dimecres, 7 de gener de 2015

SYNTAX: FOCUS AND PLEONASM

1. Catalan is, like most Romance tongues, a language enjoying a certain freedom of movement of all its components within the sentence. Despite being a so-called SVO language, i.e., its component order tends to be SUBJECT + VERB (PREDICATE) + OBJECT, there are moments when one of these components is to be found in a different position. The reason for that is basically emphasis, i.e., when an item with the sentence is remarked among the others.

2. English is a language that does not tolerate brusque movements of its components into the beginning of the sentence, but Catalan does accept it. English would rather use other procedures, such as the so-called cleft sentences. Observe the comparison between Catalan and English in the following examples, where the first one is a neutral sentence keeping the usual order of the sentence components:

na Maria ha vist en Joan al carrer
Mary has seen John on the street
(A)  en Joan, na Maria l’ha vist al carrer
it’s John who Mary has seen on the street
al carrer, na Maria ha vist en Joan
it’s on the street where Mary has seen John

3. The new position of the emphasized elements is called focus. Actually almost any item can be focalised by placing it into the beginning of the sentence. However, when focalising objects, Catalan, the same as many other Romance languages, require a clitic “reminding” the origin of the displaced element. The process by which a clitic marks out the origin of a moved object is called pleonasm.

4. Let’s see a few examples of these movements leftwards

4.1. Movement of a Direct Object containing a Noun Phrase with a definite article:

en Joan
es compra
el pollastre
al supermercat
John
buys
chicken
at the shop
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
OBJECT
ADJUNCT

turns out:

al/el pollastre,
en Joan
se’l compra
el pollastre
al supermercat
it’s the chicken what
John
buys

at the shop
FOCUS
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
OBJECT
ADJUNCT

4.2. Movement of a Direct Object containing a Noun Phrase with an indefinite article or no article at all:

en Joan
es compra
pollastre
al supermercat
John
buys
chicken
at the shop
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
OBJECT
ADJUNCT

turns out:

De pollastre,
en Joan
se’n compra
pollastre
al supermercat
It’s the chicken what
John
buys

at the shop
FOCUS
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
OBJECT
ADJUNCT

Observe also the preposition de in the focus.

4.3. Movement of an Indirect Object, usually referring to people:

En Joan
contava
acudits
a en Pere
John
told
jokes
to Peter
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
 DIRECT OBJECT
INDIRECT OBJ.

turns out:

A en Pere,
en Joan
li contava
acudits
a en Pere
It’s to Peter that
John
told
jokes

FOCUS
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
 DIRECT OBJ.
INDIRECT OBJ.

4.4. Adjuncts and other objects may also be focalised, leaving different clitics as a reminder.

A place adjunct

En Joan
plantava
enciam
al jardí
John
planted
lettuces
in the garden
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
 OBJECT
ADJUNCT

turns out:

Al jardí,
en Joan
hi plantava
enciam
al jardí
It’s in the garden where
John
planted
lettuces

FOCUS
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
 OBJECT
ADJUNCT

A place object

En Joan
viu
a la muntanya
amb na Sara
John
lives
in the mountains
with Sarah
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
OBJECT
ADJUNCT

turns out:

A la muntanya,
en Joan
hi viu
a la muntanya
amb na Sara
It’s in the mountains where
John
lives

with Sarah
FOCUS
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
 OBJECT
ADJUNCT

A prepositional object

En Joan
parlava
de futbol
amb mi
John
used to talk
about football
to me
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
 DIRECT OBJECT
ADJUNCT

turns out:

De futbol,
en Joan
en parlava
de futbol
amb mi
It’s about football that
John
used to talk

to me
FOCUS
SUBJECT
PREDICATE
 OBJECT
ADJUNCT