Cleft and Pseudo-Cleft Constructions in English (Theoretical by Peter C. Collins

By Peter C. Collins

Systematic research of the discourse-functions of clefts and pseudo-clefts, offering info at the frequency of those buildings in several genres, and combating the `tidying-up' present in examples devised via the linguist.

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Press reportage, for instance, is characterized by relative proximity of content and of readership (see below for discussion), mode features which correspond to the current relevance of the field. With both essays and legal documents the content and the readership are distant (see below for discussion), mode features which again are field-related (in this instance, corresponding to the general applicability of the field: oriented towards universality in the case of essays, towards conditions and contingencies in the case of legal documents).

Whether Tom offered Sue a sherry is unknown. Unlike genuine pseudo-clefts, the sentences in (34) cannot be reversed. Nor can any of the sentences in (34) be uncleaved (for example *‘Tom offered Sue too sweet’). Although no examples of sentences ambiguous between a pseudocleft (identifying) reading and an attributive reading were encountered in the corpus, it is not difficult to invent examples. Consider (35): (35) What Tom offered Sue was a puzzle. (35) is ambiguous between an identifying reading (on which it qualifies as a pseudo-cleft), where a puzzle is understood in a substantive, referential sense (for example, ‘a crossword puzzle’), and an attributive reading, where the embedded wh-clause is interrogative and a puzzle has adjectival force.

Sentences (39a) and (41) are thus interpretable as (42a) and (42b) respectively: Defining the class 41 (42) a. If a heart never rejoices, it is (a) poor (heart). b. If a man believes that the contrast had nothing to do with the expression of the tradition…, he would be (a) foolhardy (man). The it of ‘proverbial’ sentences is arguably to be analysed as a determinative pronoun. 7 One piece of supporting evidence is the possibility of replacing it by he or she where appropriate (for example ‘He is a foolhardy man, surely, who…’).

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