Michael Wagner: Contrastive Topics Decomposed

The standard analysis of contrastive topics, first introduced in Büring (1997) and further developed in Büring (2003), relies on distinguishing two types of constituents that introduce alternatives: The sentence focus, which is marked by a FOC feature, and the contrastive topic, which is marked by a CT feature. A non-compositional rule of interpretation that refers to these features is used to derive a topic-semantic value. This paper presents evidence for a correlation between the restrictive syntax of nested focus operators and the syntax of contrastive topics, a correlation which is unexpected under this analysis. A compositional analysis is proposed which aims at integrating insights from the original analysis while at the same time capturing the syntactic restrictions.

Keywords: contrastive topics, focus, alternatives, scope, intonation, prosody

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