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Hanging Topics and Frames in the Romance Languages: Syntax, Discourse, Diachrony


Stark, Elisabeth (2022). Hanging Topics and Frames in the Romance Languages: Syntax, Discourse, Diachrony. In: OUP, Press. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, online.

Abstract

Hanging topics and frames are optional, adjunct-like utterance-initial elements without any syntactic function inside the clause they precede. Both terms are frequently used in an ambiguous way in the specialized literature, in a way that often confounds syntactic and functional properties. However, hanging topics and frames can be kept apart. Hanging topics, on the one hand, are defined as utterance-initial syntactically and often prosodically independent constituents that denote the topic referent, that is, a discourse referent, an information element comparable to a file card under which the comment, that is, the related information provided in the following sentence, has to be stored (“aboutness”). Hanging topics are thus one type of topic-marking construction, alongside dislocations, which are, however, syntactically more dependent on the clause they precede or follow. Frames, on the other hand, are syntactically even more independent than hanging topics: they are not coreferential to any element of the accompanying sentence, and they cannot be integrated in the following sentence without changing their scope behavior. Additionally, their function is different: Rather than denoting the topic of the following utterance (there is, however, a subtype that does so and is thus to be classified between hanging topics and frames), they denote or delimitate the interpretational frame (‘domain indication’) for the following utterance. Both constructions show a rather neat correlation between the discourse-pragmatic status of their referents as given or new and the prosodic and categorial marking: The newer the discourse referent, the more prominent its intonational profile and the more likely the presence of thematic markers (like Fr. quant à, ‘as for’). In a diachronic perspective, hanging topics and frames, constituting universally available initial elements of utterances, whose use is mainly coherence driven, do not show considerable changes from Latin to the Romance languages in terms of their syntax or morphophonology. What has basically changed, to a different extent in different Romance languages, is their variationist markedness (from colloquial to standard registers in some cases). In fact, hanging topics and frames have always been available in Romance as well as in Latin, where they are known as instances of nominativus and less frequently also as (adverbial) accusativus pendens.

Abstract

Hanging topics and frames are optional, adjunct-like utterance-initial elements without any syntactic function inside the clause they precede. Both terms are frequently used in an ambiguous way in the specialized literature, in a way that often confounds syntactic and functional properties. However, hanging topics and frames can be kept apart. Hanging topics, on the one hand, are defined as utterance-initial syntactically and often prosodically independent constituents that denote the topic referent, that is, a discourse referent, an information element comparable to a file card under which the comment, that is, the related information provided in the following sentence, has to be stored (“aboutness”). Hanging topics are thus one type of topic-marking construction, alongside dislocations, which are, however, syntactically more dependent on the clause they precede or follow. Frames, on the other hand, are syntactically even more independent than hanging topics: they are not coreferential to any element of the accompanying sentence, and they cannot be integrated in the following sentence without changing their scope behavior. Additionally, their function is different: Rather than denoting the topic of the following utterance (there is, however, a subtype that does so and is thus to be classified between hanging topics and frames), they denote or delimitate the interpretational frame (‘domain indication’) for the following utterance. Both constructions show a rather neat correlation between the discourse-pragmatic status of their referents as given or new and the prosodic and categorial marking: The newer the discourse referent, the more prominent its intonational profile and the more likely the presence of thematic markers (like Fr. quant à, ‘as for’). In a diachronic perspective, hanging topics and frames, constituting universally available initial elements of utterances, whose use is mainly coherence driven, do not show considerable changes from Latin to the Romance languages in terms of their syntax or morphophonology. What has basically changed, to a different extent in different Romance languages, is their variationist markedness (from colloquial to standard registers in some cases). In fact, hanging topics and frames have always been available in Romance as well as in Latin, where they are known as instances of nominativus and less frequently also as (adverbial) accusativus pendens.

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Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Romance Studies
06 Faculty of Arts > Zurich Center for Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
470 Latin & Italic languages
410 Linguistics
440 French & related languages
460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
450 Italian, Romanian & related languages
Uncontrolled Keywords:hanging topics, frames, connectivity, topic, aboutness, thematic markers, left periphery
Language:English
Date:18 July 2022
Deposited On:21 Feb 2023 10:36
Last Modified:10 Oct 2023 11:23
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Series Name:Oxford Research Encyclopedias
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.652
Official URL:https://oxfordre.com/linguistics/display/10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.001.0001/acrefore-9780199384655-e-652
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: German