The syntax of information structure and the PF interface


Focus movement to a left-peripheral position has been posited for both Hungarian and Italian. In this paper I argue against a unified cartographic treatment of focus movement, which analyses both as instances of movement to [Spec, Focus0]. I raise some theoretical issues for cartography, such as the proliferation of focus heads and the difficulties with accounting for optionality. Empirically, I show that a set of properties distinguish Hungarian and Italian left-peripheral focus movement suggesting a different syntactic analysis for the two constructions. Following Hamlaoui & Szendrői’s (2015) proposal for the syntax-prosody mapping of clauses, I show that Hungarian focus movement is prosodically motivated in that it is movement targeting the position that main stress is assigned to in the prosody. I show how the same proposal extends to right-peripheral and string-medial focus in Italian and heavy NP shift in English. I discuss the typological predictions of the that it follows from the proposal that left-peripheral focus movement is always accompanied by verb movement, while right-peripheral focus movement will target a position lower than the surface position of the finite verb. Finally, I propose that Italian left-peripheral focus movement is motivated by contrastivity. This accounts for the different characteristics of the two constructions: (i) that Hungarian, but not Italian, focus movement is accompanied by the movement of the finite verb; (ii) that Hungarian left-peripheral focus is prosodically unmarked, while Italian left-peripheral focus comes with marked prosody; and (iii) that Hungarian focus movement is pragmatically unmarked, in the sense that it can answer a wh-question, while Italian focus movement is explicitly contrastive (or perhaps even mirative or corrective). 

This article is part of the special collection: What drives syntactic computation?


focus, syntax-prosody interface, focus movement, information structure

How to Cite

Szendrői, K., (2017) “The syntax of information structure and the PF interface”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 32. doi:


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Kriszta Szendrői (UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT)



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