Amalgam clefts in spoken English
Sánchez Lander, Cristina
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When speakers mark the focus of a sentence they do so because they need to highlight that this constituent conveys the new information of an utterance. That is, they want to bring the interlocutor’s attention to that particular piece of information. In English the focus can be marked in different ways. On the one hand, constituents can receive focal stress to mark their informative importance. On the other hand, different information packaging constructions can be used to place constituents in focus. In the spoken language of some varieties of English it is common to use amalgam clefts to mark the focus of a sentence. The main characteristic of amalgam clefts is that one of the two finite clauses that form the amalgam is an independent-like clause which appears in a context that apparently should not admit an independent clause. The two finite clauses share some constituents. This is illustrated in (1) below: (1) What I want to do here is I want to summarize my paper. Notice that in (1) the sequence I want to appears in both clauses. As both clauses contain amalgamated linguistic material, this construction is called “amalgam cleft”. There are four types of amalgam clefts: amalgam pseudocleft, reverse amalgam pseudocleft, that’s x is y type amalgam cleft and question-answer amalgam. Amalgam clefts are apparently similar to standard pseudoclefts; the only difference between them is thought to be that the Focus Phrase (FP) of amalgam clefts is, contrary to standard pseudoclefts, an independent-like clause that appears in a dependent-clause position. However, following O’Neill (2012, 2015) I show that despite their apparent similarities, amalgam clefts are not pseudoclefts since the former allow multiple wh-expressions and sluicing and pseudoclefts do not and whereas pseudoclefts can appear in Exceptional Case Marking (ECM) and raising contexts amalgams cannot. Additionally, I present evidence that the to be form that appears in amalgam clefts is not a real copula and I follow O’Neill (2012) in claiming that amalgams are some sort of coordinated structures. That is, the copula of amalgam clefts has lost its copulative function. The use of amalgam clefts is determined by contextual factors: speakers are more likely to opt to produce amalgam clefts when the predicate of the wh-clause is do, when only one syllable is repeated between the wh-clause and the FP, and when there are multiple FP clauses.