SYNTAX: an element or phrase which contains new information is put
in focus. This can be done phonologically by assigning focal stress (cf. I saw JOHN), and/or syntactically by
preposing (cf. John, I saw) and scrambling
(cf. ik gun zoietsi niemand ti 'I don't wish that upon anyone'). The focused phrase is interpreted at LF in a way similar to the interpretation of quantifiers and wh-phrases.
|LIT.||Chomsky, N. (1981)|
PHONETICS: Speakers can indicate that a certain syllable is important by making a pitch movement on that particular
syllable. This accent-lending pitch movement places the syllable (or the word or word group) in focus. The focus domain
covers the string of speech sounds that together form the important part.
Broad focus vs narrow focus: the focus domain can be broad or narrow, and this is exemplified in the following questions and answers (focus domain is shown between brackets).
(1) Question: Did you see a grey dog or a cat? Answer: I saw [a grey DOG].
(2) Question: Did you see a grey dog or a grey cat? Answer: I saw a grey [DOG].
In (1), the focus domain covers the word group ‘a grey dog’, whereby the pitch accent is placed on ‘dog’. In (2) the focus domain is narrowed to ‘dog’, as this is the only important word in the word group.