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27. Empty Categories and Ellipsis

JOSEP MARÍA BRUCART and Jonathan E. MacDonald

Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Syntax

Key-Topics anaphora, grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00029.x


A rather striking and cross-linguistically prominent property of natural language is the presence of phonetically unrealized elements in a sentence necessary for its correct interpretation. This general phenomenon falls under the heading of ellipsis. There is much variety with respect to the distribution and interpretive conditions of the gap left behind by ellipsis. Nevertheless, three fundamental questions crucial for understanding a gap are: (1) is it internally atomic or internally complex?; (2) what syntactic conditions allow for its presence?; and (3) how is its semantic information recovered? In Section 2, we outline the range of elliptical constructions, and offer some brief remarks regarding their construction specific properties. In Section 3, we address the three fundamental questions just introduced. As a starting point, we discuss cases of empty pronominal and nominal categories. Consider first the sentence in (1), which contains the null pronominal subject characterizing null subject languages (NSL): (1) pro vino. pro come- pst .3sg There is an unpronounced definite pronoun in subject position, represented as pro , an empty category first proposed by Chomsky (1982) (see also Jaeggli 1982 ). Consider another type of unpronounced subject in (2), represented by PRO: (2) Juan intentó PRO salir. Juan try- pst. 3sg PRO leave Although both null elements are ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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