This paper addresses two long-standing issues concerning focus: first, the question of whether the focal interpretation is directly read off the prosodic structure of a sentence, or it is rather mediated by a [focus] feature encoded in the syntac- tic representation; second, whether interrogative wh-phrases are inherently endowed with a [focus] feature. We provide evidence from two prosodic experiments on di- rect wh-questions in Italian, showing that the Nuclear Pitch Accent (NPA) and main stress fall on the lexical verb, without a concomitant focal interpretation of the latter. Furthermore, we show that NPA assignment is sensitive to the derivational history of the wh-phrase under short-distance vs. long-distance extraction. We account for the observed NPA distribution in terms of a [focus] feature which is bundled with the [wh] in direct questions, and is specified on each phase head that hosts in its edge one link of the wh-chain. Thus, v° is specified for the feature bundle {wh, focus} and attracts the assignment of the NPA, which is then realized on the lexical verb. Our findings, thus, cast doubt on the direct association between prosodic prominence and a focal interpretation.

Bocci, G., Bianchi, V., Cruschina, S. (2021). Focus in wh-questions. NATURAL LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTIC THEORY, 39, 405-455 [10.1007/s11049-020-09483-x].

Focus in wh-questions

Bocci, Giuliano;Bianchi, Valentina;
2021-01-01

Abstract

This paper addresses two long-standing issues concerning focus: first, the question of whether the focal interpretation is directly read off the prosodic structure of a sentence, or it is rather mediated by a [focus] feature encoded in the syntac- tic representation; second, whether interrogative wh-phrases are inherently endowed with a [focus] feature. We provide evidence from two prosodic experiments on di- rect wh-questions in Italian, showing that the Nuclear Pitch Accent (NPA) and main stress fall on the lexical verb, without a concomitant focal interpretation of the latter. Furthermore, we show that NPA assignment is sensitive to the derivational history of the wh-phrase under short-distance vs. long-distance extraction. We account for the observed NPA distribution in terms of a [focus] feature which is bundled with the [wh] in direct questions, and is specified on each phase head that hosts in its edge one link of the wh-chain. Thus, v° is specified for the feature bundle {wh, focus} and attracts the assignment of the NPA, which is then realized on the lexical verb. Our findings, thus, cast doubt on the direct association between prosodic prominence and a focal interpretation.
Bocci, G., Bianchi, V., Cruschina, S. (2021). Focus in wh-questions. NATURAL LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTIC THEORY, 39, 405-455 [10.1007/s11049-020-09483-x].
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
Bocci2020_Article_FocusInWh-questions.pdf

accesso aperto

Tipologia: PDF editoriale
Licenza: Creative commons
Dimensione 1.59 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
1.59 MB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11365/1118452