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It-clefts in the Meta-Informative Structure of the Utterance in Modern and Present-Day English

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Title: It-clefts in the Meta-Informative Structure of the Utterance in Modern and Present-Day English


1
It-clefts in the Meta-Informative Structure of
the Utterance in Modern and Present-Day English
  • Ana E. Martínez-Insua (minsua_at_uvigo.es)
  • Javier Pérez-Guerra (jperez_at_uvigo.es)
  • Language Variation and Textual Categorisation
    Research Unit
  • University of Vigo
  • 3e colloque interdisciplinaire international
  • Université Paris-Sorbonne IV - CELTA
  • 15th-16th November, 2012

2
Outline
  • Background and scope of study
  • cleft-sentences and it-clefts
  • Goal
  • Description of it-clefts
  • MIC-compliant
  • Structural/grammatical description
  • Informative description
  • Identifying nature
  • Meta-informative characterisation
  • Corpus-based study
  • Concluding remarks
  • References

3
Background
  • cleft (already in Jespersen 1909-49 1937)
  • (1) What this paper describes is the cleft
    construction.
  • basic pseudo-cleft or basic wh-cleft
  • (2) The cleft construction is what this paper
    describes.
  • reversed or inverted pseudo- or wh-cleft
  • (3) It is the cleft construction that this paper
    describes.
  • cleft or it-cleft
  • (4) That is the cleft construction (that) this
    paper describes.
  • th-cleft
  • (5) They are real researchers that tackled this
    issue.
  • pronominal cle
  • apparent dismemberment of a single sentence
    entailed in their derivation (Delahunty 1982 5)

3
4
Background
  • cleft (already in Jespersen 1909-49 1937)
  • (1) What this paper describes is the cleft
    construction.
  • basic pseudo-cleft or basic wh-cleft
  • (2) The cleft construction is what this paper
    describes.
  • reversed or inverted pseudo- or wh-cleft
  • (3) It is the cleft construction that this paper
    describes.
  • cleft or it-cleft
  • (4) That is the cleft construction (that) this
    paper describes.
  • th-cleft
  • (5) They are real researchers that tackled this
    issue.
  • pronominal cleft
  • apparent dismemberment of a single sentence
    entailed in their derivation (Delahunty 1982 5)

4
5
Background
  • Common features
  • Formal, semantic and communicative similarities
  • possibly same objective information
  • (Prince 1978 884)
  • Dissimilarities
  • Pragmatic factors favour the choice of the type
    of cleft
  • (Declerck 1988 209)
  • Semantic and informative differences
  • (Traugott 2008 section 3)

5
6
Scope of the study
  • it-clefts
  • It is the cleft construction that this paper
    describes
  • Global CA AS it (semantically empty)
  • Link verb
  • Local CA (semantically full)
  • Background subordinate clause
  • ItAS Global CA be Xi Local CA (FOCUS)
    introducer clause ...n.p.i...background
  • Beyond scope
  • Wh-clefts copulative constructions (identifying
    or attributive)
  • Th-clefts and pronominal-clefts nonrestrictive
    relativisation or even right dislocation

6
7
Goal
  • Twofold
  • Profile the it-cleft construction from a
    Meta-Informative Centering Theory (MIC)
    perspective
  • focalising strategy
  • Corpus-based analysis of its quantitative and
    qualitative spread in the recent history of
    English

7
8
it-clefts MIC-compliant representation
  • It is the cleft construction that this paper
    describes
  • Global CA AS it expletive and semantically
    empty
  • Link verb
  • Local CA focalised semantically full constituent
  • Background (vs. the focus expressed in the cleft
    part) subordinate clause
  • ItAS Global CA be Xi Local CA (FOCUS)
    introducer clause ...n.p.i...background
  • introducer that
  • n.p. null pointer left by the focalisation of
    one of the constituents of the clause Xi

8
9
it-clefts MIC-compliant representation
  • It is the cleft construction that this paper
    describes
  • Assumptions
  • Rightmost clause 2nd-level CA
  • (Wlodarczyk Wlodarczyk 20068)
  • it-cleft link construction
  • Linking of two (2nd-level) CAs (i.e. focus and
    background) by means of a syntactic design
    governed by an almost semantically bleached
    linking verbal operator

9
10
it-clefts structural grammatical description
  • Local CA (X) and null pointer (n.p.) are
    coreferring
  • X must materialise an entity (have a referent)
  • (Givón 1984 731)
  • It is always expensive what Cambridge University
    Press sells
  • not cleft, but
  • extraposition of the Subject what Cambridge
    University Press sells
  • filling of the empty Global CA slot with the AS
    it

10
11
it-clefts structural grammatical description
  • introducer
  • Ø (Vissers 1970 Chapter I apo koinou)
  • that
  • who
  • or which
  • vs.
  • what, when (Declerck 1997) or where
  • extraposed headless relative clauses or
    pseudo-clefts (Delahunty 1982 268ff, Ball 1994
    181)
  • It is phrase-markers what I drew on the
    blackboard
  • What I drew on the blackboard is phrase-markers
  • vs.
  • It is phrase-markers that I drew on the
    blackboard
  • That I drew on the blackboard is phrase-markers

11
12
it-clefts structural grammatical description
  • functions of null pointer within the rightmost
    clause (I)
  • Global CA
  • It is a gapi that n.p.i occurs in initial
    position
  • Local CA
  • It is Ø/ to me i that he dedicated the book
    n.p.i
  • (non-sentence) adverbial
  • It was with much attention i that I checked the
    last proofs of the article n.p.i
  • adverbial complement or obligatory adverbial
  • It is to Boston i that she went n.p.i
  • prepositional complement of a verb
  • It is to my article i that she was referring
    n.p.i

12
13
it-clefts structural grammatical description
  • functions of null pointer within the rightmost
    clause (II)
  • prepositional complement of an adjective
  • It was about that Ministeri that the President
    was angry n.p.i
  • prepositional complement of a noun
  • It was of Syntactic Structuresi that he was the
    writer n.p.i
  • complement of a preposition
  • That was the doctori I was speaking to n.p.i
  • predicative complement of the subject or of the
    object in very special environments
  • Its prettyi that my mother-in-law is n.p.i,
    more than anything else
  • Its a teacheri that he is n.p.i, not a
    butcher!

13
14
it-clefts structural grammatical description
  • category of the Local CA
  • NP
  • PP
  • Adverb Phrase
  • Particle of a phrasal verb
  • But
  • not normally a clause, VP or (non-contrastive) AP

14
15
it-clefts structural grammatical description
  • rightmost clause
  • finite (supposedly a that-clause)
  • or nonfinite (-ing or infinitive clause)
  • Within the United States, it is Robinson to
    appear like a Jones. (Gibb115)
  • sentence-initial Anonymous Subject (AS)
    materialised by dummy or expletive it

15
16
it-clefts informative description
  • Identifying nature
  • they specify a value for a variable (Enkvist
    1979, Declerck 1988, Halliday and Matthiessen
    2004, Thompson 2004)
  • their semantic scheme x y assign the value
    y to x
  • the value occupies the Local CA position and the
    variable occurs in the Global CA position
  • Notice
  • It is always expensive what Cambridge
    University Press sells
  • not an it-cleft but an attributive link
    construction

16
17
it-clefts informative description
  • Certain indefinite NPs are acceptable in the
    Local CA of (identifying) clefts thanks to the
    contrastive content of their modifiers
  • Was it an INTERESTING meeting that you went to
    last night? No, it was a BORING meeting...

17
18
it-clefts meta-informative characterisation
  • Meta-informative effects of clefting
  • Rearrangement of the topic-comment structure of
    the sentence
  • the information in the rightmost that-clause is
    (presented as) pragmatically presupposed
  • (Prince 1978, Declerck 1988, Harold 1995 158)
  • the Local CA is focal
  • (Declercks stressed-focus)
  • clefted elements (...) express new information
    and evoke presuppositional sets
  • (Enkvist 1979 151 our italics)

18
19
it-clefts meta-informative characterisation
  • Clefts determine pragmatic functions in a
    meta-informative way
  • By means of the clefting device
  • the that-clause following the Local CA is
    formally presented as pragmatically presupposed
    or given (Engelkamp and Zimmer 1983 40, Brömser
    1984 330) from the speakers viewpoint, even
    though it may be actually new for the hearer
  • a certain (post-be) theme of the discourse is
    brought forward as the focus of attention (the
    Local CA)
  • clefts as meta-informative devices for
    focus-marking (Rochemonts 1986 constructional
    focus construction)

19
20
it-clefts corpus-based analysis
  • Frequency not a productive thematic mechanism in
    the history of English (but important increase
    from eModE onwards)
  • Table 1. The corpus (raw data and normalised
    frequencies n.f. per 100,000 words and 1,000
    clauses)
  • Sources ARCHER, A Corpus of English Dialogues
    1560-1760, The Lancaster-Oslo/Bergen Corpus of
    British English

20
21
it-clefts corpus-based analysis
  • Information status
  • Table 2. Referentiality of the sentence-final
    clause

21
22
it-clefts corpus-based analysis
  • Information status
  • Table 3 Referentiality of the Local CA

22
23
it-clefts corpus-based analysis
  • Information status
  • Sentence-final clauses are referring or
    low-referring in the majority of the cases
  • rejection of end-focus principle//given-before-
    new principle
  • Atlas and Levinson 1981 16, the it-cleft
    contravenes the convention that old information
    precede new information
  • Local CAs are normally non-referring, especially
    from eModE onwards
  • it-clefts as focusing meta-informative
    strategies

23
24
Concluding remarks
  • MIC-compliant and structural description of
    prototypical it-clefts
  • Global CA in the form of the AS it link verb
    Local CA nonfinite/finite non-meta-informatively
    -centered clause (introduced by Ø, that, which or
    who)
  • information conveyed by Local CA is unavailable
  • focusing meta-informative device, not
    conditioned by the given-before- new principle
  • recent (statistical) consolidation in English,
    corroborated quantitatively and qualitatively

24
25
References
  • Atlas, J. D. and S. C. Levison. 1981. It-clefts,
    informativeness, and logical form. In P. Cole ed.
    Radical pragmatics. New York Academic, 1-61.
  • Ball, C. N. 1994. Relative pronouns in it-clefts
    the last seven centuries. Language Variation and
    Change 6 179-200.
  • Brömser, B. 1984. Towards a functional
    description of cleft constructions. Lingua 62
    325-348.
  • Declerck, R. 1988. Studies on copular sentences,
    clefts and pseudo-clefts. Leuven Foris.
  • Declerck, R. 1997. When-clauses and temporal
    structure. London. Routledge.
  • Delahunty, G. P. 1982. Syntax and semantics of
    English cleft sentences. Bloomington, In.
    Indiana University Linguistics Club.
  • Engelkamp, J. and H. D. Zimmer. 1983. Dynamic
    aspects of language processing. Focus and
    presupposition. Berlin Springer-Verlag.
  • Enkvist, N. E. 1979. Marked focus functions and
    constraints. In S. Greenbaum, G. Leech and J.
    Svartvik eds. Studies in English linguistics for
    Randolph Quirk. London Longman, 134-152.
  • Halliday, M. A. K. and Ch. M. I. M. Matthiessen.
    2004. An introduction to Functional Grammar.
    Londond Arnold.
  • Jespersen, O. 1909-1949. A modern English grammar
    on historical principles. Vols. I- VII.
    Heidelberg Ejnar Munksgaard.

26
  • Lambrecht, K. 2001. A framework for the analysis
    of cleft constructions. Linguistics 39/3
    463-516.
  • Prince, E. F. 1978. A comparison of wh-clefts and
    it-clefts in discourse. Language 54 883-906.
  • Rochemont, M. S. 1986. Focus in generative
    grammar. Amsterdam John Benjamins.
  • Thompson, G. 2004. Introducing Functional
    Grammar. London Arnold.
  • Traugott, E. C. 2008. All that he endeavoured to
    prove was on the emergence of grammatical
    constructions in dialogual and dialogic contexts.
    In R. Cooper and R. Kempson eds. Language in
    flux dialogue coordination, language variation,
    change and evolution. London Kings College
    Publications, 143-177.
  • Visser, F. T. 1970. An historical syntax of the
    English language. Part I syntactical units with
    one verb. Leiden E.J. Brill.
  • Walker, M. A., Joshi, A. K. and E. P. Prince.
    1998. Centering in naturally occurring discourse
    an overview. In M. A. Walker, A. K. Joshi and E.
    F. Prince eds. Centering Theory in discourse.
    Oxford Clarendon Press, 1-28.
  • Wlodarczyk, H. 1999. Les marqueurs de la
    validation des énoncés en français et polonais.
    Etudes Cognitives / Studia Kognitywne III
    (Warszawa, SOW, PAN), 135-162.
  • Wlodarczyk, A. and H. Wlodarczyk. 2012, in press.
    Meta-informative grounding of utterances. In A.
    Wlodarczyk and H. Wlodarczyk eds. Discourse
    coherence in the MIC framework. Amsterdam John
    Benjamins.

26
27
It-clefts in the Meta-Informative Structure of
the Utterance in Modern and Present-Day English
  • Ana Elina Martínez-Insua (minsua_at_uvigo.es)
  • Javier Pérez-Guerra (jperez_at_uvigo.es)
  • Merci beaucoup!
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