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Information structure, (inter)subjectivity and objectification1

  • Jenneke van der Wal (a1)

This paper discusses how information structure can be seen as a subjective and intersubjective concept in Verhagen's (2005) and Breban's (2010) definitions, though less so in Traugott's (2010) use of the terms. More difficult is the question of whether markers of information structure can be characterised as (inter)subjective; this is more easily determined for morphological markers than for prosody or word order. For unambiguous markers of information structure, I suggest that their emergence (e.g. copula > focus marker) is typically accompanied by (inter)subjectification, whereas their further development (e.g. topic marker > subject marker) displays objectification. The paper not only shows that grammatical items can undergo an increase as well as a decrease in (inter)subjectivity – thus denying strict unidirectionality – but also confirms that these processes are independent of grammaticalisation.

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Author's address: Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA,
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This paper is part of the research project Grammaticalization and (Inter)subjectification (GRAMIS), funded by the Belgian Science Policy. I wish to thank three anonymous Journal of Linguistics referees, and Kristin Davidse, David Willis, Tine Breban, Freek van de Velde, Arie Verhagen, and specifically Heiko Narrog and Steve Nicolle for discussion of and input into this paper, although the views expressed here do not necessarily match theirs, and any errors remain my own.

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