Focus: Interpretation?

Cover: Fisseni (2011): Focus: Interpretation?

Bernhard Fisseni (2011):
Focus: Interpretation?

Empirical Investigations on Focus Interpretation

Seiten: 324
Buch: 59,90

The study empirically examines the interpretation of focus accents in German. To this end, a methodology is developed, and it is discussed how experimental investigation can proceed at the current state of the focus theory. Methodologically, experiments directly measuring interpretation provide an alternative to the widespread practice of using only empirical preference and production data to investigate the interpretation of stimuli, and it is shown why such an alternative is necessary.

The empirical results show that one must extend and restrict theories assuming an association of free focus and scalar implicature (exhaustivity) or question–answer congruence as follows: On the one hand, situational factors in the interpretation must be taken into account to a greater extent than until now, especially their interaction with ‘physical’ properties of the speech signal (focus marking). On the other hand, a prototypical definition of Focus is called for which connects the major concepts of focus on the phonetic-phonological, semantic and information-structural levels and takes their prototypical coincidence to be the basis of focus interpretation and corresponding intuitions.


1 Theory
1.1 Focus Intuitions
1.2 An Inadequately Short Overview of Focus Research
1.3 Defining Focus

2 Method
2.1 Why not Use Corpora?
2.2 Experiments in Linguistic Pragmatics
2.3 Kinds of Experiments
2.4 The Quality of Experiments
2.5 Designing Focus Interpretation Experiments

3 Empirical Work
3.1 General Remarks
3.2 Exhaustivity of Focus Interpretation
3.3 Exhaustivity in a Simple Setting (1)
3.4 Exhaustivity in a Simple Setting (2)
3.5 Exhaustivity in a Simple Setting (3)
3.6 Reviewing §§. 3.3–3.5
3.7 Exhaustivity in a more ‘Natural’ Setting (1)
3.8 Exhaustivity in a more ‘Natural’ Setting (2)
3.9 Exhaustive Interpretation: Adjectives versus Nouns
3.10 Conclusions about Exhaustivity and Focus
3.11 Syntactic Ambiguity and Question-Answer Congruence
3.12 Topic, Focus and Plausibility
3.13 Discourse Knowledge
3.14 Conclusion

4 Conclusion
4.1 Methodological Conclusion: Always Check Interpretations
4.2 Focus Theory Again
4.3 Extending the Model of Interpretation

5 Deutsche Zusammenfassung

6 Bibliography

7 Appendices

Der Autor studierte Computerlinguistik, ältere Germanistik und Informatik in Bonn und Utrecht; MA in Bonn, Promotion in Duisburg-Essen; wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter in Bonn und zurzeit in der Germanistik/Linguistik der Universität Duisburg-Essen.

The author studied computational linguistics, computer science and German linguistics/older German literature in Bonn and Utrecht; MA in Bonn, PhD in Duisburg-Essen. He currently works in German linguistics at the University of Duisburg-Essen.