Focus as a Key to the Grammar of Sandawe

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Occasional Papers in Linguistics;
pages 9-37
The linguistic realisation of focus can be syntactic, morphological and phonological. Those languages which display all three types of focus marking are of particular current theoretical interest for research into the nature of interface levels in generative grammar. One such language is Sandawe, a Khoisan language spoken in Tanzania. The research presented in this paper is concerned with the limitations on sentence form grammaticality in Sandawe and the relationship between sentence form and focus. Sentence form grammaticality was investigated by means of grammaticality judgment tasks which were undertaken with a native speaker of Sandawe. Data on the relationship between sentence form and focus was collected using a sentence anagram task, a picture description task and a translation task. The results of the data elicitation reveal that great variation in sentence form is possible in Sandawe. The linguistic levels involved in this variation, and the limitations on it, differ according to sentence type. In realis sentences, the variation and limitations are syntactic and morphological, whereas in irrealis sentences, they are syntactic and phonological. Sentence form in both the realis and the irrealis exhibits a relationship with focus. Underneath the surface differences between the two sentence types, a striking parallelism in this relationship is evident. A minimalist PF scrambling account (Kidwai, 1999, 2000) is adopted to handle the Sandawe focusing phenomena. It is argued that the immediately preverbal linear focus position in Sandawe is only activated by argument movement. Apparently arbitrary grammatical restrictions are explained as a reflex of this process. The different focusing mechanisms in the language are analysed as motivated by the requirements of the [PF[+Interpretable]] feature [+focus], which may be licensed by PF movement or in Morphology or Phonology. Focusing in Sandawe is therefore shown to both explain grammaticality restrictions and be motivated by core grammatical principles. In this way, it is argued that the grammar of focus in Sandawe is a key to the grammar as a whole.
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grammaticality judgment
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David P. B. Massamba, eds., Occasional Papers in Linguistics 1. Occasional Papers in Linguistics; Languages of Tanzania Project. 9987691072
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