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Constraints on aspectual complement ellipsis. The view from Romanian

Alexandru Nicolae
From the journal The Linguistic Review

Abstract

Romanian aspectual complement ellipsis reveals the fact competing selection frames of verbs filter out potentially well-formed instances of deletion, this situation revealing yet another constraint on ellipsis with verbal licensers. Situations of this sort were dealt with in previous generative models by assuming “global derivational constraints” no longer available in the current minimalist architecture of the grammar. After delimiting the domain of ellipsis with verbal licensers in Romanian (the passive auxiliary be, the modal and aspectual verbs in biclausal non-restructuring configurations allow the deletion of their complement), we turn to the behaviour of Romanian aspectual verbs. Romanian aspectuals have a double selection frame: (i) raising verbs occurring in biclausal configurations, and (ii) full transitive verbs with a direct object denoting a hidden eventive component. A superficial application of the standard ellipsis diagnostics may lead one to reject the idea that aspectual verbs are licensers of ellipsis as direct object extraction and antecedent-contained deletion with a direct object pivot are blocked. This is, however, due to the fact that these verbs have a transitive selection frame. When other types of constituents from the ellipsis site are extracted or included in antecedent-contained deletion configurations (e. g., indirect objects, subcategorized PPs), the construction is well-formed, this testifying to a fully articulated ellipsis site. In other words, the transitive selection frame blocks an otherwise potentially well-formed instance of ellipsis. Apparent cases of Null Complement Anaphora thus appear to be hidden situations of “undiagnosable ellipsis”.

Acknowledgements

I wish to express my gratitude to Alexandra Cornilescu, Adam Ledgeway, Gabriela Pană Dindelegan, Ian Roberts, who at various points read parts of this paper and made very useful suggestions, and to Irina Nicula and Adina Dragomirescu, who read the final draft. I also wish to thank Jason Merchant (e-mail correspondence, July 2013) who encouraged me to pursue this topic and gave me important suggestions and indications. I am also extremely grateful to the two anonymous reviewers who raised extremely interesting questions and made important suggestion which have improved the paper in many respects, and to the participants at the workshop on ellipsis organized by the University of Vigo in November 2012 for their stimulating questions and remarks. Remaining errors are entirely mine.

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