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Reviewed by:
  • Rečenični fokus u engleskom i srpskom jeziku by Sabina Halupka-Rešetar
  • Boban Arsenijević
Sabina Halupka-Rešetar. Rečenični fokus u engleskom i srpskom jeziku. Faculty of Philosophy, Novi Sad, Serbia, 2011.

1. Introduction

While information structure and discourse functions have been at the center of attention of functional and cognitive linguists since the earliest days of these approaches, these domains had to fight their way into more formal schools of grammar, especially generative syntactic frameworks. Recent publications show that they have fully succeeded, as very strong arguments have been provided for the views that the relevant notions do figure as syntactic features, and moreover that such features enter the syntactic generation already at the zero level—the Numeration (see especially Aboh 2010). Even approaches that dispense with information structure in narrow syntax still treat it syntactically at its interface with phonology and/or semantics (see, e.g., Neeleman et al. 2009). The book under review takes on the challenging task of presenting two intersecting oppositions: an empirical one between the structural effects of information structure in what is traditionally labeled a configurational versus a non-/discourse-configurational language and one that is rather methodological, between a functionalist discourse-centered theoretical paradigm and one that is formal and syntax-centered. More precisely, it investigates the syntax of focus in English and Serbian from the perspectives of the functional Prague school and of the generative Minimalist Program. These oppositions are assessed in parallel, each of them receiving its own descriptive and theoretical treatment, and contrastive and comparative perspectives are only taken sporadically, where they are particularly feasible for the discussion of the respective issues. Finally, a hybrid model is presented, analyzing the relevant data with a combined inventory of methodological tools and architectural views of grammar.

The book is based on research that led to the author’s doctoral dissertation. Its practical disadvantage with respect to the potential readership is that it is written in Serbian. This review is an attempt to at [End Page 303] least partially compensate, by summarizing and discussing the contributions that it makes.

The book is organized into six chapters. Alongside those aimed at introducing the problem and concluding the discussion (chapters 1 and 6, respectively), they include one that discusses the two types of approaches targeted (chapter 2), a chapter that presents the empirical situation and contours of the theoretical picture in each of the two languages (chapter 3), another one that makes a critical appraisal of the theoretical approaches discussed, pointing out their main problems and advantages (chapter 4), and finally a chapter that presents an original framework. This last combines the advantages of both the functional and the formal syntactic views of information structure and applies them to the two languages (chapter 5). There are also five appendices, which contain the questionnaires and other material used in the research experiments constituting the empirical basis of the book.

The following section of this review describes the contents of the book, chapter by chapter. This is followed by a section that critically assesses these contents.

2. Contents of the Book

The author explicitly announces in the Introduction chapter that she is a generative linguist. However, the presentation of several different functional approaches to the issues of information structuring that follows in chapter 2 is not only highly objective but also manifests a high level of understanding. It is along some dimensions even more exhaustive than the presentation of the generative syntactic theories. An overview of the treatment of information structure related issues before the 20th century is used to set the ground for a detailed overview of the Prague school, which is followed by a section presenting the views of Halliday’s Systemic Grammar. Although these sections are limited to a presentation rather than a discussion, it is already made clear here that viewing sentential structure in relation to its immediate discourse context is considered the most important property of these approaches.

The next section presents the status of focus and discourse functions more generally within generative grammar. It also starts with a historical introduction, from Chomsky 1970 and 1976, through Jackendoff 1972 and Guéron 1980, to Minimalist...


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