Information Theory and Ellipsis Redundancy

Project B3

Project B3 investigates whether in a given utterance situation (high) redundancy in terms of (low) surprisal influences the speaker’s decision to elide (above and beyond grammatical needs). To this effect, B3 systematically contrasts elliptical and non-elliptical utterances in predictable as well as in non-predictable conditions in order to collect experimental measures of comprehension and production behaviour that can be linked to cognitive effort and, thus, surprisal.

The project is divided into 3 experimental work packages which basically vary the following three factors: (i) predictive properties of the discourse that precedes both antecedent and target, (ii) predictive morphosyntactic properties of the linguistic antecedent (matches vs. mismatches), and (iii) properties of the target (ellipsis vs. full form). The general hypothesis pursued in this project is that (all other things being equal) speakers show an increased preference for reduced structures the more predictable (the less surprising) the target area is, given the antecedent and/or the salient preceding discourse.

Keywords: theoretical linguistics, psycholingustics, ellipsis