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From:    "Mark J. Reed" <[log in to unmask]>
On Mon, Oct 11, 2004 at 11:57:18AM -0700, H. S. Teoh wrote:
> > I meant "topic" and "focus" synonymously. I suppose I'm using the
> > wrong terminology?
>
> They are often synonymous in English, but as technical linguistic terms
> they are not.  I only know this from reading past posts on this list,
> however. :)  I personally am not familiar enough with the terms to
> explain the distinction, and I suspect it depends somwhat on which
> linguistic theolo. . .er, theory you subscribe to.  I *believe*,
> however, that a "focus" is a new element in the conversation, appearing
> for the first time in the sentence in question, while a "topic"
> is an already-established element that may not even be explicit
> in the sentence under discussion.

More or less; there seems to be an emerging consensus that the "topic"
cannot be defined any more specifically than "what the sentence is about",
which becomes fancified in the technical discourse analysis literature by
referring to the "aboutness-relation".

(Discourse analysis is, yes, the mushiest field within linguistics.)

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Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
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