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  • Adhering Focus
  • Virginia Hill

The Romanian data presented in this squib prompt the observation that movement to the preverbal Focus position is constrained by the availability of nominative Case checking in the left periphery of the clause. Since Focus targets a scope position within the T(ense) P(hrase) in Romanian, and this target is correlated with the possibility of pre-verbal subjects, I infer that the [focus] feature enters the grammar by merging with the head T only when the feature cluster in T contains tense and Case features. This approach is compatible with the hypothesis that functional heads are syncretic categories projecting multiple specifiers (Chomsky 1995, Zubizarreta 1998). The analysis also confirms earlier hypotheses on the parasitic nature of Focus, as proposed by Horvath (1995), among others, with respect to various languages.

1 Word Order and Preverbal Focus

Central to the present analysis is the free word order property of Romanian, where DP subjects check their Case features in either pre- or postverbal position (SV/VS), as in (1).

(1) (Mulţi copii) se adăpostiseră (mulţi copii) în hol.

many kids REFL sheltered-3PL many kids in hallway

'Many kids had taken shelter in the hallway.'

In the context of (1), Topic constituents such as în hol 'in hallway' in (2) precede but cannot follow the preverbal subject.1

(2) în hol,   mulţi copii (*în hol)   se   adăpostiseră

in hallway many kids   in hallway REFL sheltered-3PL

de ploaie.

of rain

'Many kids had taken shelter from the rain in the hallway.'

In this configuration constituents with Focus stress occur either pre-or postverbally, as in (3). Although both sentences in (3) receive a contrastive Focus reading, preverbal placement of the Focus constituent as in (3b) adds stylistic emphasis. When preverbal, as in (3b), the Focus constituent appears between subject and verb.2 [End Page 164]


  1. a. Ieri,     mulţi copii se   adăpostiseră de ploaie la

    yesterday many kids REFL sheltered-3PL of rain at

    UŞA MEA (nu în hol).

    door-the my not in hallway

  2. b. Ieri,     mulţi copii la UŞA   MEA se

    yesterday many kids at door-the my   REFL

    adăpostiseră de ploaie (nu în hol).

    sheltered-3PL of rain   not in hallway

    'Yesterday, many kids took shelter from the rain at my

    door, not in the hallway.'

I approach the word order in (3) along the lines proposed in Motapanyane 1994 and Ştefănescu 1997, where preverbal subjects may target argumental positions when they do not come with a Topic or a Focus intonation. This analysis takes into account the behavior of bare quantifiers and quantified DPs in subject position, as presented below.

It has been generally accepted since Cinque 1990 that well-formedness constraints on chains prevent bare quantifiers and quantified DPs with a nonreferential reading from occupying Topic positions in overt grammar. The constraints on quantified elements extend to Romanian, as confirmed in all current studies (Alboiu 2000, Cornilescu 2000, Dobrovie-Sorin 1994, Motapanyane 1994) and as illustrated in (4).


  1. a. *(Pe) mulţi copiii Maria     (ii)-a     invitat ti

    on many kids Maria-NOM them has invited

    la aniversare.

    to birthday

  2. b. **Pe cinevai   Maria (li)-a   invitat ti la aniversare.

    on somebody Maria him has invited to birthday

In the light of these constraints, the subject in (3b) cannot be Topic, on a par with (4a). Also, it cannot be Focus, since a different constituent carries the Focus stress. By elimination, the subject in (3b) must occupy an argumental position. Further data in (5) confirm this analysis by introducing a bare quantifier in the structure.

(5) Într-o bună zi, cineva   TOATE PROSTIILE- astea

in one good day somebody all stupidities-the these

o să le scoată la iveală, şi atunci să te ţii!

will SA them bring to light and then SA REFL hold

'One day, somebody will bring all this crap to light and

then look out!'

In both (3b) and (5) the subjects, consisting of a quantified DP and the bare quantifier, respectively, disallow Topic or Focus readings and coexist with Focus constituents. If the latter target an...


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