University of Sussex

File(s) not publicly available

Ex-situ and in-situ focus in Hausa: syntax, semantics and discourse

posted on 2023-06-07, 21:24 authored by Melanie GreenMelanie Green, Philip J Jaggar
Hausa (Chadic, Afroasiatic) has traditionally been described as having only one focusing strategy: focus fronting (McConvell 1973; Tuller 1986; Green 1997; Newman 2000: 187-195). More recently, however, Jaggar (2001: 496-498) has argued that there is evidence for focus in-situ in Hausa. The aims of this joint paper are twofold. Our first aim is to clarify the descriptive facts, in order to establish whether there exists in Hausa a systematic correlation between the syntax and semantics of focus, or whether the interpretation of focus rests purely on discourse-pragmatic grounds. Our second aim is theoretical: to consider the data in the light of minimalist considerations (Chomsky 1995, 2000, 2001a, b), in order to present a unified syntactic analysis of in-situ and ex-situ focus. This in turn relates to broader theoretical issues, concerning optionality in a perfectly economical system. Assuming the notion of 'interface economy' as proposed by Reinhart (1995) and adopted by Chomsky (2000, 2001a, b), a 'marked' or 'costly' operation is only licensed if, at the interface, it results in a distinct interpretation from the 'cheaper' option. There are, however, a range of views about what constitutes 'markedness', 'complexity' and 'cost', to which we return below. The ensuing empirical research question can be framed as follows: if a language has more than one focusing strategy (morphosyntactic and/or phonological), can each of these be establsihed to correspond to a distinct interprative goal (hence providing support for the notion of language as an economy-driven system), or are interpretive 'choices' forced by pragmatic factors?


Publication status

  • Published


John Benjamins



Page range

187 - 213



Book title

Research in Afroasiatic Grammar II

Place of publication





Current Issues in Linguistic Theory

Department affiliated with

  • English Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Jacqueline Lecarme

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected