6: The Dynamics of Topic and Focus

In: Questions in Dynamic Semantics
Authors:
Maria Aloni
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David Beaver
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Brady Clark
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Robert van Rooij
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Abstract

A dynamic view on meanings as context change potentials provides a substantial account of the dependence of focused answers on the context set up by their preceding questions. Questions pose conditions on the focal structure of their answers and can further restrict the domain of subsequent focusing operators like only. Standard analyses of focus define congruence in terms of identity between the question meaning and the focal alternatives of the answer. Most existing dynamic analyses of questions have been developed in the tradition of the partition theory of Groenendijk and Stokhof. This chapter presents update semantics of questions and focuses building on Gawron's dynamic model of domain restriction. It describes how dynamic analysis gives an interesting characterization of the notion of discourse congruence which covers contextual restrictions. Finally, the chapter explains how questions can restrict the domain of quantificational sentences used later in a discourse within dynamic semantics.

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