chapter  Chapter 8
6 Pages

Focus and emphasis with cleft sentences

ByNancy Stenson

A sentence typically contains a combination of old information, which provides background or identifies the topic of the sentence and is assumed to be already familiar to the speaker’s audience, and new information not assumed to be known to the audience. A cleft sentence structure more explicitly divides a sentence into new and old information by drawing attention to a particular element of a sentence as more salient (new or unexpected) relative to the rest of the sentence. In English, it takes the form shown below: ‘It’s my brother who lives in Galway’ (i.e., not my sister, son, friend, etc.)