Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka, 2015. “Focus adverbs at the vP and higher edges.”
Presented (most recently) at the University of Washington.

Focus-sensitive operators must associate with a focused constituent (the associate) in their c-command domain (Jackendoff, 1972; Rooth, 1985, 1992; Tancredi, 1990). However, I show that this c-command requirement is insufficient to capture the distribution of focus adverbs (e.g. ‘only’) in Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. Focus adverbs in these languages must be as low as possible while c-commanding their focus associate, within a particular extended vP domain. The generalization is similar to what has been described for German by Jacobs (1983) and Büring & Hartmann (2001), but without a formal account.

I present an analysis which derives the behavior observed in Mandarin and Vietnamese using a system of ranked, violable constraints. Optimizing cyclically, rather than globally, at each phase level, allows for apparent optionality in the position of focus adverbs and correctly identifies the vP edge as the locus of operators which associate long-distance. I show how this general system can also extend to the behavior of Romance, Bantu, and Chadic languages where foci are required to be low in the clause.