Topic-Focus Articulation as Generalized Quantification

In Peter Bosch & Rob van der Sandt (eds.), Focus and Natural Language Processing. Ibm Deutschland. pp. 49--57 (1995)

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Abstract
Recent results of Partee, Rooth, Krifka and other formal semanticians confirm that topic-focus articulation (TFA) of sentence is relevant for its semantics. The essential import of TFA, which is more apparent in case of a language with relatively free word order such as Czech than in case of English, has been traditionally intensively studied by Czech linguists. In this paper we would like to indicate the possibility of the account for TFA in terms of the theory of generalized quantifiers, drawing on the results of both these groups of theoreticians. The basic intuition which we accept as our point of departure is the intuition of topic as the “semantic subject” and focus as the “semantic predicate”; we point out that the role of topic is to specify the entity the sentence is “about” (thereby triggering a presupposition), while that of the focus is to reveal a characterization of this entity, and usually a characterization that is in some sense exhaustive. Then we show that it may be plausible to consider topic and focus as arguments to an implicit generalized quantifier, which may get overridden by an explicit focalizer
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References found in this work BETA

Dynamic Predicate Logic.Jeroen Groenendijk & Martin Stokhof - 1991 - Linguistics and Philosophy 14 (1):39-100.
General Semantics.David K. Lewis - 1970 - Synthese 22 (1-2):18--67.
A Theory of Focus Interpretation.Mats Rooth - 1992 - Natural Language Semantics 1 (1):75-116.
Focus Ambiguities.Joachim Jacobs - 1991 - Journal of Semantics 8 (1-2):1-36.
Redundant Answers and Topic-Focus Articulation.Pavel Materna, Eva Hajičová & Petr Sgall - 1987 - Linguistics and Philosophy 10 (1):101 - 113.

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The Semantics of Topic-Focus Articulation.Anna Szabolcsi - 1981 - In Jeroen Groenendijk (ed.), Formal methods in the study of language. U of Amsterdam. pp. 2--503.
Redundant Answers and Topic-Focus Articulation.Pavel Materna, Eva Hajičová & Petr Sgall - 1987 - Linguistics and Philosophy 10 (1):101 - 113.

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