The idea that contrast is an autonomous informational component on par with topic and focus has been suggested in some recent contributions about information structure. This paper aims to support this idea with arguments of both theoretical and empirical nature. Focusing on the linguistic phenomenon of contrastive topics (CTs), I will show that the complex semantic/pragmatic effects they give rise to can be better understood disentangling CTs into their basic informational constituents, i.e., contrast and topic. In particular, I will analyze the semantic contribution of the former to the overall interpretation of CTs. This will represent the preliminary step for investigating the issue of how contrast is encoded linguistically. To this aim, I set up an experiment in which the phonology and the phonetics of both contrastive and noncontrastive constituents were examined. The preliminary data seem to suggest that contrastive interpretations are expressed by means of prosodic features, in the form of either phonetic or phonological features. From the general design of the experiment it emerges that certain linguistic phenomena could be better explained by relying on the notion of contrast; by this means contrast is shown to be a category of grammar. If the results of this pilot-study will be confirmed by extending the data-set, there will be several implications for the general architecture of grammar and for our understanding of the way in which the different components of language interact.

Towards a phonological account of contrast in Italian: a pilot-study on Contrastive Topics

TORREGROSSA, Jacopo
2012

Abstract

The idea that contrast is an autonomous informational component on par with topic and focus has been suggested in some recent contributions about information structure. This paper aims to support this idea with arguments of both theoretical and empirical nature. Focusing on the linguistic phenomenon of contrastive topics (CTs), I will show that the complex semantic/pragmatic effects they give rise to can be better understood disentangling CTs into their basic informational constituents, i.e., contrast and topic. In particular, I will analyze the semantic contribution of the former to the overall interpretation of CTs. This will represent the preliminary step for investigating the issue of how contrast is encoded linguistically. To this aim, I set up an experiment in which the phonology and the phonetics of both contrastive and noncontrastive constituents were examined. The preliminary data seem to suggest that contrastive interpretations are expressed by means of prosodic features, in the form of either phonetic or phonological features. From the general design of the experiment it emerges that certain linguistic phenomena could be better explained by relying on the notion of contrast; by this means contrast is shown to be a category of grammar. If the results of this pilot-study will be confirmed by extending the data-set, there will be several implications for the general architecture of grammar and for our understanding of the way in which the different components of language interact.
information structure; contrast; phonology
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11562/389484
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