Ellipsis constructions present many challenges to incremental sentence processing. One challenge is that most partial sentences that are compatible with ellipsis continuations are also compatible with non-ellipsis continuations. Example (1) is a case in point. This partial sentence is compatible with the ellipsis of the material following the wh-phrase in an embedded interrogative as in (1a) (a construction known as sluicing in the syntax literature), and various non-ellipsis continuations such as those in (1b) and (1c). John was writing something, but I don't know what … a. Ellipsis b…he was writing c… motivates him to write so much. Furthermore, there does not seem to be an obvious cue that can tell the parser whether ellipsis follows or not. In other words, environments where ellipsis is typically found show structural ambiguity. Therefore, there is always a danger that inducing ellipsis may turn out to be an incorrect analysis, and it may require structural reanalysis. Such reanalysis is costly and is avoided by the parser whenever possible (Schneider and Phillips 2001; Sturt et al. 2001). This in turn suggests that it is always safer for the parser to choose a non-ellipsis structure, since it can rely on bottom-up information in non-ellipsis continuations. If this is the case, the parser should choose ellipsis if and only if bottom-up information confirms that ellipsis is there. That is, the parser should not induce or infer ellipsis incrementally.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)