Multiple Focus

Sigrid Beck, Shravan Vasishth

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This paper presents the results of an experimental study on multiple focus configurations, that is, structures containing two nested focus-sensitive operators plus two foci supposed to associate with those operators. There has been controversial discussion in the semantic literature regarding whether or not an interpretation is acceptable that corresponds to this association. While the data are unclear, the issue is of considerable theoretical significance, as it distinguishes between the available theories of focus interpretation. Some theories (e.g. Rooth’s 1992) predict such a pattern of association with focus to be impossible, while others (such as Wold’s 1996) predict it to be acceptable. The results of our study show the data to be unacceptable rather than acceptable, favouring important aspects of the theory of focus interpretation developed by Rooth.

Journal of Semantics