It's not what you expected! The surprising nature of cleft alternatives in French and English
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Citation (published version)Emilie Destruel, Elizabeth Coppock, David Beaver. 2019. "It's not what you expected! The surprising nature of cleft alternatives in French and English." Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences, pp. 1 - 15. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01400
While much prior literature on the meaning of clefts—such as the English form “it is X who Z-ed”—concentrates on the nature and status of the exhaustivity inference (“nobody/nothing other than X Z”), we report on experiments examining the role of the doxastic status of alternatives on the naturalness of c'est-clefts in French and it-clefts in English. Specifically, we study the hypothesis that clefts indicate a conflict with a doxastic commitment held by some discourse participant. Results from naturalness tasks suggest that clefts are improved by a property we term “contrariness” (along the lines of Zimmermann, 2008). This property has a gradient effect on felicity judgments: the more strongly interlocutors appear committed to an apparently false notion, the better it is to repudiate them with a cleft.
RightsCopyright © 2019 Destruel, Beaver and Coppock. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.