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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the effect of language change on focusing and focus constructions based on observations and case studies. It begins by analysing bleached focus and contrasts it with independent focus. It also makes a distinction between universal focus effects and language-specific focus operators to show how language change can affect the specific parts of the grammar of focus. The discussion then turns to the emergence of focus sensitive particles, with particular reference to the semantic units that precede focus as part of semantic composition. The Jespersen Cycle is considered as a classic example of independent focus that gets bleached and finally lost. The article concludes by looking at information structure and syntactic change in the rise and loss of V2 in Germanic languages. It demonstrates how bleached focus can bridge the gap between the formal focus and informal notions of information structure.

Keywords: language change, focus constructions, bleached focus, independent focus, universal focus, focus operators, grammar, Jespersen Cycle, information structure, Germanic languages

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