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On being First

Simard, Candide (2015) On being First. In: Workshop on Information Structure in Spoken Language Corpora (ISSLaC2), 2-4 December 2015, CNRS, Paris, France.

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Abstract

In a typological perspective, first positions in sentences have been associated with information flow (Firbas 1964). Corpus research in the world languages has yielded two major, and seemingly opposing, ordering patterns: 1) a ‘given-before-new’ ordering (Gundel 1988), in which predictable information from previous discourse is placed in first position, ensuring high accessibility for speaker and listener to previously mentioned elements, and less accessible information is found towards the end of the sentence, cued by prosodic accents or morphosyntactic markers, etc.; 2) a ‘more-newsworthy-first’ ordering (Mithun 1987), where more important information for the developing discourse is placed in first position (i.e. new topics,‘fronting’ of focalized elements, etc.); this importance is usually to signal that the information in question should be brought to the forefront of the hearer’s attention. This paper will contribute to this discussion by reconsidering the very notion of ‘first position’ in two Australian languages, arguing, with others (Baker and Mushin 2008), that it is not always clear what it corresponds to, mostly depending whether prosodic criteria are taken into account

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Keynote)
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of Linguistics
Depositing User: Candide Simard
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2016 16:48
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/21985

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