The Syntax of Silence: Sluicing, Islands, and the Theory of Ellipsis

Paperback | July 1, 2001

byJason Merchant

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Two of the best studied and most intriguing areas in syntax and semantics are ellipsis and wh-movement, and although these areas have generated immense interest individually, their intersection-in elliptical wh-questions known as sluicing-has remained largely neglected. This book fills thatgap. It does so on the basis of the most sustained empirical investigation of sluicing ever conducted, drawing on novel data from thirty languages that give rise to a number of surprising and theoretically-challenging generalizations. The author shows that sluicing structures are crucial toanswering the fundamental questions about the nature of ellipsis: how ellipsis is resolved, whether there is syntactic structure internal to the ellipsis site, and whether the identity requirement on ellipsis is syntactic or semantic.The author proposes a new and elegant theory of ellipsis based on semantic identity, and shows how this theory overcomes problems encountered by common alternatives based on syntactic isomorphism. He posits that ellipsis sites are syntactically complete, though unpronounced, and provides a novelaccount of how a semantic theory of ellipsis is compatible with syntactic deletion. The facts of sluicing argue also that our conception of islandhood must be refined in fundamental ways, leading to a pluralistic view of islands, with wh-movement extraction deviancies distributed over differentcomponents of the grammar.This work sheds new light on some of the most central and long-standing questions in the study of ellipsis and wh-movement, and has important implications for understanding the relations between syntax and semantics.Jason Merchant writes accessibly for linguists of all schools and persuasions. The issues he addresses will interest theoreticians and typologists, especially syntacticians, semanticists, and those interested in the syntax-semantics interface.

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From the Publisher

Two of the best studied and most intriguing areas in syntax and semantics are ellipsis and wh-movement, and although these areas have generated immense interest individually, their intersection-in elliptical wh-questions known as sluicing-has remained largely neglected. This book fills thatgap. It does so on the basis of the most susta...

Jason Merchant is Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago, and is the author of many articles on ellipsis and sluicing in particular. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has been a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University and an NWO postdoctoral...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:278 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.63 inPublished:July 1, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199243727

ISBN - 13:9780199243723

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Table of Contents

1. Identity in Ellipsis: Focus and Isomorphism2. The Syntax of Sluicing3. Islands and Form-Identity4. Previous Accounts5. Deletio ReduxConclusion

Editorial Reviews

`The Syntax of Silence, based on Jason Merchant's excellent PhD dissertation (1999), is a major contribution to our understanding of ellipsis. It is the most important work on the sluicing ellipsis construction since Ross's seminal 1969 article, and it is the most detailed examination ever ofthis fascinating ellipsis construction.'Language