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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Focus in Ktunaxa : word order and prosody McClay, Elise Kedersha


This thesis is about the linguistic expression of focus in Ktunaxa. It describes forms for expressing focus using word order and prosody, and describes the function of several focus-sensitive operators in the language. The methodologies used to examine these topics are respectively i) an experiment in which Ktunaxa speakers answer questions about pictures, and ii) classical fieldwork with a fluent Ktunaxa speaker. These methodologies enable different types of research into focus. The experimental data speaks to the form of focus in Ktunaxa; assuming that answers to questions require the expression of focus, unscripted answers provide insight into how Ktunaxa speakers highlight information in an utterance (i.e. focus-mark the relevant constituents). Meanwhile, the classical fieldwork speaks to the functioning of a set of focus-sensitive operators in Ktunaxa; these operators are known to be sensitive to context, but their precise semantics have not been described before. Several theories underlie this project: first, the tradition of Chomskyan generative linguistics provides a framework for describing linguistic structures and relationships; second, the theory of Alternative Semantics (Rooth 1985) formalizes focus as a way of invoking one particular member of a set of alternatives; and thirdly, the autosegmental metrical theory of intonational phonology (Ladd 2008, i.a.), maps prosodic components (pitch accents, lengthening, and stress) onto phonological components (syllables and words). The key findings are as follows: 1. Ktunaxa answers have a default word order of Subject-Verb-Object, contrary to patterns emerging in texts; 2. Word order changes relative to the type of question asked: foci are slightly more likely to be sentence-initial; 3. Ktunaxa employs prosody to mark focus in answers: foci are louder and higher in pitch; 4. Some focus-sensitive operators also trigger prosodic cues in their associates. Further work is needed to fully describe Ktunaxa prosody, and to confirm whether these patterns hold under other experimental conditions, for different types of focus, and for constituents other than nominals. Nevertheless, this study contributes to the documentation of Ktunaxa, and more generally expands the knowledge of how focus is expressed cross-linguistically, particularly in the languages of the Pacific Northwest.

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