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The Chechen it-cleft construction


This paper presents a biclausal construction in Chechen, arguing that it can be analyzed as an it-cleft. The construction consists of a main copula clause with a covert or pronominal subject, and a temporal complement that co-indexes with an adjunct position in a relative clause that does not form a constituent with the subject or the complement. A study of the construction in a corpus of newspaper and journal texts shows characteristics that make it stand out in terms of syntax and function: the cleft clause can appear both clause-finally as well as clause-initially, and its function is limited to text-structuring (it is mostly used to mark the start of a text or the transition to a new paragraph). This latter characteristic is exceptional: it-clefts in other languages (such as English and Norwegian) are known to be used for text-structuring to some extent, but Chechen is the first language known to only use it for this purpose. This prompts the question whether there are perhaps other language (e.g. from the Nakh-Daghestan family) with similar characteristics.

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