In syntax, dislocation refers to a construction in which a referential constituent occurs in a special, intonationally and/or grammatical separate part of the clause (sometimes described as "outside the clause")
- A dislocation construction (also called detachment construction) is a sentence structure in which a referential constituent which could function as an argument or an adjunct within a predicate-argument structure occurs instead outside the boundaries of the clause containing the predicate, either to its left (left-dislocation, henceforth LD) or to its right (right-dislocation, henceforth RD). (Lambrecht 1994:1050)
For example, in English sentence My aunt, she died when I was six the noun phrase my aunt could be the subject of the clause (My aunt died when I was six) but is left-dislocated instead and its position within the clause is occupied by a coreferential pronoun she. He's a lier, that John is a sentence with a right-dislocated element (that John).
Instead of dislocation, various other terms have been proposed in the literature. The left dislocated constituent has been called theme (Dik 1997) or topic (Lambrecht 1994), whereas the right-dislocated constituent has been named tail (Dik 1997) or antitopic (Lambrecht 1994).
Lambrecht (2001: 1050) suggests four criteria for determining a dislocation construction. They include:
- extra-clausal position of a constituent,
- possible alternative intra-clausal position,
- pronominal coindexation,
- special prosody.
Of the four criteria only the first one is obligatory for a sentence construction to qualify as an instance of dislocation.
There is a general concern in the literature that right-dislocation and left-dislocation are topic-marking constructions, however, the exact discourse functions of the two constructions and the difference between them is a matter of ongoing debate (see among others Lambrecht 1994, ward and Birner 1996, Manetta 2007).
- detachment (but this is often defined in a somewhat different way)
- Dik, Simon C. 1997. The theory of functional grammar. Part 1. The structure of the clause. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Lambrecht, Knud. 1994. Information structure and sentence form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Lambrecht, Knud. 2001. Dislocation. In Martin Haspelmath, Ekkehard König, Wulf Oesterreicher & Wolfgang Raible, eds., Language Typology and Language Universals: An International Handbook. (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, 20). Vol. 2, 1050-1078. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter.
- Manetta, Emily. 2007. Unexpected left dislocation: An English Corpus Study. Journal of Pragmatics 39, 1029-1035.
- Prince, Ellen, 1997. On the functions of left-dislocation in English discourse. In: Kamio, A. (Ed.), Directions in Functional Linguistics. John Benjamins, Philadelphia, pp. 117–144.
- Prince, Ellen, 1998. On the limits of syntax, with reference to topicalization and left-dislocation. In: Cullicover, P., McNally, L. (Eds.), Syntax and Semantics, vol. 29. Academic Press, New York, pp. 281–302.
- Ward, Gregory and Birner, Betty J (1996): On the Discourse Function of Rightward Movement in English. In: Goldberg, Adele (ed.): Conceptual Structure, Discourse and Language. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information Publications. 463-479.