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Irish Clefting and Information Structure

Sebastian Sulger


This paper presents an analysis of Irish clefting couched within Lexical-Functional Grammar. In Irish, cleft sentences are formed using two syntactic permutations. First, a copula is introduced, taking the clefted phrase or word as a predicate. Second, a relative clause is formed containing the remaining material of the original sentence. This basic pattern is valid across a variety of languages. I present different approaches towards copula predication taken within Lexical-Functional Grammar and discuss my analysis of Irish copula constructions. Based on the insights from simple copula predication, I derive my analysis for Irish clefting, claiming that in principle, a parallel syntactic approach for both simple copula clauses and clefting can be assumed. The syntactic analysis of copula clefting has been implemented using the XLE software; implementational issues are also discussed in the paper.

I proceed by discussing pragmatic aspects of clefting. Cleft sentences are not only interesting from a syntactic point of view, but also are used to separate new information from old information, which makes them a prime example for the application of Information-Structure, a theory related to Discourse Pragmatics. In the modular architecture of Lexical-Functional Grammar, additional levels of representation may be added to allow for extra-syntactic annotation. I use the projection of i(nformation)-structure to map strings in the sentence to discourse functions. Applying this type of annotation to clefting, I arrive at a more complete analysis of the form and function of Irish clefts. Since the focus of this paper clearly is on the syntactic aspects of clefting, the information-structure parts merely present the general approach by which this extra-syntactic information could be encoded within LFG.

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