Unalternative Semantics

Daniel Büring


The paper introduces a new method of calculating focus alternatives without the use of F-markers or comparable devices. Relative metrical weights are directly mapped onto restrictions on what can be a focal target, i.e. what a given structure can be used to correct, answer, or contrast with. The results are virtually identical to those achieved e.g. in the system of Rooth (1992), but differ in some crucial aspects, which allows broader empirical coverage without additional mechanisms. Among these are a non-transderivational ban on overfocusing, a treatment of second occurrence focus, a new way of incorporating contrast to non-salient targets and a natural account of discontinuous foci. The paper closes with some outlooks on applications in non-Indo-European languages.


Keywords: Focus, Alternative Semantics, Second Occurrence Focus, F-Marking, Overfocussing

Full Text:



Bonomi, Andrea & Paolo Casalegno. 1993. Only: Association with focus in event semantics. Natural Language Semantics 2(1). 1–45.

Buring, Daniel. 2006. Focus projection and default prominence. In Valéria Molnár & Susanne Winkler (eds.), The Architecture of Focus Studies in Generative Grammar 82, 321–346. Berlin, New York: Mouton De Gruyter.

Buring, Daniel. 2013/15. A theory of second occurrence focus. Language As a Cognitive Process/Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 30(1–2). 73–87. doi:10.1080/01690965.2013.835433.

Buring, Daniel. forthcoming. Focus, questions and givenness. In Klaus von Heusinger, Edgar Onea & Malte Zimmermann (eds.), Questions in Discourse, Holland: Brill.

Buring, Daniel. in press. Intonation and Meaning Surveys in Semantics and Prag-matics. Oxford University Press.

Green, Melanie & Philip Jaggar. 2003. Ex-situ and in-situ focus in hausa: Syntax, semantics, and discourse. In Jacqueline Lecarme, Jean Lowenstamm & Ur Shlonsky (eds.), Research in Afroasiatic Grammar III (Research in Afroasiatic Grammar (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory) 2), 187–213. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Hartmann, Katharina & Malte Zimmermann. 2007. In place — out of place: Focus in hausa. In Kerstin Schwabe & Susanne Winkler (eds.), Information Structure and the Architecture of Grammar: A Typological Perspective, 365–403. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Katzir, Roni. 2013. A note on contrast. Natural Language Semantics 23. 1–11. doi:10.1007/s11050-013-9095-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11050-013-9095-8.

Newman, Paul. 2000. The Hausa Language. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Rochemont, Michael. 1986. Focus in Generative Grammar. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Rooth, Mats. 1992. A theory of focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 1. 75–116.

Schwarzschild, Roger. 1999. Givenness, AvoidF and other constraints on the placement of accent. Natural Language Semantics 7(2). 141–177.

Schwarzschild, Roger. 2006. Focus interpretations: Comments on Geurts and van der Sandt. Theoretical Linguistics 30(1). 137–147. doi:10.1515/thli.2004.003.

Selkirk, Elisabeth O. 1984. Phonology and Syntax: The Relation between Sound and Structure. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Selkirk, Elisabeth O. 1995. Sentence prosody: Intonation, stress, and phrasing. In John A. Goldsmith (ed.), The Handbook of Phonological Theory, 550–569. London: Blackwell.

Wagner, Michael. 2006. Givenness and locality. In Jonathan Howell & Masayuki Gibson (eds.), Proceedings of the 16th Semantics and Linguistic Theory Conference, 295–312. Ithaca: CLC Publications. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/salt.

Wagner, Michael. 2012. Focus and givenness: A unified approach. In Ivona Kucˇerová & Ad Neeleman (eds.), Contrasts and Positions in Information Structure, 102– 147. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v25i0.3634

Copyright (c) 2016 Daniel Büring