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Tapping into Semantic Recovery

On May 31st, Bobby Ruijgrok succesfully defended his doctoral thesis and graduated. The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics congratulates Bobby on this great result.

Bobby Ruijgrok
31 May 2018
Full text in Leiden University Repository


To interpret (1) a process of semantic recovery is required when we process the "elliptical" right conjunct. (1) John likes bananas, and Sally pears. In (1) the message of the right conjunct is that Sally *likes* pears; she did not - for example - steal them. Somehow we can retrieve a missing element and integrate it with the remaining elements. This dissertation investigates the processing of ellipsis, in particular the ellipsis type Gapping and its sub-type Stripping. After a thorough review of the theoretical and experimental background on Gapping (and Stripping), five electrophysiological studies are reported -- including one replication study. Using the method of event-related (brain) potentials, questions are tackled regarding the nature of syntactic, semantic and prosodic processes and how they interplay. Two mechanisms described in the experimental literature -- "Copy alpha" and "cue-based retrieval" -- are drawn upon to connect theory to processing. It is true that a mapping between existing theoretical insights and actual processing may be problematic, however, commensurate with theoretical insights, all experimental findings underscore the multidimensional nature of Gapping and Stripping. It is further argued that ellipsis resolution is sustained by a two-stage mechanism that is based on retrieval and integration processes.

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