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      Verum focus is verum, not focus: Cross-linguistic evidence

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          Abstract

          The accent pattern known as verum focus is commonly understood as an ordinary alternative focus on the truth of a proposition. This standard view, which we call the focus accent thesis (F AT), can be contrasted with the lexical operator thesis (L OT), according to which the accent pattern that looks like focus in languages like German or English is actually not an instance of focus marking, but realizes a lexical verum predicate, whose function is to relate the current proposition to a question under discussion. Although it is hard to distinguish between the F AT and the L OT on the basis of German or English, a broader cross-linguistic perspective seems to favor the L OT. Drawing from fieldwork on Tsimshianic (Gitksan) and Chadic (Bura, South Marghi), we first show that in none of these languages is verum realized in the same way that ordinary alternative focus is marked. This sheds initial doubt on the unity of verum and focus. Secondly, the F AT predicts that a language cannot have co-occuring verum and focus, if it does not allow multiple foci, and that a language should allow them to co-occur if it allows for multiple foci. Again, while it is hard to find counterexamples in German or English, some of the data from our cross-linguistic investigation favor the L OT.

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          Most cited references56

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          A theory of focus interpretation

          Mats Rooth (1992)
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            Syntax and semantics of questions

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              On D-trees, beans, and B-accents

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2397-1835
                Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
                Ubiquity Press
                2397-1835
                03 June 2020
                2020
                : 5
                : 1
                : 51
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Cologne, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne, DE
                [2 ]University of Frankfurt, Norbert-Wollheim-Platz, Frankfurt, DE
                [3 ]University of British Columbia, Totem Field Studios, Vancouver, BC, CA
                Article
                10.5334/gjgl.347
                00c31de1-4b0a-4927-89b7-a1a43bd412d5
                Copyright: © 2020 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                History
                : 17 February 2017
                : 26 December 2019
                Categories
                Research

                General linguistics,Linguistics & Semiotics
                focus,question under discussion,accent,emphasis,verum
                General linguistics, Linguistics & Semiotics
                focus, question under discussion, accent, emphasis, verum

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