Jason Merchant is Vice Provost and Lorna P. Straus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Syntax of Silence: Sluicing, Islands, and the Theory of Ellipsis (OUP, 2001) and many other works on ellipsis and aspects of syntactic theory and its interface with semantics and morphology.
Ellipsis: How Syntax, Movement, and Focus Play Roles
Ellipsis presents a deep and important puzzle for theories of the syntax-semantics interface: there is determinate meaning without form. While there is overwhelming evidence that ellipsis involves unpronounced syntactic structures, our understanding of the conditions on ellipsis, and its effects on syntactic computations is still developing. Recent work on a wide variety of languages has begun to uncover a rich and variegated landscape in elliptical constructions, whose analyses raise certain conflicts. I lay out these conflicts and discuss the implications for our understanding of traditional movement phenomena and the analysis of focus.