Focus Morphemes

James Gair jwg2 at CORNELL.EDU
Wed Oct 7 15:20:09 UTC 1998

In response to the recent queries and comments regarding focus morphemes:

        Sinhala Indo-Aryan, Sri Lanka) has a focusing system that involves
a clefting procedure, along with a number of morphemes that may mark the
focus, or more accurately, induce focusing/clefting when they appear with a
form.This also applies, with differences of detail in some neighboring
Dravidian languages, but Sinhala appears to have developed the most
thoroughgoing form of it.

        This system as a whole was described initially, as far as I know,
in my 1968 Mouton Monograph Colloquial Sinhalese Clause Structures,  but is
the topic of several papers in my recent (1998)  Oxford University Press
book Studies in South Asian Linguistics: Sinhala and Other South Asian
Languages. These  deal with these phenomena and draw some paralells to
neighboring languages  as  as well as  sketching the historical development
of the forms. (Some of these papers had appeared before in Journals and
collections). There is also a  concise description in French in Annie
Montaut et al. Faits de Langues:  Les Langues d'Asie du Sud; Revue de
Linguistique 10. Ophrys, Paris 1997. 155-162
        Another paper, in a GB framework, co-authored with L. Sumangala,
appeared in ESCOL '91, pp. 93-108. Though one might want to alter the
analysis  on the basis of later developments, the data remains sound.
        There is also a relevant paper by John Paolillo "The Co-development
of Finiteness and Focus in Sinhala" in William Paglia, ed. Perspectives on
Grammaticalization,  John Benjamins 1994 pp. 151-70, which approaches the
history of the forms from a somewhat different direction.

I hope that this may be of some interest to those looking for inormation
and data on the topic.

James Wells Gair, Department of Modern Languages, Cornell University

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