Anna-Christina Boell (University of Göttingen)  


That's also it! The exhaustivity effect of non-exclusive focus particles on it-clefts  





A central question in the literature on it-clefts in English, as well as their counterparts in German and other languages, is whether the cleft structure (1) comes with the exhaustivity inference in (2), which is taken to be similar to the assertion in exclusive sentences (3).


(1) It was [SUE] who climbed a mountain. (Cleft Sentence)


(2) Nobody other than Sue climbed a mountain. (Exhaustivity Inference)


(3) Only [SUE] climbed a mountain.


It has been claimed (see Altmann 1976, Percus 1997) that focus particles cannot appear in it-cleft sentences if their meaning contradicts the generally assumed exhaustivity inference either via uttering it (e.g. not only, also) or presupposing it (e.g. even). The corpus data presented in this talk show, however, that it-clefts including non-exclusive focus particles do, in fact, appear frequently in natural language examples for German, as illustrated in the exampes below:


(4) Es ist auch ihre Perspektivlosigkeit, die viele Jugendliche zur Flasche greifen lässt.

     It is also their lack of perspective that makes many teenagers reach for the bottle.  


(5) Es ist vor allem das Wetter, das uns bis jetzt einen Strich durch die Rechnung macht.

     It is especially the weather that has messed up our plans so far.  


Additionally, this talk presents the results of a judgement experiment conducted on the basis of the natural language examples found in the corpus. The empirical data show that it-clefts which include non-exclusive focus particles are generally accepted by native speakers of German.