Semantics of Focus

  • Published : 1997.12.01


This paper discusses several basic issues of the 'focus' phenomenon. One of them is the issue of the nature of focus, i.e., what constituent of the sentences gets focused. Another is the issue of to what aspect of meaning the focus contributes. The other is the issue of the functions of focus-sensitive operators. As for the first issue, it is observed that the basic function of focus is to mark all and only the new information of the sentence. But for the cases in which this principle is not observed, it is proposed that the focus in these cases in general plays a secondary function of triggering an additional emphatic scalar meaning. And yet, in these cases, the state of the matter is different between free focus and bound focus. It is also shown that contrary to the general belief that free focus contributes to the meaning semantically. Concerning focus-sensitive operators, we classify them into two groups, i.e., quantificational and scalar operators, and try to formalize their meaning in the framework of Pulman's(1997) 'higher order unification theory'.