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Information Structure and (In)definiteness

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the two most prominent examples of the interaction between definiteness and Information Structure (IS): Topicalization has been associated with definiteness (specificity) and existentials with indefiniteness (the "definiteness effect"). It defines the primitives of IS, topic and focus, in terms of their effect on a file system representing the discourse manipulation of referents in the common ground. Topics are what the sentence is 'about' and the truth value of a sentence is determined with respect to them. Catalan topicalization has in common with Danish topicalization that topicalized elements must be given, yet only "new" topics can be fronted. Topicalization marks definiteness and focusing marks indefiniteness. Cross-linguistic variations in Topicalization constraints and the Definiteness effect in existentials are viewed in the chapter as being due to differences in the mapping of Information Structure to Syntactic Structure in the languages examined.

Keywords: Catalan topicalization; Danish topicalization; existentials; indefiniteness; information structure (IS); syntactic structure; topics



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