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Journal of African Languages and Linguistics

Ed. by Ameka, Felix K. / Amha, Azeb

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Discourse functions of focus marking in Avatime

Saskia van Putten
  • Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  • :
Published Online: 2016-06-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2016-0003


Avatime is a Kwa language spoken in Ghana. 1 It has a focus construction in which the focused element is placed in clause-initial position and marked with an extra-high tone. In this paper I discuss the functions of this focus construction, mostly based on a corpus of spontaneous discourse. The focus construction can mark focus on subjects, objects, adjuncts and verbs. Focus marking is usually interpreted as narrow focus on the focus-marked element, but the focus may be wider. Focus marking is not obligatory. In answers to questions, it is rarely used, except when the focused element is the subject. In other contexts, the focus construction is mostly used for contrastive purposes, indicating there are alternatives to the focused element or that the focused element is unexpected. These functions can be unified in the definition of focus marking as highlighting the common-ground update.

Keywords: focus; information structure; Avatime; Kwa languages

Published Online: 2016-06-15

Published in Print: 2016-06-01

Citation Information: Journal of African Languages and Linguistics. Volume 37, Issue 1, Pages 91–130, ISSN (Online) 1613-3811, ISSN (Print) 0167-6164, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2016-0003, June 2016

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