The role of the copula 是 si7 in the construal of

focus structure in early Southern Min

Chinfa Lien

Abstract:The paper explores the role of the copula 是 si7 in the interpretation of the focus structure in early Southern Min playscripts. I examine the configuration of 是 si7 with respect to a range of functional/lexical categories such as kinds of adverbs, types of modals, voice (featuring causativity and passitivity), aspect, and negation as well as verb and noun phrases. I also put forward tree structures showing how focus vis-à-vis topic in cleft and pseudo-cleft clauses with 是 si7 as the pivot are derived. In a nutshell, the syntactic position of 是 si7 is versatile and yet constrained. There is an asymmetry of the distribution of subject and object focusing with respect to the position of the copula 是 si7. I posit with Rizzi (2013) that the focus feature in the FocP triggers merging the focus constituent to the head Foc in FocP in CP. Apart from bearing the assertive force in the clause typing, the copula 是 si7 plays a supporting role of scoping over the focus constituent. I capture the syntactic behavior of the copula 是 si7 by construing it as an indispensable pivot in the derivation of focus structure.