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What ellipsis can do for phases and what it can’t, but not how

Lobke Aelbrecht
From the journal The Linguistic Review

Abstract

The study of ellipsis, being a mismatch between form and meaning, has already proven to have consequences for our understanding of language in general, as it has helped us gain insights in other domains of the grammar. This paper focuses on one of these domains, namely the notion of Spell-Out and the theory of phases that has been developed within the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1995, The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Chomsky 2001, Derivation by phase. In Michael Kenstowicz (ed.), Ken Hale: A life in language, 1–52. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, and Chomsky 2005, On phases. Ms. MIT). Several authors have been tempted to tie ellipsis to Phase Theory, as ellipsis would be non-pronunciation at PF instead of pronunciation. In other words, ellipsis is the flip coin of Spell-Out, and the two differ only at PF. Although attractive, this proposal will be pointed out to run into empirical problems with regards to extraction possibilities. The data suggest that the difference between ellipsis and non-ellipsis is not simply decided at PF, but in the syntax already. At the same time, however, this paper aims to maintain the intuition behind the link between ellipsis and phases. It explores the chunks of structure that are targeted by both operations as well as their triggers.

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Published Online: 2016-10-6
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

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