Focus in Udmurt: Positions, Contrastivity, and Exhaustivity

Erika Asztalos


The paper presents the results of three surveys examining the positions and the interpretation of foci in Udmurt. While confirming Tánczos’s (2010) findings that the most acceptable focus position is the immediately preverbal one, and that sentence-final focusing is also grammatical for a part of the speakers, the results indicate that foci, with some limitations, can also occur in some preverbal but not verb-adjacent positions. Foci associated with the exhaustive particle gine ‘only’ were highly accepted in all tested positions. From the perspective of interpretation, none of the focus positions turned out to be obligatorily contrastive or necessarily exhaustive. Sentence-initial focusing is mostly available for subjects and for dative complements. As for direct object foci, preverbal but not verb-adjacent positions are mostly accessible for personal pronouns and, more broadly, for objects marked with the accusative case suffix. The more flexible distribution of personal pronoun objects as compared to morphologically unmarked objects is presumably related to the high degree of definiteness of the former. The sentence-final focusing strategy was interpreted as a phenomenon induced by Russian influence and as a sign of the ongoing SOV-to-SVO change of Udmurt. The results also show that speakers vary considerably in their focus position preferences.

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