UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 12 (2000)

Fronting: The syntax and pragmatics of ‘focus’ and ‘topic’


We argue on conceptual and empirical grounds that there are no dedicated Topic and Focus heads. Instead, we postulate two semantically trivial heads, Gap and Fon, which may be merged in the left periphery, with distinct syntactic and morphological properties. Gap is a Case assigner; Fon morphologically selects for the PF-interpretable part of some sign. These heads can be exploited to front phrases which may be pragmatically interpreted as topic or focus. We further argue that the two fronting mechanisms postulated can explain certain properties of NPI licensing in English, where Copy Movement, with or without movement in the PF component, cannot.

[PDF file]