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Ellipsis as silent doubling

  • Andrés Saab (Universidad de Buenos Aires / Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas)
Thursday 6 April 2017
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


I address the well-known problem of the identity condition on ellipsis (semantic or syntactic?) from a novel (or maybe better, broader) perspective, namely, I contend that the identity problem forms a natural class with the also well-known doubling problem (Kayne/Jaeggli’s observation).


(1)        Juan     la         vio       a          María.

            J          CL        saw     DOM    M.


Given a doubling configuration like this, there are questions at the basic level both from a syntactic (Case) and a semantico-pragmatic perspective (binding and so on). My point is that ellipsis consists of a silent doubling structure where a sometimes silent pronominal element (RE in 2) and a full-fledged syntactic structure (E-site in 2) form a doubling configuration:


(2)        John saw someone but I don’t who [RP RE [E-site]]   Surface anaphora


In contradistinction with an overt doubling like (1), in (2) RE is in charge of the semantic resolution of ellipsis (as in many LF-copy approaches, although we will see essential differences) and the E-site is entirely resolved in the syntax via lexical-syntactic identity. Lexical-syntactic identity is simply an instruction for creating syntactic fossils. In other words, ellipsis applies in the syntax and instructs both interfaces for not realizing the E-site. A syntactic fossil, then, is just dead syntax. Put differently, ellipsis is conceived here as both PF and LF “deletion” (deletion = absence of interface legibility). “Ellipsis as doubling” has many empirical consequences. It provides a plausible solution to at least the following ellipsis puzzles:


(3)        a. Vehicle Change effects (without appealing to VC),

            b. Indexical switches (without accommodation),

            c. Expressive mismatches (under perfect syntactic identity),

 d. Bias Vehicle Change also under perfect syntactic identity (i.e., legitimate ellipses where there is a mismatch in the bias of some lexical or functional item included in the E-site)


For each of these cases, I propose a derivation where antecedents and E-sites are syntactically identical (in a sense to be defined during the talk) without obtaining any semantic mismatch at LF. This is so because of two basic reasons: (a) the E-site is an LF fossil as already mentioned, and (b) RE semantically resolves the ellipses by only making reference to the at-issue content of the antecedent. The two essential assumptions that at the core of this proposal receive independent corroboration from different empirical domains. As for RE, Elbourne (2008), Bentzen et al (2013) and Messick et al (2016) have provided robust evidence for the presence of a pronominal (deep) element in surface anaphora. In this talk I will discuss two pieces of evidence in favor of the syntactic and semantic activity of R, namely, Inheritance of Content (Chung et al 1995 and Romero 2008, among others) and Barros’ effect (Barros 2012). As for LF “deletion”, our second core assumption, I will discuss evidence coming from the so-called allosemy view (Marantz 2013 and Harley 2014, among others), according to which lexical and functional items also require late insertion at the LF interface under particular locality conditions.



Bentzen, Kristine, Jason Merchant, and Peter Svenonius. 2013. Deep properties of surface pronouns: pronominal predicate anaphors in Norwegian and German. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 16:97–125.

Barros, Matthew. 2012. Else-modification as a diagnostic for pseudosluicing. URL http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/001761, ms.,RutgersUniversity.

Chung, Sandra, William Ladusaw, and James McCloskey. 1995. Sluicing and Logical Form. Natural Language Semantics 3:239–282.

Elbourne, Paul. 2008. Ellipsis sites as definite descriptions. Linguistic Inquiry 39:191–220.

Harley, Harley. 2014. On the identity of roots. Theoretical Linguistics 40: 225–276.Marantz, Alec. 2013. Locality domains for contextual allomorphy across the interfaces. In Matushansky, O. and A. Marantz (eds.) Distributed Morphology today. Morphemes for Morris Halle. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, press, 95-116.

Messick, Troy, Andrés Saab & Luis Vicente. 2016. Deep properties of a surface anaphora. Ms., UConn, CONICET-UBA, University of Potsdam.

Romero, Maribel. 1998. Focus and reconstruction effects in wh- phrases. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.     

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