Edited by Ines Fiedler and Anne Schwarz
[Typological Studies in Language 91] 2010
► pp. 95–116
Focus marking in Aghem
Syntax or semantics?
Following up on previous work by Anderson (1979), Watters (1979) and myself (Hyman 1979a, b, 1985), this paper presents an overview and analysis of focus marking in Aghem, a Grassfields Bantu language spoken in Cameroon. It is shown that focus marking pervades virtually every aspect of the grammar. While Aghem has a basic s aux v o x word order, an xp may be focused by positioning it immediately after the verb, or defocused by placing it between the auxiliary and the verb. As part of a system of “auxiliary focus” (Hyman & Watters 1984), certain tenses condition different allomorphs depending on whether the truth value of a proposition is included within the focus or not. The most unusual property of Aghem, however, concerns the contrast between so-called A- vs. B-forms within the noun phrase, which also bears an important relation to the focus system. I show that A forms are those which allow a null determiner, while B forms are those which do not. Although (semantic) focus is implicated in determining which form of the noun phrase is found in what context, it is really a syntactic generalization having to do with heads and their governees that accounts for the full range of facts.
Cited by 3 other publications
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