In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ellipsis

  • Introduction
  • Compilations of Articles
  • Ellipsis as Anaphora
  • Ellipsis and Information Structure
  • MaxElide and Parallelism in Ellipsis
  • Does Ellipsis Have Syntactic Structure?
  • The Nature of Syntactic Licensing of the Ellipsis Site
  • Semantic Structure of the Ellipsis Site
  • Ellipsis and Discourse Licensing
  • Ellipsis and Islands
  • P-Stranding and LF-Islands in Ellipsis

Linguistics Ellipsis
Adam Szczegielniak
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0218


Ellipsis in linguistics refers to a construction whose phonological form is missing relative to the form that construction should have considering the meaning it denotes. Mismatch between form and meaning requires that meaning associated with the gap be somehow recoverable; in that sense, ellipsis differs from deletion, such as deletion of features. In general, ellipsis requires the missing Phonetic Form (PF) to denote information that is given from a linguistic context. Thus, ellipsis is a form of marking givenness, which in turn can be argued to be a reflex of presuppositionality, and can be classified as a type of anaphora. Existence of presuppositions is a universal language trait, so it is not surprising that, as far as we know, there are no languages that lack ellipsis constructions altogether. However, there is cross-linguistic variability as to what can be elided, and what cannot be elided. This suggests that ellipsis interacts with modules of grammar that are sensitive to language variation. Two predominant schools of thought assume that either we have lexical variation as to what silent pro-forms languages can have, or we have a complex interaction of syntax, semantics, and prosody that generates different forms of ellipsis. The latter approach requires that, at some level of the grammar, there is an abstract enough representation of the ellipsis site so that it can be licensed as an anaphor that is associated with a clear antecedent in the linguistic signal. A lot of research has been devoted to establish the appropriate level at which the elided anaphor can be structurally identified with its antecedent. This research has raised many interesting questions about the nature of the syntax-semantics interface, as well as to the syntax-prosody interface, and the possible existence of a prosody-semantics interface. These include, among others, questions such as: (i) Is there a fully-fledged syntactic structure in the elided anaphor? (ii) What licenses ellipsis remnants: movement, focus, prosody, all the above? (iii) What are the identity conditions that need to hold between an elided anaphor and its linguistic antecedent? Attempts at answering these and other questions has led to some fruitful and exciting research that has impacted our understanding of how language works.

Compilations of Articles

There have been numerous compilations of articles in both book and journal form that aim to capture the diverse and rich field of ellipsis research. General compilations include Baltin 2014, Johnson 2008, and Lappin and Benmamoun 1999. More narrowly defined compilations include Kluck, et al. 2014, which focuses on parenthesis and ellipsis; Merchant and Simpson 2012, which deals with sluicing; Schwabe and Zhang 2015, which concentrates on ellipsis in conjunction; and Schwabe and Winkler 2003, where the topic is ellipsis licensing at the interfaces.

  • Baltin, Mark, ed. 2014. Special issue: Structural approaches to ellipsis. Lingua 151.

    The volume is a compilation of papers from Linguistic Society of America’s Annual Meeting in 2011. It reflects the debates and questions on syntactic approaches to ellipsis.

  • Johnson, Kyle, ed. 2008. Topics in ellipsis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    This volume discusses some key questions in the study of ellipsis: What characterizes ellipsis? Under what conditions is it possible? What kinds of meanings are allowed to go unspoken?

  • Kluck, Marlies, Dennis Ott, and Mark de Vries, eds. 2014. Parenthesis and ellipsis: Cross-linguistic and theoretical perspectives. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

    This volume addresses the interaction of parenthesis and ellipsis.

  • Lappin, Shalom, and Elabbas Benmamoun, eds. 1999. Fragments: Studies in ellipsis and gapping. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This volume discusses semantic and computational aspects of ellipsis.

  • Lipták, Anikó. 2015. Identity in ellipsis: An introduction. Lingua 166:155–171.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2015.08.003

    This volume is dedicated to the analysis of the role of identity in licensing ellipsis.

  • Merchant, Jason, and Andrew Simpson, eds. 2012. Sluicing: Cross-linguistic perspectives. Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics 38. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This volume is dedicated to the analysis of sluicing in a range of languages from Europe, Asia, and Africa.

  • Schwabe, Kerstin, and Susanne Winkler, eds. 2003. The interfaces: Deriving and interpreting omitted structures. Philadelphia: J. Benjamins.

    The volume explores the nature of ellipsis by examining the interfaces of syntax with semantics, phonology, and discourse.

  • Schwabe, Kerstin, and Ning Zhang, eds. 2015. Ellipsis in conjunction. Berlin and Boston: Max Niemeyer Verlag.

    The volume addresses issues of conjunction and ellipsis in both syntax and semantics.

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