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The Sound Patterns of Syntax$
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Nomi Erteschik-Shir and Lisa Rochman

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556861

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556861.001.0001

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Focus as a grammatical notion: A case study in autism *

Focus as a grammatical notion: A case study in autism *

Chapter:
(p.317) 15 Focus as a grammatical notion: A case study in autism*
Source:
The Sound Patterns of Syntax
Author(s):

Kriszta Szendrői

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556861.003.0015

Proper identification of the focus of an utterance is essential for discourse to proceed adequately. But how does the hearer identify the focus intended by the speaker? It is well‐known that the focal constituent carries prosodic prominence, usually pitch accent. The question at the heart of this paper is how the hearer associates such accents with the notion focus. Is there a deductive step involved or is this an automated, grammatical process. I investigate the issue from a psycholinguistic perspective. In particular, I carried out a case study with an autistic speaker. I argue that given the general communicative breakdown associated with autism, the fact that this speaker uses focus adequately shows that focus is more than a domain‐general communicative device. It must be a notion encoded in the grammar. If correct, such psycholinguistic evidence helps solidify the foundations of theoretical linguistic notions such as focus.

Keywords:   focus, autism, communicative device, grammar, modularity

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