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Original scientific paper
Sandra Augendre; Universite Michel de Montaigne, Bordeaux 3; Universita degli studi di Caligari



The article aims at working on the relevant strategies in Italian to pass on a contrastive type information. More precisely, the scope is to study the structures that permit in this language to mark an element as being the contrastive focus of a statement, which is a type of informative contribution implying a paradigmatic opposition (X and not Y). The point of departure is the presentation and the comment of three structures described by the grammars and the various pragmatic studies as being adapted to the expression of the contrast in Italian. The first one, considered as specific to introduce a contrastive focus in italian, is called “contrastive topicalisation”: the contrastive focus is placed in first position and is strongly stressed. The second one is the “cleft–sentence”: the focus is isolated between the auxiliary and the relative pronoun in the main clause. The third one is the “focus postposition”: the focus occupies the ultimate position of the sentence and receives the main stress.
The objective is then to confront these theoretical data to the native speakers and to work on their intuitions about statements presenting the previous “strategies”. Indeed, the article presents the results of a research made on twenty persons on the basis of three pairs of statements. For every pair, it was asked the speakers to analyze the syntactic structure of the sentences, to tell if they saw a semantic/comunicative difference between both and if they preferred the one or the other one, and finally to propose linguistic or situational contexts in which they would use each of them.
The point of view of the speaker will be useful to confirm or to qualify some of the comments emitted by the grammars to describe the language as regards the realization of a contrastive focus in Italian. In particular, we will see that, while the grammars present the so–called “contrastive topicalisation” as totally adapted to the expression of contrastive information in Italian, the speakers have difficulties to interpret and find contexts for the statements presenting this structure. The results will led us to develop the idea that the only relevant caracteristic of a contrastive focus in Italian is prosodic and not syntactic: it needs to be stressed but there is no restriction on its position in the sentence.



informational structure; contrastive focus; Italian; pragmatics; syntax


La focalisation contrastive en italien: une etude de cas



L’article a pour but de travailler sur les stratégies pertinentes en italien afin de transmettre une information de type contrastif (focus contrastif), c’est–à–dire un apport informationnel impliquant une opposition paradigmatique. Le point de départ est la présentation et le commentaire des structures décrites par les grammaires et les différentes études pragmatiques comme étant adaptées à l’expression du contraste en italien: l’antéposition du focus, le clivage et la postposition du focus. L’objectif est ensuite de confronter ces données théoriques aux utilisateurs de la langue et de travailler sur leurs intuitions, à partir d’énoncés présentant les «stratégies» précédentes. L’intérêt de se placer du point de vue du locuteur est alors de confirmer ou de nuancer certains des propos émis afin d’expliquer le fonctionnement de la langue.


Mots clef 

structure informationnelle; focus contrastif; italien; pragmatique; syntaxe


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