Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 1.066

CiteScore 2018: 0.97

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.384
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 1.409

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Ahead of print


Regular and copular fragments in Basaá

Paul Roger Bassong
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Linguistics and Language Practice, University of the Free State, P.O. Box 339 Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2019-07-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2019-0024


The aim of this Article is to propose that fragment answers in Basaá (Bantu) derive from two different sources, namely, a regular source and a copular source. Regular fragments are those that are derived by movement of a Negative Polarity Item (NPI) or a CP complement to the left periphery of the clause followed by clausal ellipsis (Merchant 2004 and related work). Conversely, copular fragments involve a biclausal structure whereby the focalized fragment, no matter the syntactic function it fulfills in clause structure, finally ends up being the subject of the null verbal copula of the main clause. The fragment is initially selected as the external argument of the null verbal copula within the matrix VP along the lines of the VP-Internal Subject Hypothesis (Koopman and Sportiche 1991). From Spec-VP it raises to Spec-TP to satisfy the EPP requirements. The internal argument of the null copula is a headless relative in which a relative operator (covert/overt) moves to Spec-CP, a position above FocP the target of ellipsis. This gives rise to a structure whereby the fragment answer in the matrix clause and the relative operator in the embedded clause resist ellipsis. The analysis also provides semantic evidence that copular fragments are not clefts. The ellipsis approach is supported by a range of grammatical properties such as connectivity effects, locality constraints and subcategorization requirements. This paper is not only a contribution to Merchant’s (2004) ellipsis approach but it also provides new evidence for our understanding of the crosslinguistic variation of ellipsis.

Keywords: Basaá; ellipsis; regular and copular fragments


  • Aboh, Enoch O. 2007. Leftward focus versus rightward focus: The Kwa-Bantu conspiracy. SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics 15. 81–104.Google Scholar

  • Aboh, Enoch Oladé. 2010. Information structure begins with the numeration. Iberia 2(1). 12–42.Google Scholar

  • Akmajian, Adrian. 1970. Aspects of the grammar of focus in English. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Bassong, Paul Roger. 2010. The structure of the left periphery in Basaá. Yaounde: University of Yaounde I MA thesis.Google Scholar

  • Bassong, Paul Roger. 2012. Left peripheral focus and topic and complementizer agreement in Basaá. University of Potsdam. Ms.Google Scholar

  • Bassong, Paul Roger. 2014. Information structure and the Basaá left peripheral syntax. Yaounde: University of Yaounde I dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Belletti, Adriana. 2005. Answering with a cleft: The role of the null subject parameter and the VP periphery. In Laura Brugé, Giuliana Giusti, Nicola Munaro, Walter Schweikert & Giuseppina Turano (eds.), Proceedings of the thirtieth ‘incontro di grammatica generativa’, 63–82. Venice: Cafoscarina.Google Scholar

  • Brunetti, Lisa. 2003. Information focus movement in Italian and contextual constraints on ellipsis. In Gina Garding & Mimu Tsujimura (eds.), WCCFL 22: Proceedings of the 22nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 95–108. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1982. Some concepts and consequences of the theory of government and binding. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • É. Kiss, Katalin. 1998. Identificational focus versus information focus. Language 74. 245–273.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • É. Kiss, Katalin. 2009. Deriving the properties of structural focus. In Arndt Riester & Edgar Onea (eds.), Focus at the syntax-semantics interface: Working Papers of the SFB 732(3), 19–33. Stuttgart: University of Stuttgart.Google Scholar

  • Gilligan, Gary. 1987. A cross-linguistic approach to the pro-drop parameter. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Griffiths, James & Anikó Lipták. 2014. Contrast and island sensitivity in clausal ellipsis. Syntax 17(3). 89–234.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Grimshaw, Jane. 1991. Extended projection. Brandeis University. Ms.Google Scholar

  • Hamlaoui, Fatima & Emmanuel-Moselley Makasso. 2011. Bàsàa wh-questions and prosodic structuring. In Laura Downing (eds.), Questions in Bantu languages: Prosodies and positions (ZASPiL 55), 47–63. Berlin: Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft.Google Scholar

  • Hamlaoui, Fatima & Emmanuel-Moselley Makasso. 2015. Focus marking and the unavailability of inversion structures in the Bantu language Bàsàá (A43). Lingua 154. 35–64Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hyman, Larry. 2003. Bàsàa (A43). In Derek Nurse & Gerard Philippson (eds.), The Bantu languages, 257–282. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Hyman, Larry M. (ed.). 1979. Aghem grammatical structure. (Southern California Occasional Papers in Linguistics (SCOPIL) 7), 137–197. Los Angeles: University of Southern California.Google Scholar

  • Hyman, Larry M. & Maria Polinsky. 2010. Focus in Aghem. In Malte Zimmermann & Caroline Fery (eds.), Theoretical, typological and experimental perspectives, 206–233. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Ince, Atakan. 2012. Fragment answers and islands. Syntax 15(2). 181–214.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jenks, Peter, Emmanuel-Moselley Makasso & Larry Hyman. 2017. Relative clauses in Basaá (A43). In Gratien Gualbert Atindogbé & Rebecca Grollemund (eds.), Relative clauses in some Cameroonian languages: Structure, function and semantism, 17–46. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar

  • Kayne, Richard. 1994. The Antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Koopman, Hilda & Dominique Sportiche. 1991. The position of subjects. Lingua 85. 211–258.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lambrecht, K. 2001. A framework for the analysis of cleft constructions. Linguistics 39(3). 463–516.Google Scholar

  • Lipták, Anikó & Enoch Oladé Aboh. 2013. Sluicing inside relatives: The case of Gungbe. Linguistics in the Netherlands 30(1). 102–118.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Makasso, Emmanuel-Moselley. 2008. Intonation et mélismes dans le discours oral spontané en Bàsàá. Marseille: University of Provence (Aix-Marseille) dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Merchant, Jason. 1998. Pseudosluicing: Elliptical clefts in Japanese and English. In Artemis Alexiadou, Nanna Fuhrhop, Paul Law & Ursula Kleinhenz (eds.), ZAS Working Papers in Linguistics 10, 88–112. Berlin: Zentrum fur Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft.Google Scholar

  • Merchant, Jason. 2001. The syntax of silence: Sluicing, islands and the theory of ellipsis. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Merchant, Jason. 2003. Section excised from submitted version of fragments and ellipsis. University of Chicago. http://home.uchicago.edu/merchant/pubs/stripping.pdf.

  • Merchant, Jason. 2004. Fragments and ellipsis. Linguistics and Philosophy 27. 661–738.Google Scholar

  • Merchant, Jason. 2008. Variable island repair under ellipsis. In Johnson Kyle (eds.), Topics in ellipsis, 132–153. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Morgan, Jerry. 1973. Sentence fragments and the notion “sentence”. In Braj Kachru, Robert Lees, Yakov Malkiel, Angelina Pietrangeli & Sol Saporta (eds.), Issues in linguistics, 719–751. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar

  • Müller, Gereon. 2011. Pro-drop and morphological richness. http://home.uni-leipzig.de/muellerg/prodrop1.pdf.

  • Nishigauchi, Taisuke. 2006. Short answers as focus. Theoretical and applied linguistics at Kobe Shoi 9, 1–22. Kobe: Kobe Shoin Institute for Linguistic Sciences, Kobe Shoin Women’s University.Google Scholar

  • Ortega-Santos, Iván. 2016. Focus-related operations at the right Edge in Spanish: Subjects and ellipsis (Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 7). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Rizzi, Luigi. 1997. The fine structure of the left periphery. In Liliane Haegeman (eds.), Elements of grammar, 281–337. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar

  • Rodrigues, Cilene, Andrew Nevins & Luis Vicente. 2009. Cleaving the interactions between sluicing and preposition stranding. In Daniéle Torck & W. Leo Wetzels (eds.), Romance languages and linguistic theory: Selected papers from ‘going Romance’, Amsterdam 7–9 December 2006, 175–198. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Ross, John Roberts. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Temmerman, Tanya. 2013. The syntax of Dutch embedded fragment answers: on the PF-theory of islands and the wh/sluicing correlation. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 31. 235–285.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • van Craenenbroeck, Jeroen. 2010. Invisible last resort: A note on clefts as the underlying source for sluicing. Lingua 120. 1714–1726.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • van Craenenbroeck, Jeroen & Anikó Lipták. 2006. The crosslinguistic syntax of sluicing: Evidence from Hungarian relatives. Syntax 9(3). 248–274.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Watters, John. 1979. Focus in Aghem: A study of its formal correlates and typology. In Larry M. Hyman (ed.), Aghem grammatical structure: With special reference to noun classes, tense-aspect and focus marking, 137–197. Los Angeles: University of Southern California.Google Scholar

  • Weir, Andrew. 2014. Fragments and clausal ellipsis. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, Amherst dissertation.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2019-07-03

Citation Information: Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2019-0024.

Export Citation

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in