It's the Way that Cha Say it: A Cross-linguistic Study in the Semantics and Pragmatics of Focus Sensitivity


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




A wide range of expressions in many languages exhibit a problematic phenomenon termed "focus sensitivity". In sentences containing such expressions, the location of the main sentential stress has a dramatic effect on interpretation. However, it is controversial whether this fact should be analyzed as part of semantics proper (i.e. "compositionally"), an issue with implications for semantics, philosophy of language, and the architecture of grammar.

This project will apply methods developed by the author to perform a cross-linguistic study of the semantics and pragmatics of focus sensitive expressions. We seek, for the first time, to reveal substantive generalizations about what mechanisms produce focus sensitivity, and which expressions can be focus sensitive.