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For Kiss (1998)--one of the most influential works in the linguistic literature, especially in the syntactic one, on "focus" -, "exhaustiveness" is what makes the "focus" of cleft sentences differ from "normal focus", that is, from "information focus".
Of this set of candidates, the subset S exhaustively identified by the cleft sentence is Arafat's "gesture of grandeur": from the context, we infer that only this gesture (that is, his acceptance of Israel) satisfies the predicate "x earned him an honorable place in history"; this predicate does not apply to the other members of the set C--Arafat's "failures" and "filthiness".
Finally, in volume 7 of his Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles (1949), Jespersen suggests a DISCOURSE-FUNCTIONAL explanation for the use of cleft sentences.
One may note Jespersen's use of the terms "focus" and "contrast," now commonly used (and misused) in descriptions of the discourse function of cleft sentences.
Remember that Declerck (1992) claims that cleft sentences and inferentials are specificational; that is, that they specify a value for a variable.
I am grateful to Maura Velazquez-Castillo, Jim Garvey, Sarah Rilling, and participants at the Humboldt University, Berlin, Workshop on the Discourse Function(s) of Cleft Sentences for discussion of various topics in this paper.
The second type of copular structure with dummy topic belongs to the canonical cleft sentences.
Like all cleft sentences, pseudoclefts are associated with an existential presupposition that characterizes the variable as an element of an alternative set.