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Focus in Caquinte


This dissertation provides the first description and analysis of focus in Caquinte, an indigenous Arawak language of Peruvian Amazonia. It investigates the expression of a fundamental distinction in types of focus, namely between information focus and contrastive focus, which I argue is due to the salience of the alternative propositions evoked by a focus. Furthermore, three subtypes of contrastive focus are distinguished: selective focus, corrective focus, and exclusive focus (cf. English only). The analysis of information focus includes focus targeting arguments, verbs, subject-verb units, predicates, and sentences. The analysis of selective and corrective focus begins with arguments as the target of focus, and then covers a heterogeneous class of non-arguments (e.g., locative obliques) and the proposition. The analysis of exclusive focus is conned to arguments as the target of focus.

I show that information focus is expressed by a series of verb-initial word orders and no other special marking. Selective and corrective focus of arguments is expressed by constructions involving one of two series of copulas that evoke what I refer to as referential versus polar alternatives. These copulas occur in a preverbal position, and suppress verbal agreement corresponding to the focused argument. Exclusive focus is expressed by the numeral aparo ‘one’ in the same preverbal position, similarly suppressing agreement. Selective and corrective focus of non-arguments and the proposition is expressed by one of two particles morphologically related to the copulas, which are similarly distinguished based on whether they evoke referential versus polar alternatives.

I analyze focus in the Question under Discussion (QUD) framework, extending it in a number of ways. I argue that information focus is represented by nonbranching discourse structures, and that contrastive focus of all types is represented by branching discourse structures. The nonsalient alternatives evoked in cases of information focus have no correspondence in the discourse structure (the actual answer corresponds to the one daughter of a nonbranching QUD), whereas the salient alternatives evoked in cases of contrastive focus correspond to the multiple daughter branches of a branching QUD. I analyze the constructions involving the two series of copulas and the morphologically related particles in terms of whether they resolve constituent or polar QUDs. Consequently, I show that selective and corrective focus are not each expressed by a unique construction; rather they differ in their discourse structures. Exclusive focus exhibits similar discourse structures, but is distinguished in the analysis by the composition of the set of alternatives evoked by aparo. In sum, the analysis accounts for distinctions among focus types in terms of differences in the geometry of their corresponding discourse structures, together with specific claims about the set of alternatives in the case of exclusive focus.

Finally, I consider an analysis of polarity focus as a type of selective focus that evokes polar alternatives and targets the proposition. I distinguish polarity focus from verum, the latter expressed either by a biclausal construction involving the verb ko ‘be, do,’ or by the clitic =maja, depending on the salience of alternatives. The appendices include an overview of Caquinte history, a selective grammar sketch, and an extensive lexicon.

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