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SFB 1252 | Prominenz in Sprache

Prominence is a key notion in our understanding of language as a flexible system. It plays a major role in building linguistic structures and in organizing the communicated information into coherent and continually updated discourse representations. The overall goal of the CRC Prominence in Language is to shed light on the nature of linguistic prominence.

Specifically, it aims at providing (a) coherent characterization of prominence in language; (b) a unified analysis of prominence-related phenomena in various linguistic subdisciplines, including a cross-linguistic typology of prominence-related constructions; and (c) an account for the interaction between prominence and other structuring principles in language.

The CRC uses the following three criteria to characterize potentially prominence-related phenomena. Def1: Prominence is a relational property that singles out one element from a set of elements of equal type and structure; Def2: Prominent elements are structural attractors, i.e. they serve as anchors for the larger structures they are constituents of, and they may license more operations than their competitors; Def3: Prominence status shifts in time (as discourse unfolds). This notion of prominence is applicable across subdisciplines of linguistics (typology, phonology and phonetics, morphosyntax, semantics, discourse pragmatics, psycho- and neurolinguistics) and consequently calls for a broad approach, in terms of methodologies and in terms of the object of investigation (diverse languages, group- and individual-specific traits). In addition to significantly improving our understanding of how language works, we also expect our investigations to make a substantial contribution to the study of the interface between language and other aspects of the human cognitive system.