Contrastive Topic: Meanings and Realizations


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This thesis investigates contrastive topic (CT) constructions, with the goal of understanding the variation in their form and meaning across languages. On the semantic side, it develops a compositional account within a Roothian (1985) framework, treating CT as an operator that introduces nesting into focus alternative sets. In terms of its realization, it places special emphasis on the syntactic and prosodic reflexes of contrastive topic. Empirically, the study draws most heavily on English and Mandarin Chinese, investigating how the distribution of the Mandarin CT particle NE can inform analyses of English CT intonation, and vice versa. By providing an explicit theory of CT, the thesis contributes to a clearer picture of the role that the notions "topic" and "focus" play in natural language analysis.