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Koumbarou, Andriana (2020) The expression of focus in Hindi: a Dynamic Syntax approach. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00035763

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Abstract

This thesis takes a procedural grammar approach to Hindi clause structure paying special attention to information structural phenomena and interpretive possibilities in the peripheries. It uses the tools of the Dynamic Syntax formalism where syntax is defined as procedures for utterance interpretation in context (Cann, Kempson, & Marten, 2005; Kempson, Meyer-Viol, & Gabbay, 2001), and sets to propose first steps towards a parsing-based analysis of Hindi clause structure, before delving into the expression of focus. The thesis discusses nominal interpretation in Hindi, as well as the contribution of the =ne and =ko case markers and verbal morphology in the incremental process of interpretation build-up. It argues that the interpretation of common nouns is strictly context-dependent, which includes the discourse context but also the local linguistic context, i.e. the string of words amongst which realised. Case markers specify how an expression fits within the emerging propositional structure and identify a noun phrase (NP) boundary. The effect of such an analysis is that it captures specific readings of case-marked NPs as context-dependent and rightly predicts the strict NP-final positioning of case markers and the ban on postponing nominal modifiers to the right of a case-marked head. The tense-aspect inflected verb is what drives the accumulation of information on the propositional level compiling all information to yield a truth-conditional formula at the finishing stages of the derivation. Topic and focus are understood as pragmatic notions that describe the relationship utterance material holds with respect to the context but have no formal significance and no role in the formal analysis itself. Their expression involves the manipulation of universally available grammatical mechanisms in interaction with language-specific lexical instructions and contextual information. The analysis builds on previous semantic work on focus but adds a dynamic twist: it models the stepwise process in which an open proposition is derived and the point in the interpretation process in which focal material provides an ‘update’ to yield a fully complete truth-conditional formula. The notion of focus receives procedural significance: it is a cover term for context-update interpretive effects achieved in the process of interpretation build-up. This can be an ‘update’ made by providing a value to an open proposition (question-answer pairs), an ‘update’ to some propositional structure already construed in the context (corrections) or an ‘update’ made relative to some partial structure in the immediate context (such as topic-focus sequences).

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Lutz Marten
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00035763
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2021 14:02
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/35763

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