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Scottish Gaelic Clefts: Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics

  • Author(s): Sheil, Christine
  • Advisor(s): Mikkelsen, Line
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation investigates the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of clefts in Scottish Gaelic, and represents the first in-depth look at Scottish Gaelic clefts. It also examines the Propositional Cleft. While the Propositional Cleft is acknowledged in Scottish Gaelic grammars, a thorough description and analysis has not been done. The Propositional Cleft is noteworthy for the presence of cleft morphosyntax--the copula, a pro-form, and the relative complementizer--but the absence of a clefted constituent. This lack of a clefted constituent is puzzling if the Propositional Cleft is to be included in the cleft paradigm, since it is the clefted constituent which is typically interpreted as the focus, and the interpretation of focus is typically assumed to be derived from the focus-background bipartite structure created by the cleft construction. This property of lacking a bipartite structure makes the Propositional Cleft, at first glance, an unlikely candidate for membership in the cleft paradigm. Over the course of the dissertation I describe and analyze the pragmatic effect of the Propositional Cleft, and I argue that the Propositional Cleft is in fact a member of the cleft paradigm, but that it instantiates a typologically rare combination of broad sized identificational focus. The syntactic and semantic analysis of clefts proposed here extends straightforwardly to derive the particular meaning and structure of the Propositional Cleft, and shows that broad focus is not incompatible with cleft meaning.

I argue that A-bar dependencies in Scottish Gaelic are movement based, and propose a syntactic account of focus movement in clefts which involves the checking of focus features in C by the movement of the focus phrase to its specifier. This syntactic account of focus allows us to understand the absence of movement in the Propositional Cleft, since the broad size of focus means that the focus constituent is the complement of CP, and so can check the focus features of C in situ.

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