Given claims about new topics: How Romance and Germanic speakers link changed and maintained information in narrative discourse
This paper deals with the anaphoric linking of information units in spoken discourse in French, Italian, Dutch and German. We distinguish the information units ‘time’, ‘entity’, and ‘predicate’ and specifically investigate how speakers mark the information structure of their utterances and enhance discourse cohesion in contexts where the predicate contains given information but there is a change in one or more of the other information units.
Germanic languages differ from Romance languages in the availability of a set of assertion-related particles (e.g. doch/toch, wel; roughly meaning ‘indeed’) and the option of highlighting the assertion component of a finite verb independently of its lexical content (verum focus). Based on elicited production data from 20 native speakers per language, we show that speakers of Dutch and German relate utterances to one another by focussing on this assertion component, and propose an analysis of the additive scope particles ook/auch (also) along similar lines. Speakers of Romance languages tend to highlight change or maintenance in the other information units.
Such differences in the repertoire have consequences for the selection of units that are used for anaphoric linking. We conclude that there is a Germanic and a Romance way of signalling the information flow and enhancing discourse cohesion.
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