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Abstract

This chapter gives an analysis in the framework of Bidirectional Optimality Theory (BiOT) of the relationship between nuclear accent and focus. Nuclear accent is a pitch accent that occurs near the end of an intonational phrase. Optimality Theory ( OT) makes use of a limited number of soft constraints (violable principles) ranked according to their relative strength. Optimal solutions are searched along two dimensions: (i) the dimension of the speaker who compares different prosodic forms for one and the same focal structure to be communicated; and (ii) the dimension of the hearer who compares different focus interpretations for a given prosodic form. The chapter analyses a number of illustrations of optimisation procedures involving the choice of nuclear accent/focus pairs for a given context. The constraints illustrate the interaction between syntax, semantics and pragmatics in determining the placement of accent within focus constructions.

In: Questions in Dynamic Semantics
An utterance is normally produced by a speaker in linear time and the hearer normally correctly identifies the speaker intention in linear time and incrementally. This is hard to understand in a standard competence grammar since languages are highly ambiguous and context-free parsing is not linear. Deterministic utterance generation from intention and n-best Bayesian interpretation, based on the production grammar and the prior probabilities that need to be assumed for other perception do much better. The proposed model uses symbolic grammar and derives symbolic semantic representations, but treats interpretation as just another form of perception. Removing interpretation from grammar is not only empirically motivated, but also makes linguistics a much more feasible enterprise.

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. Its combination of breadth, formal rigor, and originality is unparalleled in work on the form-meaning interface in human language...Zeevat's is the first proposal which provides a computationally feasible integrated treatment of production and comprehension for pragmatics, semantics, syntax, and even phonology. I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation with a sense of adventure. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin