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A Comparison of Wh-Clefts and it-Clefts in Discourse

Ellen F. Prince
Language
Vol. 54, No. 4 (Dec., 1978), pp. 883-906
DOI: 10.2307/413238
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/413238
Page Count: 24
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A Comparison of Wh-Clefts and it-Clefts in Discourse
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Abstract

Wh-clefts and it-clefts have long been claimed to be interchangeable. However, an examination of naturally-occurring discourse demonstrates that this claim is incorrect. The presupposed part (WH-clause) of a WH-cleft represents information that the speaker can assume the hearer is thinking about. In one variety of it-cleft, the presupposed part (that/WH-clause) represents information which the speaker assumes the hearer knows or can deduce, but is not presumably thinking about. In another variety of it-cleft, the presupposed part represents information which the speaker takes to be a known fact, though definitely NOT known to the hearer.

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