Syntactic Identity and Locality Restrictions on Verbal Ellipsis

Elixabete Murgia

This dissertation investigates the topic of verbal ellipsis in English. Two main issues are addressed in this work: (i) the identity condition that restricts the application of ellipsis and (ii) the different locality restrictions that apply to elliptical constructions. The identity condition is examined from the point of view of competence, while the locality condition is given a natural answer from the processing domain. Furthermore, a parsing algorithm based on minimalist grammars is defined. Chapter 1 introduces the topic. Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 deal with the syntactic identity condition. Chapter 2 reviews some proposals in the literature, namely, Lasnik (1995b), Kitagawa (1991) and Fiengo and May (1994). All these analyses examine controversial examples where, apparently, partial syntactic identity between antecedent and gap is found. Chapter 3 presents a new analysis which assumes late lexical insertion, in the spirit of derivational morphology (Marantz 1993), and offers a unified account of all the cases of partial identity introduced in the previous chapter. It is argued that syntactic identity must be respected, and that the crucial notion for ellipsis is identity of syntactic categoriesa condition that is met before lexical items are inserted. Also, the different readings that obtain under ellipsis (i.e., sloppy and strict readings) are explained as emerging at different points in the derivation: before and after lexical insertion, respectively. Chapter 4 reviews one proposal in the parsing literature (Lappin and McCord 1990) as well as the problems it faces. Chapter 5 offers a processing account of the locality restrictions on gapping (as opposed to VPE and Pseudogapping)), those are analyzed as a result of (i) tense absence/presence (Fodor 1985), (ii) low initial attachment of coordinates, and (iii) Spell-out operations which render syntactic structure unavailable (Uriagereka 1999). A two-fold ellipsis resolution process is presented herewhere some work is done on-line, but some at the LF level. Chapter 6 defines an algorithm based on minimalist grammar operations, precisely on the preference of Merge-over-Move-over-Spell-out (as defined by Weinberg 1999); thus, showing that minimalist grammar models can be translated into computational models. Chapter 7 presents the conclusions.