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Information structure lecture series 2007 -

Abstract Winkler

Most linguists working in the generative framework today agree that ellipsis is an interface phenomenon. However, the question as to the actual division of labor between the grammatical components and their relation to contextual information and other cognitive processes is far from clear. The present paper investigates the following question: What is the function of ellipsis with respect to information structure? The persistent intuition researchers have expressed is that ellipsis is a means of givenness marking. It has less often been observed that it is also a tool of focus management. The central claim is that ellipsis plays a central role in Information Structure Management (ISM). More specifically, there are two types of ellipses in English, one has the function of givenness marking and the other has the function of contrastive topic or focus marking. I will discuss the different elliptical constructions and briefly consider the idea that their specific information-structural functions correlate with different syntactic derivations. Moreover, I will argue against the traditional two-interface hypothesis, providing evidence from the interaction of ellipsis and focus which seems to reflect a richer flow of information between the modules of Grammar and other components of the mind. Therefore, I propose a model of grammar in which ISM is viewed as a dynamic process between modules of grammar and cognitive processes located outside.

Last checked 2010-10-05 by Christine Dimroth

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