Lemke, Tyll Robin; Schäfer, Lisa; Reich, Ingo

Can identity conditions on ellipsis be explained by processing principles?

Hörnig, Robin; von Wietersheim, Sophie; Konietzko, Andreas; Featherston, Sam;  (Ed.): Proceedings of Linguistic Evidence 2020: Linguistic Theory Enriched by Experimental Data, University of Tübingen, pp. 541-561, Tübingen, Germany, 2022.

In the theoretical literature, the unacceptability of (some) structural mismatches between the antecedent and the target of ellipsis have been taken to indicate that ellipsis is subject to syntactic identity conditions. Such constraints have been defended for verb phrase ellipsis (VPE) (Arregui et al., 2006; Merchant, 2013) and sluicing (Chung, 2006, 2013). The assumption of syntactic identity conditions increases the complexity of the grammar, because conditions which are specific to particular ellipses must be added to a system of more general rules. If the data that apparently support syntactic identity conditions could be explained by independently motivated principles, this would consequently reduce the complexity of the syntactic system. In this article we investigate syntactic identity conditions proposed by Chung (2006, 2013) for sluicing, i.e. the ellipsis of the TP in a wh-question, which is survived only by the wh-phrase (1a) (Ross, 1969). Our study shows that apparent grammaticality contrasts can be accounted for by a probabilistic processing account, which is supported by an acceptability rating, a production and a self-paced reading experiment. In contrast, Chung’s constraints lead to predictions which are not supported by our data.