Phrasing Is Key: The Syntax and Prosody of Focus in Georgian
CitationBorise, Lena. 2019. Phrasing Is Key: The Syntax and Prosody of Focus in Georgian. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation provides an account of the syntactic and prosodic properties of focus in Georgian, a Kartvelian language spoken in the Caucasus. A verb-final language, Georgian is typologically similar to other such languages, in that it has a preverbal focus position, which houses wh-phrases and narrow foci. At the same time, Georgian also allows for postverbal placement of narrow foci.
I show that, despite appearances, immediately preverbal placement of wh-phrases and narrow foci does not have the same underlying syntax. The evidence for this conclusion comes from standard syntactic tests, such as island effects and scope and binding facts, as well as some Georgian-specific evidence. In particular, I show that neg-words, another class of constituents that occur either immediately preverbally or postverbally in Georgian, are always found in situ, and, as such, can serve as a tool for determining the structural properties of other constituents. I further show that narrow foci and wh-phrases have different distributional properties with respect to neg-words.
Based on this evidence, I demonstrate that wh-phrases in Georgian undergo A-bar movement to the specifier of PredP, accompanied by raising of the verb to Pred0. In contrast, preverbal narrow foci remain in situ and are accompanied by displacement of the material that would otherwise intervene between the narrow focus and the verb. Postverbal foci, in turn, are derived via right-adjunction. Having established these facts about the formation of narrow focus constructions and wh-questions on the basis of simple clauses, I also address the formation of these constructions in clauses with participial complements and embedded nominalizations, as well as modal constructions.
Taken together, the distributional generalizations discussed here provide evidence that, in a single language, more than one syntactic strategy may be used in order to achieve linear adjacency between narrow focus/wh-phrase and the verb. This, I propose, suggests that the requirement for such adjacency, commonly found in verb-final languages, should not be treated as accidental, or as a mere by-product of other processes.
Further, I provide experimental evidence showing that the different constituents with the preverbal placement requirement, regardless of their underlying syntactic structure, have similar prosodic realizations. Specifically, all of them are prosodically grouped with the following verb, to the exclusion of other material.
Delving deeper into the acoustic realization of focus, I provide instrumental evidence which shows that Georgian has word-level stress, fixed on the initial syllable and cued by syllable duration. The data reported here, therefore, makes an important contribution to the long-standing debate in the literature about the existence and location of word stress in Georgian. However, the relative prominence of the stressed syllable is not a consistent a marker of focus in Georgian, contrary to what may be expected. Instead, the prosodic expression of focus crucially relies on the prosodic grouping of the preverbal focused constituent/wh-phrase and the verb.
Overall, the syntactic and prosodic results presented here provide strong support for the hypothesis that focus/wh-verb adjacency in Georgian – and, by extension, in other languages that require such adjacency – is not accidental.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029605
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