A tune-based account of Turkish information structure

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Approval Date: 2003

Thesis Language: English

Student: Umut Özge

Co-Supervisor: HÜSEYİN CEM BOZŞAHİN, Hüseyin Bozşahin


Languages differ in the means they avail themselves of for the structural realization of information structure, where available options are word order,prosody and morphology. Turkish has long been characterized as predominantly using word order and its variation in realizing information structure, where certain positions in a sentence are associated with certain pragmatic functions related to information structure. Prosody has been proposed to play only a secondary role interacting with word order. Contrary to this widely established view, the thesis argues that the notion that sentential positions have pragmatic functions and word order variation is a syntactic means to realize these functions can be abandoned, without any loss of explanatory power, in favor of a tune-based perspective where prosody is the sole structural determinant of information structure. In this setting word order variations are argued to be prosodically motivated, in that Turkish phonology imposes some precedence constraints on intonational contours. Word order variation then turns out to be just a consequence as opposed to being a determinant in attaining the right information structure required by the discourse context. To substantiate these claims a tune-based account, based on Steedman's account of English information structure, is proposed for the structural realization of information structure in Turkish, whereby information structural units are directly associated with prosodic phrases intonationally marked in certain ways. Validity of the account is tried to be established by intonational analysis of recorded speech data. As for the explanatory value, the information structure phenomena that has received positional explanation in the relevant literature, are tried to be captured only in prosodic terms, without committing to positions, syntactic strategies and such.