Operationalizing focus-sensitivity in a cross-linguistic context
Deniz Özyıldız, Ciyang Qing, Floris Roelofsen, Wataru Uegaki, Maribel Romero
December 2022

A number of analyses of clause-embedding predicates make crucial reference to the notion of focus-sensitivity (e.g., Villalta, 2008; Romero, 2015; Uegaki and Sudo, 2019; Wehbe and Flor, 2022). However, there are challenges associated with the construction of a concrete empirical test for focus-sensitivity which can be applied to any arbitrary predicate in a cross-linguistic setting. In this paper, we critically examine the generality and cross-linguistic applicability of three types of empirical tests for focus-sensitivity: a truth-based test, a coherence-based test, and an entailment-based test. We conclude that the entailment-based test is the most suitable one as a general diagnostic for focus-sensitivity in a cross-linguistic investigation. We also discuss the results of applying the entailment-based test to a small sample of predicates in English and Spanish, highlighting in particular that more predicates are focus-sensitive according to the test than has been assumed in previous work.
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Reference: lingbuzz/007004
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keywords: focus sensitivity, attitude predicates, semantic fieldwork methodology, cross-linguistic data collection, semantics
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