Focus without movement: syntax-prosody interface in Georgian


Borise L, Polinsky M. Focus without movement: syntax-prosody interface in Georgian. Proceedings of North-East Linguistic Society (NELS) 48. 2018.
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This paper investigates the expression of focus in Georgian, a Kartvelian language of the Caucasus. We selected Georgian as an object of investigation due to its cross-linguistically uncommon properties, both syntactic and prosodic, that affect the expression of information structure in the language. On the syntactic front, Georgian lacks cross-clausal A-bar movement and shows very little evidence for syntactic movement in general. On the prosodic front, it has acoustically weak and phonologically “inactive” stress, which affects the expression of prosodic prominence. In this paper, we show how the interplay of these two properties shapes the expression of focus.

Wh- and focal expression are found in the immediately preverbal position (IPP) in Georgian. We show that there is no support for postulating a dedicated functional syntactic projection that houses this material. Instead, we argue that wh-expressions and various types of focus are expressed in-situ, and the overall architecture of clauses containing them is determined by Georgian-specific expression of prosodic prominence. Specifically, prosodic prominence is manifested by grouping the wh-/focal material and the verb together into a single prosodic phrase. The material that might intervene between wh-/focal material and the verb undergoes altruistic displacement.

Last updated on 05/21/2018