meisel

German

Old French

Preverbal constituent

topic

adverb that links with the previous discourse (+/- topic)

Postverbal subject

(part of the) focus

(based on Villehardouin & Les 7 sages de Rome, beginning 13th c.)

  • Preverbal constituent
    • topic
    • contrastive focus
    • informational focus
    • adverbthatisneithertopicnor focus
    • Postverbal subject
    • topic
    • (part of the) focus
contrastive focus subjects
Contrastive focus - subjects
  • Meïsmes la pucele y fu,

‘even the girl was there’ (1267-CASSIDORUS,149.1211)

  • Sul David é Jonathas le sourent.

‘only David and Jonathan knew it’ (1170 QLR1-2,.757)

  • nes li oisel s' an istront fors;

‘even the birds will leave’(1170-YVAIN,13.394)

contrastive focus non subjects
Contrastive focus – non-subjects
  • Meïsmes a l' empereour sont les lermes venues aus yex,

‘even to the emperor have the tears come to the eyes’

(1267-CASSIDORUS,664.4447)

  • Et li jorz meïsmes fu emprise la queste dou saint Graal ...

‘and that very day was started the quest for the holy Grail’

(1225-QUESTE,104.2769)

Example with a null subject :

  • del tranchant, non mie del plat, le fiert ...

‘with the cutting edge, not with the flat side, (he) hits him’

(1170-YVAIN,128.4433)

subjects
Subjects
  • Given that:
    • Definite subjects tend to be topics;
    • Indefinite subjects make bad topics & are often found in thetic sentences;
  • Is there a tendency to find definite subjects preverbally and indefinite subjects postverbally?
slide29

Whether preverbally or postverbally, definite subjects strongly dominate.

  • A large number of the post-verbal definite subjects should be topics.

(Not quantified)

slide30

Indefinite subjects appear more often in postverbal position:

Total number of indefinites: 192.

Increase in tendency of indef. sbj. to appear in postverbal position:

examples preverbal indefinite subjects focus
Examples Preverbal indefinite subjects = focus
  • Uns seinz hermites i maneit

‘A saint hermit lived there’

(1180-MARIE-DE-FRANCE,182.3715)

  • Une musteile vint curant,

‘A weasel came running’

(1180-MARIE-DE-FRANCE,187.3815)

  • Doi gentil homme du paÿs, qui pas ne l' amoient, saillirent hors a un trespas,

‘Two gentlemen of the country, who didn’t like him, jumped out at a passage’ (1267-CASSIDORUS,643.4056)

preverbal constituents that can t be topics are part of information focus

Preverbal constituents that can’t be topics & are part of information focus

Adj, Q, Pred, Non-finite V

preverbal q non finite v
Preverbal Q, non finite V
  • QP: Mut est LanvalTop en grant esfreie!

‘much is Lanval in great fright’

(1180-Marie de France, 78.1592)

  • nfV: Trenchet li ad li quensTop le destre poign,

cut him has the count the right hand

‘The count cut his right hand’

(1100 Roland,142.1926)

preverbal adj pred
Preverbal adj, pred.
  • adj: Malade ot geü longuemant la pucele,

‘sick has laid a-long-time the girl’

(1177-YVAIN,177.6235)

  • prd: Male chose est murmure,

‘bad thing is whisper’

(1279-SOMME-ROYAL,1,64.1758)

objects
Objects
  • Is a preverbal object an informational topic or focus?
  • There was a change.
work of marchello nizia 1995
Work of Marchello-Nizia (1995)
  • Roland (1100) [verse]

OV(S) extremely frequent, all types of O’s

    • O more often rhematic than thematic (M-N. p. 99-100)
  • Queste (1225) [prose]

OV(S) more limited; serves to

    • thematize the O
    • place the rheme in first position (marked)
      • in expressions of type donner conseil (give advice)
      • when O is modified by an intensifier like grant (great), maint (many)

(Same found by Zaring (2010) for OV with non-finite verbs)

253 preverbal objects
253 preverbal objects

Preverbal objects tend to be focus before 1220 and topics afterwards.

preverbal indefinite focus object
Preverbal indefinite focus object
  • .XX. escheles ad li reis anumbrees.

‘twenty columns has the king counted’

(1100-ROLAND,112.1459)

  • et divers chanz chantoit chascuns;

‘and various songs sang each one’ (1170-YVAIN,15.453)

preverbal definite focus object
Preverbal definite focus object
  • La main destre leva adonques la dame,

‘The hand right raised then the lady’ (1177 Yvain,202.7065)

  • La maniere comment il pristrent la cité de Baudas et le calife nous conterent les marcheans;

‘The manner how they took the city of Baudas and the calife told us the merchants’(1309 Joinville,289.3370)

preverbal adverbials and pp s
Preverbal adverbials and PP’s
  • Are they topics?
  • Preverbal adverbs & PP are rarely the topic.
  • They may (or not) link with the previous discourse.
  • Postverbal definite subjects tend to be topics (still to quantify)
preverbal focus pp
Preverbal focus PP
  • En grant effrei erent amdui.

‘In great fright were both (of them)’

(1180-MARIE-DE-FRANCE,20.359)

  • Here the PP is clearly the informational focus
  • The post-verbal subject is the topic.
preverbal pp linking with discourse
Preverbal PP linking with discourse
  • Por ce panse mes sire Yvains qu' il l' ocirra premieremant;

‘For this thinks my lord Yvains that he will kill him first’

(1177-YVAIN,102.3563)

  • Del colp chancelad li gluz

‘At the blow faltered the giant’ (1170 QLR1-2,.470)

  • The postverbal subjects are the topics;
  • The preverbal PP may link with the previous discourse without being the topic.
preverbal adv topic subject
Preverbal adv + topic subject
  • Si demora laienz Perceval avec s' antain.

‘thus stayed there Perceval with his aunt’

(1225-QUESTE,107.2806)

  • donc pres Lethgiers a predier,

‘ thus starts Leger to pray’ (0980-SAINT-LEGER,XXXI.206)

  • Puis vaitli emfes l' emperethur servir.

‘then goes the child the emperor to serve’

(1090-SAINT-ALEXIS,7.80)

is there an evolution
Is there an evolution?
  • What is the distribution of preverbal constituents in V2 sentences with a full DP subject?

(6336 clauses)

slide46

Only V2 clauses not introduced by a coordinator

Other = acc, dat, adj, pred, non-fin V.

Means XP V : Verse: sbj = 55%; avp+pp = 31%; other = 14%

Prose: sbj = 57%; avp+pp = 39%; other = 5%)

slide47

Sentences of type : coord XP V

Coord = et, ou, mais, car (/que)

slide49

All V2 sentences: strictly V2 + coord. V2

Coord.: et, ou, mais, car (/que)

Means XP V : Verse: sbj = 58%; avp+pp = 29%; other = 17%

Prose: sbj = 64%; avp+pp = 33%; other = 5%)

constituents in the prefield in german swedish bohnacker rosen 2007 34 36
Constituents in the prefield in German & Swedish (Bohnacker & Rosen 2007 :34 & 36)

Old French (XP V & coord XP V)

(XP V only: sbj = 55%, 57%; avp+pp = 31%, 39%; other = 14%, 5%.)

bohnacker rosen 2007
Bohnacker & Rosen (2007)
  • Both Swedish and German tend to:
    • start declaratives with a subject
    • let the subject coincide with the theme and topic
    • place the theme before the rheme
  • But Swedish has a stronger tendency to:
    • place the rheme after the verb;
    • start with an element of low informational value and with a phonologically light element (e.g. expletive, det, så)
    • use few fronted objects; typically fronts objects that are themes
slide53

Different uses of the prefield in different V2 languages

  • Distribution of constituents in the prefield similar in OF and in Germanic languages.
  • Evolution from V2German to V2Swedish?

(Conflation of 2 variables: time & genre)

conclusions 1
Conclusions (1)
  • Is there evidence that OF was Topic initial?
  • No :
    • In OF, a preverbal element may be :
        • topic
        • informational focus
        • contrastive focus
        • adverbial that is neither topic nor focus
    • Distribution of types of preverbal constituents not markedly different between OF and German/Swedish
conclusions 2
Conclusions (2)
  • Is there a constraint that forces a subject to move to the preverbal position if it is a topic?
  • No:
    • In OF, a postverbal subject may be a topic or a part of the focus
conclusion 3
Conclusion (3)
  • Is there a tendency for the language to become more topic initial?
  • Potential indicators of a change in progress:
    • V1 sentences : No topic subjects after 1170 (few examples)
    • V2 sentences:
      • Fewer preverbal object focus after 1220.
      • Increase in the tendency to find indefinite subjects postverbally
      • Differences between prose and verse in the variety of preverbal constituents.
  • But no evidence of a clear grammatical change before 1309 (in sentences with a full DP subject).
conclusion 4
Conclusion (4)
  • From an information structure viewpoint, OF is V2 of the germanic type until the end of the 13th c.
  • But there might have been a change

from V2German to V2Swedish

  • To do:
    • Quantify the IS nature of DP subjects in all the V2 clauses;
    • Study V2 clauses with pronominal and null subjects.
    • Study V3 declaratives
slide59

\0980: (*LEGER* inID)

  • \1090: (*ALEXIS* inID)
  • \1120: (*BRENDAN* inID)
  • \1100: (*ROLAND* inID)
  • \1150: (*WILLELME* inID)
  • \1170: (*QLR* inID)
  • \1177: (*YVAIN* inID)
  • \1180: (*MARIE* inID)
  • \1194: (*CHIEVRES* inID)
  • \1200: (*AUCASSIN* inID)
  • \1205: (*CLARI* inID)
  • \1220: (*PSEUDOTURPIN* inID)
  • \1225: (*QUESTE* inID)
  • \1226: (*AGNES* inID)
  • \1250: (*SERMON* inID)
  • \1267: (*CASSIDORUS* inID)
  • \1279: (*SOMME* inID)
  • \1283: (*Roisin* inID)
  • \1309: (*JOINVILLE* inID)