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Cleft sentences and beyond: identification, specification and clause structures in Zaar

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Abstract

The term cleft is commonly used to describe a syntactic pattern which serves to separate a discourse prominent constituent structurally from the rest of the clause. It is formed by dividing a more elementary clause into two parts. One of the two parts is foregrounded, and the other, backgrounded. The structure is characterized e.g. in English by the presence of a proleptic pronoun (it), a copula (be), and a relative clause (the cleft clause). This process (foregrounding through cleaving) is not limited to Indo-European languages and can be observed in other languages, e.g. Zaar, a Chadic language spoken in Nigeria. However, in this language ‘cleft’ structures do not use a proleptic pronoun (since copulas do not require a subject in Zaar) nor is there any morphological exponent of relativization in the cleft clause. A further morphological reduction of the structure can be observed when the left-dislocation of the foregrounded element is not accompanied by a copula. I propose to examine what characterises these foregrounding structures beyond the formal components defining them in e.g. English or French, and to find a unifying definition that sets it apart from presentational constructions with a plain restrictive relative clause. In the process I argue that this type of syntactic structure is best accounted for within the framework of Universal Dependency Grammar (UD) which only considers content words as governors in dependency relations, thus accounting for the absence of copula. Finally, I present a brief description of copulas in Zaar.
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hal-01370125 , version 1 (22-09-2016)

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  • HAL Id : hal-01370125 , version 1

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Bernard Caron. Cleft sentences and beyond: identification, specification and clause structures in Zaar: Sans ‘it’, sans ‘COP’, sans ‘REL’, sans everything. 2016. ⟨hal-01370125⟩
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