A Typology of Morphosyntactic Encoding of Focus in African Languages
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One of the most striking features of many languages of Africa is their use of core grammatical structures to encode focus structure. The use of nominal and verbal morphology as well as variations in word order as indicators of focus are prevalent in languages across the continent. While it is known that morphosyntax plays a prominent role in the encoding of focus in Africa, a proliferation of descriptive grammars and investigations into the focus structure of specific African languages over the past decade have made it only recently possible to conduct a large-scale typological investigation into the variation of focus encoding on the continent. This dissertation is a typological study centered around a collection of focus encoding strategies from 135 languages that was gathered into a comparative database, included at the end of this dissertation, in order to determine the nature of morphosyntactic variation across languages. Using a fine-grained encoding strategy based on the AutoTyp method (Bickel & Nichols 2002), focus encoding constructions were analyzed to determine which morphosyntactic features indicate focus structure. These features were then combined into seven categories based on similarities in grammatical encoding, namely (1) the use of focus markers, (2) syntactic positions, (3) verbal morphology, (4) nominal morphology, (5) the doubling of a constituent in the form of a pronoun or verbal copy, (6) relativization strategies, namely clefts and pseudoclefts, and (7) the morphosyntactic encoding of out-of-focus constituents. It is shown that languages manipulate these strategies, often in combinations, using language-specific variations of these seven strategies. Once these focus encoding strategies were determined, they were compared with other features of the languages involved to determine whether there are any patterns in terms of genealogy, linguistic area, and basic word order. Unsurprisingly, these three features mostly converged. The Afro-Asiatic languages of the Chad-Ethiopia area, which are SOV in word order, prefer nominal morphology as an encoding strategy. Doubling strategies and out-of-focus marking are found in the Niger-Congo languages of the Macro-Sudan area, which are overwhelmingly SVO languages. Patterns were also found when analyzing the kinds of strategies used to focus specific elements of the phrase. Subjects, non-subject constituents (objects and adjuncts) and verbs showed different preferences with respect to the encoding strategies used. Verbs use doubling strategies much more than nominal constituents. Objects and adjuncts tend towards syntactic positions. Subjects use verbal morphology and relativization strategies at a higher rate than their counterparts. Overall, this dissertation confirms the observation made by countless Africanist linguists over the past several decades that morphosyntactic encoding of focus is indeed pervasive and complex. While many languages provide a glimpse of this complexity, the use of a single African language to provide theoretical insights into the grammatical marking of focus presents only a partial view of the extent to which core grammar is manipulated. A cross-linguistic overview allows for the identification of patterns which help to put into context specific strategies found in these languages.