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On the status of exhaustiveness in cleft sentences: An empirical and cross-linguistic study of English 'also'- / 'only'-clefts and Italian 'anche'- / 'solo'-clefts

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2015
Author De Cesare Anna-Maria, Garassino Davide,
Project Italian Constituent Order in a Contrastive Perspective (ICOCP)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Folia Linguistica
Volume (Issue) 49(1)
Page(s) 1 - 56
Title of proceedings Folia Linguistica
DOI 10.1515/flin-2015-0001


The goal of the paper is to shed new light on the semantics and pragmatics of cleft sentences by discussing the exhaustive interpretation typically associated with these complex syntactic structures. Based on a fine-grained analysis of the contexts in which “exhaustiveness” can be cancelled as well as reinforced by English also and only and Italian anche and solo, we claim that this meaning component associated with clefts in English and Italian is best accounted for in terms of a conventionalized conversational implicature. Our analysis is based on a corpus of authentic cleft occurrences collected from different written sources. Keywords: cleft sentences, exhaustiveness, conversational implicature, contrastive analysis, English-Italian, corpus study