Introduction to Information Structure

The class provides an overview of the major information-structural categories and their linguistic realization in natural language. Speakers structure their utterances such that the content of the utterance is optimally adjusted to what they take to be the hearer’s state of awareness and his or her knowledge and belief states, which largely depend on the preceding context (information packaging). Information structure thus serves the central function of integrating the content of linguistic utterances into the (non-) linguistic context. In class, we will look at the three major IS-dimensions given – new; focus – background, and topic- comment, and the linguistic means (prosody, morphology, syntax) employed for their realization. We also look at the semantic and pragmatic effects of information-structuring, in particular at association with focus. Students are encouraged to do little investigations of the realization of IS-categories in their own languages and they will have the opportunity to present some of their results in class.