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Laurence Goldstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199664986

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199664986.001.0001

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Structuring Silence versus the Structure of Silence

Structuring Silence versus the Structure of Silence

Chapter:
(p.36) 2 Structuring Silence versus the Structure of Silence
Source:
Brevity
Author(s):

Anne Bezuidenhout

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199664986.003.0003

This chapter takes issue with Merchant’s (2001) views about ellipsis and tries to argue, contra Merchant, that there is no ‘syntax of silence’. Rather, the only syntactic structure present in elliptical speech is the structure present in the speaker’s explicitly produced word tokens (and even that structure is cognitively imposed since word tokens have only linear structure, not the type of hierarchical structure that it is generally assumed is needed for syntactic analysis). This “overt” syntax is one clue that—along with other contextually provided information—is used by the hearer’s semantic and pragmatic processing systems to recover the full truth-conditional content that the speaker means to convey. With sub-sentences it is implausible to claim that there is some syntactic structure that is produced by the speaker and then deleted before ‘spell-out’. I argue that understanding sub-sentences requires us to look at the information structural properties of these sub-sentences and of the texts/discourses in which they are embedded. This results in a multiple constraint view, in which semantic and pragmatic information is seen to be crucial to recovery of the full (non-elided) content communicated by the speaker.

Keywords:   production, comprehension, code model of communication, competence, performance, VP ellipsis, fragment answers, psycholinguistic models of processing

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