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Title: Information Packaging In Dagbani
Authors: Issah, Samuel Alhassan
Keywords: African Languages
Niger-Congo Languages
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: University of Tromso
Abstract: This research investigates information structuring in Dagbani, a Gur language spoken in Ghana. It is claimed that the particles ka, n and la are very central in information packaging in Dagbani. I claim that whilst the post verbal particle la, marks background on the linguistic material that precedes it and new information on what follows it (where the background does not have to be presupposed and the new information does not have to be exhaustive), ka and n encode identificational focus. Following Minimalist assumptions about movement: Chomsky (1995), Radford (1997), and Sabel (2000), I argue that a constituent that is marked with identificational focus undergoes syntactic movement to the Specifier of Foc in order to check a feature associated with the head. This movement creates the needed Spec-head configuration, which is an essential syntactic requirement for the checking of features associated with the head. It is argued that the encoding of identificational focus is a morphosyntactic property in Dagbani. It is further assumed that the feature specification on the Dagbani lexicon must be strong which is what invariably triggers the movement of the focused constituents to Spec Foc. I also argue in favour of analysing Dagbani ex-situ focus constructions as monoclausals rather than biclausal or clefts as in Fiedler, and Schwarz, (2005) and Fusheini (2006). It is also argued that though ka and n encode identificational/exhaustive focus, the two particles have some differences. For instance; it is observed that n occurs in the contexts of the so-called “all new information” in the contexts of wh-questions, whilst ka does not. Also whilst n only attracts the closest DP within the clausal structure, ka can be used in successive cyclic movement. Thus, n is not really a Foc head in Dagbani, but to get an exhaustive reading on the subject, the subject must always undergo movement to the n head before moving to Spec FocP. The head is hypothesized to be FinP. I also argue that the structural asymmetry that has been observed of focused constituents in Dagbani, might not be as “strict” an asymmetry as researchers have noticed, since it is possible for ka (traditionally assumed mark focus on adjuncts and non-subject constituents) to focus subject constituents of embedded clauses. It will be argued that the post verbal particle la marks presentational focus. It will further be argued that what precedes la gives background information and what follows it is new information. However, the background does not have to be presupposed and the new information does not also have to be exhaustive. The argument is made that, this is different from the [+Foc] feature which partitions the sentence into a presupposed part and an exhaustively focused part.
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