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Archer, Jonathan David (2021) Focus Structures in Mùwe Ké: Grammatical Category or Much Ado About Nothing? PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis investigates the information-structural notion of focus through the morphosyntax of focus structures in Mùwe Ké, a Tibeto-Burman language of Mugu, Nepal with roughly five thousand speakers. The focus structures mainly involve the obligatory focus marking of actors with the otherwise-optional ergative marker -gane and a preferred immediately preverbal focus position for focussed terms, both of which are shown to correlate with the notion of focus. This is a common finding for Tibeto-Burman languages since the expression of information structure in the language family has previously been associated with differential case marking, topic and focus marking, word order and the positioning of salient terms. However, in recent years, the very notion of focus as a stable cross-linguistic category has been debated. The research and analyses presented are based on a corpus of field data collected over three years in Nepal and a grammatical sketch of M we K  is provided first. Following a discussion on the theoretical approaches and notions that are adopted, a description of focus structures in the language is offered and the manifestations of focus are listed. Subsequently, focus as a category is questioned and an alternative approach is outlined using Cognitive Grammar as the theoretical framework to show the underlying processes that are associated with information update. The reanalysis fails to find evidence for a category of focus in the language due to the lack of any clearly identifiable content or a one-to-one correlation between differential ergative marking, the preverbal position and focus. It does, however, show varying interpretative strategies, or focal effects, that may be associated with information structure and which overlap with the notion of focus.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Irina Nikolaeva
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2022 11:26

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