The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Gribanova talk at Polinsky Lab, Harvard

Speaker: Vera Gribanova, Stanford (joint work with Dasha Popova and Christopher Potts)

Title: “The interaction of syntax and information structure in three kinds of Russian ellipsis”
Date/Time: Thursday June 28, 3pm
Location: Polinsky Lab, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge, 4th floor. Dial “400” at the intercom, and somebody will buzz you up.

This talk compares the syntactic and discourse properties of three types of clause-level Russian ellipses: (a) polarity ellipsis, in which a polarity item is stranded in Pol, the sister of which (TP) is elided (Kazenin, 2006); (b) Aux-stranding VPE, in which an auxiliary appears in T, the sister of which is elided (Kazenin, 2006); and (c) verb-stranding verb phrase ellipsis (VVPE), in which a verb moves out of the ellipsis site (vP) to Asp, thereby being stranded (Gribanova to appear a,b). Taken together, this yields a cascade of ellipsis licensing heads in a structure like (1).

Each type of ellipsis may leave behind a phrasal remnant to the immediate left of the stranded element. The grammatical function of this element, and its possible discourse interpretation(s), vary across the three different types of ellipsis in a surprising way, given (1): polarity (“high”) ellipsis and VVPE (“low” ellipsis) pattern together and are more restrictive, while Aux-stranding VPE is more permissive.

The talk aims to address this puzzle in two ways. First, we provide a way of understanding the discourse status of phrasal remnants in the different types of ellipsis in the framework of Questions Under Discussion (Büring, 2003, inter alia). Second, we explore a syntactic solution to the puzzle that capitalizes on the idea that VVPE moves the verb higher than was originally suggested by Gribanova (to appear a), as high as Pol. Similarities between the two types of ellipsis are therefore the result of identical syntactic positions of the verb in VVPE and polarity markers in polarity ellipsis. Differences between the two types — in particular, the availability of a post-verbal subject in VVPE but a ban on post-polarity subjects in polarity ellipsis — are attributed to the idea that the size of the ellipsis is smaller in VVPE than it is in polarity ellipsis.