Edited by Davide Garassino and Daniel Jacob
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 273] 2022
► pp. 115–146
How alternatives are created
Specialized background knowledge affects the interpretation of clefts in discourse
Standard theories of focus expressed by cleft structures, for instance (Beaver & Clark 2008; Krifka 2007), assume that the motivation for the use of focus is discourse relevance: focus establishes an answer to the question under discussion (Roberts 2004: 216). This account, however, lacks a theory of how alternative sets are generated in real discourse. We present a study in the non-cumulative self-paced reading moving-window paradigm that tackles this problem by measuring how manipulating the context preceding German es-clefts influences alternative generation. Our results illustrate the interplay between discourse relevance and individual relevance in this process, in that cleft sentences only receive a contrastive focal reading in contexts where the readers are in a position to previously generate an alternative set.
- 2.Focus and alternatives
- 2.1What is focus?
- 2.2The anaphoric character of alternative sets
- 2.3How are alternatives generated in discourse?
- 4.1Data elimination procedures
- 4.3Description of results