I am interested in the cross-linguistic syntax and semantics of clefts and, more generally, grammatical markers which make reference to the Question Under Discussion (QUD). This interest stems from my investigation of the Mandarin Chinese focus marker shì, which I argue expresses cleft semantics without a "cleaving" syntax which separates the focused pivot from its background, as an English it-cleft does. I show that shì requires the material in its scope to be congruent to an accepted QUD, supporting the view that cleft semantics is QUD-dependent (Velleman et al 2012), unlike other exclusives such as only. I also investigate the syntax and semantics of "cleft questions," such as the English Who is it that came last night?, which seem to be an instance of backwards focus association as investigated in my dissertation.

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