Spring 2001
University of Chicago

Ellipsis and repair phenomena (Linguistics 471)


(get the pdf version)

Technical specs:

Time:  Fridays 1-4 pm
Place:  Cobb 119
Instructor: Jason Merchant

Office hours: Tu 1-3pm or by appointment
Office:  Classics 305
Tel:  (70)2-8523
email:  merchant@uchicago.edu

Goals and course description:

Ellipsis has always been one of the most fascinating and challenging puzzles for theories of grammar, in that it poses a seemingly insoluble dilemma: how does one associate meanings with silence, where the usual sound(gesture)-meaning correspondence is missing? This fact has stimulated the vast majority of the work on this topic, but there is another startling property of elliptical structures, which has come to prominence only more recently and which will be the focus of our attention here as well: the application of ellipsis to certain defective structures seems to repair them. In other words, structures which, when pronounced, are deviant in some way, seem to be licensed just in case they are elided (e.g., certain islands, anaphoric dependencies, multiple (wh- and other) movements, ‘scrambling’ in English, etc.). We will explore the implications of this startling fact for our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the deviancy in overt structures by examining their effects in a variety of elliptical constructions (sluicing, verb phrase ellipsis, antecedent-contained deletions, stripping, gapping, pseudogapping, etc., as time permits), with an eye to determining as well to what extent repair effects form a homogeneous class. We will also be working towards developing a general theory of the licensing conditions on ellipsis itself.


Coursework will consist of reading and discussion of the assigned papers, writing a 5-10 page squib (which may contain gaps, as a paper outline, to be filled in later) on a topic related to this course (to be chosen in consultation with me by the end of week 4), writing a two-page abstract based on that squib/paper (which will be distributed to all class participants in an abstract book for the miniconference), making a 15-20 minute presentation (with handout) of your work, and submitting a final paper incorporating comments and suggestions made at the miniconference.


Your evaluation for this course will be based on the above coursework, in the percentages indicated in the table below, as well as on class participation (15%).


Required readings are available as a packet in the Copy Center in Classics (Classics 9); you can go there and order a photocopy (though if you want it bound, you’ll have to take it elsewhere). Optional readings will be either in a folder in the common room (some articles) or are on reserve at Regenstein (books), to be photocopied at your leisure if desired (just please be sure to return the originals to the folder as soon as you’re done).


[*indicates that we’ll have to reschedule that meeting]
Week  Required reading  Supplemental reading  Coursework
1: Overview [3/30] 
Johnson 2001, Lappin 1996, Hankamer and Sag 1976
 Sag 1976 [ch. 2], Hardt 1993, Merchant 2001 [intro], Lobeck 1995, Winkler 1997 
2: Sluicing and island repair [4/6]  Ross 1969, Chomsky 1972 [pp. 70-73], Chung, Ladusaw, and McCloskey 1995  Lakoff 1970, 1972, Baker and Brame 1972 
3: [4/13]  Merchant 2001 [ch.5], Lasnik 2001  Romero 1998 [ch.2], Giannakidou and Merchant 1998, López 2000, Merchant 2001 [ch.3]  
4: [4/20*] Sluicing and other elliptical repair phenomena  Heck and Müller 2000, Merchant 2001 [pp. 108-115]  Merchant to appear, Hoji and Fukaya 1999, Nishigauchi 1998  consultation on squib topics completed
5:  VP-ellipsis; ‘vehicle change’ as repair [4/27]  Rooth 1992, Fiengo and May 1994 [ch. 5], Merchant 2001 [ch.1], Fox 2000 [ch.3]  Keenan 1971, Sag 1976, Tomioka 1997, Tancredi 1992, Hardt 1999  squib/paper outline due (15%)
6: [5/4*] Pseudogapping  
Lasnik 1999 [ch.7], Johnson 2001  N. Levin 1986 
7: Other (VP-) ellipsis repairs [5/11]  Kennedy and Merchant 2000, Merchant 2000 Kennedy and Lidz 2001   
8: Gapping; movement and repair [5/18]  Johnson 1996 [selections] Coppock 2001, López  and Winkler 2001, Hartmann 2000 
9: Open [5/25]    abstract due (10%)
10: [6/1] Miniconference   presentations (20%)
11: Finals week    paper due: (40%)



([R] indicates that an item or the relevant part(s) of it are in the required reading packet.)
  1. Baker, C. L. and Michael Brame. 1972. ‘Global rules’: A rejoinder. Language 48:51-75.
  2. Chomsky, Noam. 1972. Some empirical issues in the theory of transformational grammar. In S. Peters (ed.), The goals of linguistic theory, 63-130. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ. [R]
  3. Chung, Sandra, William Ladusaw, and James McCloskey. 1995. Sluicing and Logical Form. Natural Language Semantics 3:239-282. [R]
  4. Coppock, Elizabeth. 2001. Gapping: In defense of deletion. To be presented at CLS; Ms., Northwestern University.
  5. Fiengo, Robert and Robert May. 1994. Indices and identity. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. [R]
  6. Fox, Danny. 2000. Economy and semantic interpretation. MIT Press and MITWPL. Cambridge, Mass. [R]
  7. Giannakidou, Anastasia and Jason Merchant. 1998. Reverse sluicing in English and Greek. The Linguistic Review 15:233-256.
  8. Hankamer, Jorge and Ivan Sag. 1976. Deep and surface anaphora. Linguistic Inquiry 7:391-428. [R]
  9. Hardt, Daniel. 1993. Verb phrase ellipsis: Form, meaning, and processing. PhD thesis, University of Pennsylvania.
  10. Hardt, Daniel. 1999. Dynamic interpretation of verb phrase ellipsis. Linguistics and Philosophy 22:185-219.
  11. Hartmann, Katharina. 2000. Right Node Raising and gapping: Interface conditions on prosodic deletion. J. Benjamins, Amsterdam.
  12. Heck, Fabian and Gereon Müller. 2000. Repair-driven movement and local optimaization of derivations. Ms., Stuttgart University and IDS Mannheim.  [R]
  13. Hoji, Hajime and Teruhiko Fukaya. 1999. Stripping and sluicing in Japanese and some implications. In S. Bird, A. Carnie, J. Haugen, and P. Norquest (eds.), Proceedings of the 18th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 145-158. Cascadilla Press: Somerville, MA.
  14. Johnson, Kyle. 1996. In search of the middle field.  Ms., UMass-Amherst.  [R]
  15. Johnson, Kyle. 2001. What VP ellipsis can do, and what it can’t, but not why.  In Mark Baltin and Chris Collins (eds.), The handbook of contemporary syntactic theory, 439-479. Blackwell. [R]
  16. Keenan, Ed. 1971. Names, quantifiers, and the sloppy identity problem. Papers in Linguistics 4: 211-232.
  17. Kennedy, Chris and Jeffrey Lidz. 2001. A (covert) long-distance anaphor in English. Paper presented at WCCFL February 2001.
  18. Kennedy, Christopher and Jason Merchant. 2000. Attributive comparative deletion. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 18:89-146. [R]
  19. Lakoff, George. 1970. Global rules. Language 46:627-639.
  20. Lakoff, George. 1972. The arbitrary basis of transformational grammar. Language 48:76-87.
  21. Lappin, Shalom. 1996. The interpretation of ellipsis. In S. Lappin (ed.), The handbook of contemporary semantic theory, 145-175. Oxford University Press: Oxford. [R]
  22. Lasnik, Howard. 1999. Minimalist Analysis [ch 7: A note on pseudogapping, 151-174]. Blackwell: Oxford.  [R]
  23. Lasnik, Howard. 2001. When can you save a structure by destroying it? To appear in Proceedings of NELS 31. [R]
  24. Levin, Nancy. 1986. Main-verb ellipsis in spoken English. Garland, NY.
  25. Lobeck, Anne. 1995. Ellipsis: Functional heads, licensing, and identification. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  26. López, Luis. 2000. Ellipsis and discourse-linking. Lingua 110:183-213.
  27. López, Luis and Susanne Winkler. 2001. Syntactic variation at the edge: evidence from gapping. Ms., University of Illinois-Chicago and University of Tübingen.
  28. Merchant, Jason. 2000. SAI in comparatives and PF-output constraints. Ms., University of Groningen.  [R]
  29. Merchant, Jason. 2001. The syntax of silence: Sluicing, islands, and the theory of ellipsis. Oxford University Press: Oxford. [R]
  30. Merchant, Jason. To appear. Swiping in Germanic. In J.-W. Zwart and W. Abraham (eds.), Studies in comparative Germanic syntax. John Benjamins: Amsterdam.
  31. Nishigauchi, Taisuke. 1998. ‘Multiple sluicing’ in Japanese and the functional nature of wh-phrases. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 7:121-152.
  32. Romero, Maribel. 1998. Focus and reconstruction effects in wh-phrases. PhD thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  33. Rooth, Mats. 1992. Ellipsis redundancy and reduction redundancy. In S. Berman and A. Hestvik (eds.), Proceedings of the Stuttgarter ellipsis workshop. Arbeitspapiere des Sonderforschungsbereichs 340, No. 29.  [R]
  34. Ross, John R. 1969. Guess who? In R. Binnick, A. Davison, G. Green, and J. Morgan (eds.), Papers from the 5th regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 252-286. Chicago Linguistic Society: Chicago, IL. [R]
  35. Sag, Ivan. 1976. Deletion and logical form. PhD thesis, MIT.
  36. Tancredi, Chris. 1992. Deletion, deaccenting, and presupposition. PhD thesis, MIT.
  37. Tomioka, Satoshi. 1997. Focusing effects and NP interpretation in VP ellipsis. PhD thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  38. Winkler, Susanne. 1997. Ellipsis and information structure in English and German: The phonological reduction hypothesis. Arbeitspapiere des Sonderforschungsbereichs 340, No. 121.