typology of topic and focus positioning

Frederick J Newmeyer fjn at u.washington.edu
Fri Mar 7 00:08:24 UTC 2014

Dear Funknetters,

Does anybody know of a large-scale typological study -- i.e. one involving at least dozens of languages -- of the positioning of topic and focus within the clause? And also, if possible, on the use or not of topic- and focus-markers? One reads all the time that 'the tendency is for topic to precede focus' (or 'old information to precede new information'), but I have never seen such 'tendencies' quantified.

I realize that one (of many) problems with what I am looking for is that there are several types of topics and several types of focuses, and that terminology is not used consistently from one researcher to another.

Thanks. I'll summarize if there is enough interest.


Frederick J. Newmeyer
Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
Adjunct Professor, U of British Columbia and Simon Fraser U
[for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]

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