Italian contrastive focalization and its interaction with givenness

Posted on April 20, 2014 by

This Tuesday (22nd April), there will be a special out-of-term LEL Research Seminar featuring UCL’s Vieri Samek-Lodovici. His title is Italian contrastive focalization and its interaction with givenness, and the talk will be in the usual time at the usual place: 4.15pm in Ellen Wilkinson A2.16.

Here’s the abstract:

This talk investigates the interaction of focalization and givenness in Italian. I will examine the distribution of contrastive focalization and claim that it occurs in situ. When contrastive foci are generated within a larger discourse-given phrase, however, they raise leftwards to enable the right-dislocation of the containing phrase, giving rise to the word order found in the well known left-peripheral focalization data.

The research being presented is significant in two ways. First, it challenges the widespread view, following Rizzi’s 1997 seminal proposal that Italian contrastive focalization must occur in a focus projection situated at the left-periphery of the clause.

Second, it shows that an accurate analysis of focalization requires an equally accurate analysis of the representation of discourse-givenness. I will show that in Italian it is not possible to examine one without also carefully investigating the other. The changes in word order brought about by processes such as right dislocation must be taken into account if we want to correctly identify the actual position of focused constituents.