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6. The Interpretation of Ellipsis1


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Semantics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207498.1997.00009.x


The interpretation of elided structures and incomplete constituents raises an important question for linguistic theory. What are the procedures by which speakers of a language are able to systematically generate appropriate meanings for these fragments? More specifically, what is the nature of the formal representations which speakers assign to different sorts of incomplete constituents in order to arrive at their interpretation? Consider the three sorts of incomplete structure illustrated in (1). (1)  a. John read the paper before Bill did. b. Max gave flowers to Lucy, and chocolates too. c. No student arrived, except John. (1a) is a case of VP ellipsis, where the VP of the PP adjunct phrase Bill did is missing, (1b) is an instance of bare argument ellipsis in which the second conjunct of the sentence, chocolates , consists only of an NP corresponding to the object of the verb in the first conjunct, (1c) is an example of an exception phrase fragment. It appears, at first glance, to be similar to bare argument ellipsis in that the fragment consists of an NP which corresponds to an argument (the subject) of the preceding clause. Arriving at a proper characterization of the procedures through which interpretations are assigned to the incomplete constituents in (1) will provide insight into the interaction of syntactic structure and semantic interpretation. In particular, it will ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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