We are very happy to announce the next talk in the Phonology Colloquium, which will take place on Wednesday, June 12, 4 – 6 pm in IG 4.301.

Emilie Destruel (University of Iowa) will present „The pragmatics of French (non-)prototypical clefts: Influence of the type of question on naturalness and interpretation“.


This paper investigates the interpretative properties of two clefts in French; the well-known c’est-cleft and the under-studied y’a-cleft. A prevalent assumption is that, when they signal narrow-focus, these two clefts differ with respect to exhaustivity; the former specifies a unique referent for the focus variable, but not the latter. Empirical evidence from a forced-choice task suggests that this analysis is going down the right path. Yet, the paper argues for a refined understanding of the conditions of use for these two clefts, positing that c’est– and y’a-clefts do not occur in the exact same narrow-focus context. Rather, their alternation is linked to the type of question asked—a feature absent from past studies. In a nutshell, I argue that c’est-clefts are more naturally found with questions that require a full answer (i.e., Mention-All questions), whereas y’a-clefts are more appropriate in contexts where the question allows for a non-maximal answer (i.e. Mention-Some questions). Additionally, when y’a-clefts occur as answers to Mention-All questions, they convey anignorance inference, which is much weaker in Mention-Some contexts. Evidence supporting this proposal comes from a second experiment; a rating task whose results also suggest that the type of question asked not only influences naturalness, but also the strength of the inferences respectively associated with the two cleft structures (exhaustivity and ignorance).

You are cordially invited!