Efficient marking of argument focus: A trade-off between focus particles and word order in Sinhala





Sinhala, Indo-Aryan, focus concord constructions, word order, optionality, redundancy, efficiency


Colloquial Sinhala has focus concord constructions in which finite verbs with the suffix -e mark argument focus. In such constructions, the focal constituent is optionally marked via a focus particle, via movement to a postverbal (rather than preverbal) position, or via a combination of a focus particle and postverbal position. In this paper, I quantitatively analyze the preferred position of focal constituents marked by the three focus particles =yi, tamaa and tamai, as well as those not marked by any particle. Using data from a news website, I show that marking via a particle and the movement to the postverbal position are not randomly used. Rather, focal constituents marked by a focus particle are less likely to occur preverbally, while those not marked by a particle are more likely to occur postverbally. Moreover, among constituents marked by a focus particle, those marked by the particle =yi are more likely to occur postverbally. Based on these findings, I argue that the positional tendencies of focal constituents can be regarded as efficient marking patterns. When a constituent is marked by a focus particle, it is less likely to occur preverbally because the focal constituent is already explicit and the marking by the position would be redundant. The preference of =yi for the postverbal position does not seem to follow this general tendency until one takes into account that it requires less effort to produce =yi due to its phonological status. With this in mind, the distribution of constituents marked by =yi can also be regarded as an efficient pattern. The discussion in this paper contributes to both the typology of efficiency and the typology of optional focus marking.




How to Cite

Yoshida, Shigeki. 2022. “Efficient Marking of Argument Focus: A Trade-off Between Focus Particles and Word Order in Sinhala”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 7 (1): 5223. https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v7i1.5223.