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Saeed, John Ibrahim (1982) Focus and topic in Somali. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This study is a description of the Sytax of focus and topic in Somali, a Cushitic language spoken in the Horn of Africa. The analysis is within the framework of transformational generative grammar; more particularly, in the Extended Standard Theory, or 'autonomous systems approach'. However the study seeks to be intelligible to linguists working within other frameworks since it is the first description of Somali syntax of any length in English, and only the second in any language. The study is concerned with the syntactic structure marking certain roles noun phrases may fulfill in discourse. For example, NPs which are new information must in Somali be introduced into discourse by a focus structure involving either clefts or one containing the 'focus words' baa and ayaa. This and other uses of focus in discourse are briefly discussed and the importance of these structures to Somali syntax becomes clear in the analysis which, involving a rule of Focus Fronting, deals with important rules of the grammar including yes-no and WH-questions, and relativisation; in addition to those governing the differentiation of sentence types, and subject-verb concord. Verbal focus is discussed, and it is concluded that no syntactic structure of verb focus exists to parallel that of NP focus. The role of topic structures in conversation is briefly discussed, and a syntactic derivation proposed. It is argued that these constructions, in which an NP precedes (and is outside) a sentence, must be directly generated by the phrase structure rules of the base, and that no movement rules are involved. It is a general conclusion of the study that there are no syntactic rules in Somali which move elements across a sentence boundary, although there are several rearrangement rules operating within root sentences. It becomes clear that the grammaticalisation of pragmatic functions is at the core of Somali syntax.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

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