Syntax and Semantics of It-Clefts: A Tree Adjoining Grammar Analysis

Journal of Semantics 25 (4):345-380 (2008)
Abstract
In this paper, we examine two main approaches to the syntax and semantics of it-clefts as in ‘It was Ohno who won’: an expletive approach where the cleft pronoun is an expletive and the cleft clause bears a direct syntactic or semantic relation to the clefted constituent, and a discontinuous constituent approach where the cleft pronoun has a semantic content and the cleft clause bears a direct syntactic or semantic relation to the cleft pronoun. We argue for an analysis using Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG) that captures the best of both approaches. We use Tree-Local Multi-Component Tree Adjoining Grammar to propose a syntax of it-clefts and Synchronous Tree Adjoining Grammar (STAG) to define a compositional semantics on the proposed syntax. It will be shown that the distinction TAG makes between the derivation tree and the derived tree, the extended domain of locality characterizing TAG and the direct syntax–semantics mapping characterizing STAG allow for a simple and straightforward account of the syntax and semantics of it-clefts, capturing the insights and arguments of both the expletive and the discontinuous constituent approaches. Our analysis reduces the syntax and semantics of it-clefts to copular sentences containing definite description subjects, such as ‘The person that won is Ohno’. We show that this is a welcome result, as evidenced by the syntactic and semantic similarities between it-clefts and the corresponding copular sentences
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Arnim von Stechow (2012). Syntax and Semantics: An Overview. In Klaus von Heusinger, Claudia Maienborn & Paul Portner (eds.), Semantics: An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning. De Gruyter Mouton.
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