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Intonation and Focus in Nte?kepmxcin (Thompson River Salish) Koch, Karsten


In this dissertation, I examine the marking of focus and givenness in Nte?kepmxcin (Thompson River Salish). The focus is, roughly, the answer to a wh-question, and is highlighted by the primary sentential accent in stress languages like English. This has been formalized as the Stress-Focus Correspondence Principle. Given material is old information, and is de-accented in languages like English. Nte?kepmxcin is a stress language, but marks focus structurally. However, I argue that the structure has a prosodie motivation: the clause is restructured such that the focus is leftmost in the intonational phrase. It follows that Salish focus structures lack the special semantics that motivates the use of English structural focus (clefts). As a theoretical contribution, I show that the Stress-Focus Correspondence Principle does not account for focus marking in all stress languages, nor does the "distress-given" generalization account for the marking of given information. This is because focus surfaces leftmost, while the nuclear stress position is rightmost. Instead of "stress-focus", I propose that alignment with prosodie phrase edges is the universally common thread in focus marking. This mechanism enables listeners to rapidly recover the location of the focus, by identifying coarse-grained phonological categories (p-phrases and i-phrases). In Thompson River Salish, the focus is associated with the leftmost p-phrase in the matrix intonational phrase. The analysis unifies the marking of focus across languages by claiming that focus is always marked prosodically, by alignment to a prosodie category. The study combines syntactic analysis of focus utterances with their phonetic realization and semantic characteristics. As such, this dissertation is a story about the interfaces. This research is based on a corpus of conversational data as well as single sentence elicitations, all of which are original data collected during fieldwork. The second contribution of this dissertation is thus methodological: I have developed various fieldwork techniques for collecting both spontaneous and scripted conversational discourses. The empirical contribution that results is a collection of conversational discourses, to add to the single speaker traditional texts already recorded for Nte?kepmxcin.

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