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Re: Focus, please

From:David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Date:Wednesday, August 6, 2008, 18:44
  In none of my conlangs do I know anything about the diachronic
origin of focus-marking patterns.

Oh, whoops: I neglected the diachronic part of this question.

In Kamakawi, the strategy is natural enough.  Predicate-level
adverbs have always been able to appear either at the end or
the beginning of the sentence:

(1a) Ka mata ei i nawa kike.  "I saw a fish yesterday."
(1b) Kike ka mata ei i nawa.  "Yesterday I saw a fish."

Strategy (1b) lends more prominence to /kike/, "yesterday".
This led to the general idea that pulling things out in front of
the subject status marker emphasized it.

As for stress prominence, it seems natural enough: say it
louder to emphasize it.  The same principle applies to sign
languages, where, instead of vocalizing louder, signs are
made larger and faster.

As for reintroduction of the dropped subject, it's also a
natural progression, similar to Spanish:

Time N: Subject is present though its discourse-old status is
Time N+1: Since its discourse-old status is marked, the subject
may be dropped, if desired.
Time N+2: Including the subject is now bizarre in discourse-old
situations, since its status is always marked.
Time N+3: Since the presence of a subject in discourse-old
situation is marked (i.e., unusual), its markedness can be used
to signify something.  In this case, its focus.

With Zhyler, the suffix -tFk(i) was originally (and is still) used
to mark the reintroduced agent of a passive verb.  Since the
agent is usually omitted in passive circumstances, its presence
is marked or unusual.  The result it that its presence was thought
of as important, and so the suffix used to mark reintroduced
agents was adopted as a marker of special importance--or focus.
Its addition to already case-marked nominals is a result of the
already present suffixaufnahme phenomenon of Zhyler.  Its
caselessness when fronted is an artefact of its original use as
a marker of the reintroduced agent of a passive verb (that's
where it's placed, and that *is* its case).

"sunly eleSkarez ygralleryf ydZZixelje je ox2mejze."
"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

-Jim Morrison