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Title: Demonstrative clefts in spoken English
Authors: Calude, Andreea S.
Keywords: Indo-European Languages
Germanic Languages
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: University of Auckland
Abstract: This research concerns the structural and discourse related properties of cleft con- structions found in spoken New Zealand English. In particular, the main analysis focuses on one cleft type, namely on the demonstrative cleft; examples include (a) That’s what I had in mind and (b) That’s what I thought. The demonstrative cleft has received little attention in the literature, and this is reflected in its inconsistent classification (some believe it to be a reversed wh-cleft, others classify it together with it -clefts, and others still use the label ‘th-cleft’). The current work investigates the clefts exemplified in (a) and (b), in terms of 23 different structural and discourse related properties. These properties were identified by consulting existing literature on clefts, and data from the Wellington Corpus of Spoken New Zealand English (about 200,000 words of spontaneous con- versation). Additionally, the same excerpts of conversation were also examined for it -clefts, wh-clefts and reversed wh-clefts, whose most significant properties in spo- ken language are also related here. The data were tagged manually for the various cleft constructions investigated, and difficult examples were cross-checked by and discussed with other linguists. The thesis consists of three introductory chapters (Chapters 1, 2 and 3), which introduce the data investigated and the constructions analysed. Chapter 4 presents the analysis of the demonstrative cleft. Following this, peripheral and problematic demonstrative clefts, that is, clefts which deviate from the prototypical demonstrative cleft model are discussed in Chapter 5. Finally, Chapter 6 deals with other cleft types in English, namely it -clefts, wh-clefts and reversed wh-clefts, and their most significant properties in spoken language. The thesis concludes with a summary chapter (Chapter 7). One innovative aspect of the research concerns the fact that in spoken lan- guage, clefts can be “un-integrated” or loosely integrated inside the syntactic struc- ture which they are part of, while still being tightly connected within the discourse portion in which they are found, e.g.,That’s what you have to do when moving into a new house is nest, and That is what the government wants you to do is to vote Labour (termed here double cleft construction). Double clefts are discussed in Chapter 4. The corpus also contains un-integrated wh-clefts, such as What I want to do is I want to study clefts, treated in Chapter 5. Previous studies suggest that in spoken language, the distinction between the syntax of clauses and the overall organisation of discourse is not always clear; clauses which do not appear to be syntactically subordinate may nonetheless be subordinate in terms of the discourse role they play. This is problematic for existing syntactic theories which rely on tightly integrated structures. An adequate analysis of un-integrated constructions, in terms of their syntax and discourse function will be of interest both to theoretical syntax and to computational linguistics. The research contributes to existing knowledge of the grammatical construc- tions used by speakers of New Zealand English and English worldwide. Given the significant differences between the grammar of spoken language and that of written language, this work helps increase understanding of spoken language and of what it means to be a ‘speaker’.
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