Determiners may contribute to the interpretation of the nominal in terms of the notion of definiteness. This has a number of roles to play in interpreting a sentence. One of these has to do with how we introduce new items into a discourse and how we maintain a discourse topic. Consider the short monologue below:
Note that in this case the topic is also interpreted as the object: the one being searched. This is why this structure seems to be special with respect to the one in (96a), where the object has no extra aspects to its interpretation. From a syntactic point of view, the interesting observation is that the topic is a separate position, somewhere in front of the subject. We might account for why the element which sits in this position is interpreted as both the object and the topic by proposing that the object is moved into the topic position:
There are other phenomena besides distribution that can also be used to support structural analyses. One of these involves coordination. This is a device used in language to take two elements and put them together to form a single element. This coordinated element then acts like the two coordinated elements would have individually. For example, we can take two nouns, say Bill and Ben, and we can coordinate them into a single element Bill and Ben. This coordinated element behaves exactly like each of the nouns in that it can appear as subject, object, object of a preposition or topic in a sentence:
3.2.1 Move α
50c) involves topicalisation, a process which moves an element interpreted as a topic to the front of the sentence. A topic is typically something that has already been mentioned before in a conversation, or can be interpreted as easily accessible in a conversation due to the context. Consider the sentence in (50c), it is obvious that the conclusion mentioned must have been a part of the preceding discussion and that it has not just been newly introduced. We may analyse this sentence as:
3.2.2 D-structure and S-structure
In (60a) the PP in the park is an adjunct to the VP, modifying the VP by adding information about where the meeting took place. In (60b) the PP has moved to the front of the sentence, in a similar way to that in which topics are moved to the front. We can call this movement preposing. Before the preposing takes place, the PP is in its VP adjoined position:
5.2.7 Phrasal verbs
It seems that it is only when the verb has a PP complement which consists only of a prepositional head that the preposition is allowed to move out of the PP. If the preposition itself has a complement, or if it is modified, then it is not allowed to move. It is not entirely clear why this should be, as other heads can move out of their own phrases when there are other elements in other positions within them. For example, we have seen many cases of a verb moving out of the VP when its specifier or complement are filled by its arguments. Another observation from (138) might help to shed some light on the problem. Note that when the verb has a simple PP complement, it has a different interpretation: to put something off does not mean the same as to put something somewhere. Similarly, put down, put on, put back, put over, etc. all have somewhat idiosyncratic meanings that are not simply related to the meaning of put as a verb of placement. So, put down can mean ‘to kill’ (of animals), put on ‘to fake’, put back ‘to delay’ and put over ‘to convey’. This might suggest that it is not the same verb we are looking at in all these cases and especially they are not the same verb as in (138b). If this is true then it could be that the ability of the preposition to move might be lexically restricted by the verb: some verbs allow it, others do not. Of course, this still does not explain why those that do allow the preposition to move only take ‘simple’ PP complements, which contain just the preposition and so we cannot be said to have solved all the mysteries of phrasal verbs here. In fact we have probably only just scratched the surface and it has to be admitted that phrasal verbs present many very difficult problems for analysis under any set of assumptions. We will therefore leave this topic at this point and be content with the meagre understanding of them that we have gained.
These fronted elements are often referred to as topics, as they represent information that is already part of the discourse, or can be assumed to be readily retrieved by the participants in the conversation from the context or from general knowledge (often called ‘old’ information). Note that out of context, these expressions often sound strange, but given a context in which the topicalised element has already been introduced, they greatly improve:
Moreover, if the fronted topics occupied the same position as fronted wh-phrases, then we would expect them to be in complementary distribution, which they are not:
These data show us that the topic is not moved to the specifier of the CP, but to a position to its left. The obvious suggestion is that the topic is adjoined to the CP. This is supported by the fact that we can have multiple topics and adjunction is a recursive structure:
A complication is added by considering other examples. In embedded contexts, the topic does not precede the CP, but follows both the specifier and the head complementiser:
Thus it seems that there are two topic positions in the clause, one adjoined to the CP and one adjoined to the IP. The choice of the two is not free however as it is only in main clauses that the topic can adjoin to the CP and only in embedded clauses that the topic can adjoin to IP:
However, conditionals, unlike topics, are not restricted to the preceding position:
Moreover, conditional clauses are not associated with any particular position inside the main clause, unlike topics. Therefore we can conclude that conditionals are generated in these positions whereas topics are moved to these positions from various places within the IP.
7.5.2 Focus fronting
111a) is a case of topicalisation, whereas (111b) is something different. Note that the comma after the topic indicates an intonational difference between the two sentences: the topic forms an intonational unit by itself, with its own stress, and the following sentence also has its own stress. The other construction, however, has the fronted element within the same intonation unit as the rest of the clause and this element carries the major stress of the sentence. Interpretationally, there is also a large difference between these two sentences. In the first, the conversational situation must be that an Arsenal supporter has already been mentioned, probably as one of a number of people being discussed. The sentence then offers some new information about this person: that the speaker wouldn’t trust him. Thus we may classify the topic as ‘old’ information and what follows, usually termed the comment, as ‘new’:
7.5.2 Focus fronting
115) might be used in response to someone asking ‘who would trust women?’, with the meaning that it’s men who are untrustworthy, not women. However, this complementary distribution between foci and wh-elements should not lead us to assume that the focus sits in the specifier of the CP. We can see this from the fact that in embedded clauses the focus, like the topic, follows the complementiser:
7.5.2 Focus fronting
From this perspective, it seems as though the focus sits in a similar position to the topic, adjoined to the IP in embedded contexts. This assumption is also problematic, as if both the topic and the focus were adjoined to IP, one might expect them to be able to appear in any order. But this is not so:
7.5.3 Negative fronting
Note that the fronted negative is like the focus in its interaction with the topic: the topic precedes the fronted negative:
7.5.3 Negative fronting
We can account for the distribution of the topic if we suggest that it adjoins to the highest phrase that it can. In main clauses the topic can adjoin to the CP and therefore as this is the highest phrase, this is where the topic will adjoin. In embedded contexts, something prevents the topic from adjoining so high up. Perhaps there has to be a relationship between the selecting verb and the head of its complement clause, i.e. the complementiser, that the presence of the topic interferes with. In this case then the topic will have to adjoin lower down: to iP, if present, and if not, to IP.
In this chapter we have introduced the final part of the clause structure of the English sentence. This part of the structure, built on top of the IP serves a number of purposes, but collectively seems to be to do with the syntactic arrangement of operators of one type or another. With wh-movement, both in interrogative clauses and relative clauses, the wh-element is an operator with either quantifier-like or anaphoric function. The interpretation of this element is dependent on movement which has a dual role, both to mark the clause as having a special interpretation (as an interrogative or relative) and to establish a relationship between that interpretation and a position in the clause itself. Hence, questions can be seen to be ‘about’ the subject or the clause, etc. and relatives can relate the modified noun to the object of the clause, etc. Focus and negative fronting may also have a similar function in that their interpretation is quantifier-like. Topicalisation, although not quantificational, may be seen as anaphoric in that the topic refers to some element established in the discourse.