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Intonation and Meaning$
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Daniel Büring

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199226269

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199226269.001.0001

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Focus and givenness in flexible accent languages

Focus and givenness in flexible accent languages

(p.17) 2 Focus and givenness in flexible accent languages
Intonation and Meaning

Daniel Büring

Oxford University Press

Illustrative examples of focussing, its flip side, backgrounding, and the use of accent omission (‘deaccenting’) for signaling contextual givenness show the relations and differences between them, and eventually lead to a first taxonomy of focussing/backgrounding cases. The fundamental theoretical concept of focus alternatives allows for a first formal modeling of the meaning of (this kind of) intonation; more precisely, focussing and deaccenting reflect and sometimes highlight properties of the discourse context, including what has been agreed upon, and what is under discussion. Some important empirical and terminological distinctions are introduced and clarified, to pave the way for clear and unambiguous further discussion. The irreducibly relational nature of focussing, and its modeling in terms of ‘focus domains’ is of fundamental importance here. The semi-formal characterizations used in this chapter do not reflect any particular theory of intonational meaning, but represent the common core of virtually all existing approaches.

Keywords:   focus, background, alternatives, givenness, focus ambiguity, focus domain

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