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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An interface approach to topic/focus structure Uechi, Akihiko


This dissertation examines how information structure is represented in the different components of Japanese grammar. Each chapter investigates how topic/comment structure and focus/background structure are manifested in a given component of the grammar; that is, in phonology, syntax, and discourse/semantics. In chapter 2,1 investigate the interaction of syntax and prosody. I introduce the End-based analysis proposed by Selkirk &Tateishi (1988, 91) and propose certain revisions in order to accommodate a broader range of empirical facts than has previously been discussed in the literature. I show that presentational focus and contrastive focus are phonologically distinct and that contrastive focus overrides phonological phrasing. I then demonstrate that the system of focus projection proposed for stress languages such as English and German applies to Japanese. I show that focus projection takes place in the syntactic component, prior to mapping into prosodic structure, from the head of the phrase to its sisters (cf. Rochemont 1996) In chapter 3, I establish the discourse function of wa-marking in Japanese, extending Buring's analysis of sentence topics. I demonstrate that the discourse function of wa-marking parallels that of the L H * contour (B-accent) in English, and claim that wa-marking is equivalent to T-marking in the model of Biiring (1998). As such, wa-marking can be viewed as one of the discourse strategies available in Japanese for ensuring that a given assertion is congruent - that is, appropriate - to the question under discussion. In chapter 4,1 investigate the representation of information structure in syntax. I propose a phrase structure for Japanese based on a universal hierarchy of functional categories. I then divide the syntactic structure of Japanese into two major syntactic domains, which I call the topic domain and the comment domain. I show that both sentence topics and contrastively focused constituents must not be inside IP, which is identified as the comment domain. I further argue that subjects outside IP must be wa-marked unless contrastively focused. I conclude that syntactic structure is discourse-configurationally based. To conclude, I discuss the architecture of the grammar that emerges from the proposal defended in each chapter of this dissertation.

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