I am currently studying the structural placement of focus particles, in particular sentential ‘only’ words in Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. I observe that in languages that allow sentential focus particles at different attachment heights on the clausal spine, there is a generalization that a focus particle must be as low as possible while c-commanding its associate, within a given phase. Jacobs (1983) and Büring & Hartmann (2001) describe the distribution of German focus adverbs in similar terms, but its cross-linguistic generality has not been explored and the nature of this “as low as possible” description has not been adequately studied. The sensitivity of this behavior to phase boundaries forms a new argument for the theory of phase-based, cyclic structure-building.

Return to all projects