An Experimental Study on the Effect of Argument Structure on VP Focus

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Abstract. It has been claimed that a focused word may project its focus to a syntactic constituent larger than the focused item, under what are known as Focus Projection principles (Selkirk 1995; Rochemont 1998). Engdahl and Vallduvi (1996) rejected this purely syntax-based approach and proposed considering the interactions between the grammatical function and the types of an argu-ment. Chung, Kim, and Sells (to appear) applied Engdahl and Valduvi's theory to Korean and claimed that in Korean only a theme argument, but not an oblique argument (1.O or Locative PP), can project its focus to the Verb Phrase. This paper examines how VP focus is realized in Korean and tests Chung et al.'s claim that the types and the order of arguments can affect the focus projec-tion (especially 'VP focus'). The results show that there is no sensitivity to argument type, word order, or the length of VP in projecting the domain of focus to VP in Korean. Regardless of these factors, VP focus was prosodically marked by boosting the prominence of all words inside the VP, with the VP-initial word being the most prominent. Our data suggest that focus projection rules can be eliminated as proposed in Buring (2003).
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