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Focus marking in Kuria

Meredith Landman; Rodrigo Ranero

This paper examines focus marking in Kuria. We propose an account of the syntax/semantics
of the prefix /ne-/. This prefix displays a varied syntactic distribution, posing a puzzle as to
what semantically unifies all of its uses. In focus constructions, /ne-/ obligatorily appears
on a fronted (i.e. focused) phrase, whereas in simple declaratives, /ne-/ obligatorily appears
pre-verbally. Following previous analyses of similar markers in Bantu (Schwarz 2007 for
Kikuyu and Abels & Muriungi 2008 for Kiitharaka), we analyze /ne-/ uniformly as a focus
marker that arises in a focus phrase in the left periphery. We support this account of /ne-
/ by presenting novel data that suggest that even when /ne-/ occurs pre-verbally, it still
marks focus (VP focus or sentential focus.) We also show how /ne-/ differs syntactically
from similar markers in other languages. For example, Kuria allows for the focus marker to
appear internal to the focused constituent, in contrast with data from Kiitharaka (Abels &
Muriungi 2008) and other languages (see Hartmann & Zimmermann 2009 for Guruntum).
This paper thus discusses a range of data patterns relating to the Kuria prefix /ne-/, offering
insight into a syntax/semantic puzzle as well as cross-linguistic variation in the realization
of focus.


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