Stavros Skopeteas (Göttingen)

Focus and resumption: Anyi, Baule, and microvariation in Kwa languages

— joint work with Firmin Ahoua, Marie Laure Koffi Bla & Beatrice Koffi (Université Houphouet Boigny) —

The topic-focus asymmetry is a robust cross-linguistic phenomenon reported for such remote languages as Italian, Warlpiri, and Fongbe: while topics are compatible with resumptive pronouns, resumption is ruled out for foci. This generalization is challenged by data from languages, in which at least a subset of the foci is compatible with a pronominal in situ. Pronouns in these languages fall into two types: in Hebrew or several Levantene varieties of Arabic, the pronominal forms are true resumptives, while in other languages, e.g., Vata (Kru) the pronominal forms are bound. In the former type of languages pronouns amnesty island violations and the constructions lack Weak Cross Over effects, while these phenomena do not apply in the latter type.

This talk presents data from Baule and Anyi (Kwa languages of the Central Tano branch, spoken in Côte d’Ivoire) illustrating a particular pattern: left peripheral subjects and animate objects (foci or topics) must be resumed by a pronoun, while left peripheral inanimate objects (foci or topics) correspond to a gap in situ. Topic and focus construction do not differ with respect to pronominal resumption. However, the syntactic properties of these constructions differ: in topic constructions, resumptive pronouns are anaphoric; their morphological features must match their antecedent; topic left dislocation is not sensitive to island constraints and gives rise to Weak Cross Over violations. In focus constructions, the resumptive pronouns are variables, co-valued with the focus; they must agree with the focused constituent; they are sensitive to island constraints and display Weak Cross Over Effects.