The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 11/14 - Dennis Ott

Speaker: Dennis Ott (HU Berlin/MIT)
Title: Deletion in disjunct constituents
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov 14, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

Parenthesis has received little attention in linguistic theory, despite the fact that the phenomenon raises fundamental questions concerning the division of labor between “sentence grammar” and “discourse grammar.” Some researchers (e.g., Haegeman 1991, Espinal 1991, Peterson 1999) have argued tha parentheticals are syntactically “orphan” constituents (or “disjuncts”), and hence beyond the purview of syntax, whereas other approaches take the linear intercalation of parentheticals into their host clauses to be a sign of syntactic integration (e.g., Emonds 1976, Potts 2005, de Vries 2012). Integration analyses invariably rely on construction-specific machinery, hence imply a prima facie undesirable enrichment of UG. Non-restrictive appositives in particular are often taken to be syntactically integrated, either implicitly (Espinal 1991) or explicitly (Heringa 2012). In this talk, I contest this view and develop a novel argument for taking the relation between non-restrictive appositives and their host clauses to be non-syntactic (established in “discourse grammar”). Building on Burton-Roberts’ (2006) intuitive characterization of appositives as “reduplicative reformulations,” I show that appositive disjunct constituents are sentential fragments, derived by familiar mechanisms of PF-deletion (Merchant 2004, Ott & de Vries in press). Crucially, the fact that the antecedent of appositive-internal ellipsis is the host clause itself entails that deletion is antecedent-contained, and hence irresolvable, on the assumption that the appositive fragment is syntactically integrated into the host. Ellipsis being resolvable, appositives must be taken to be separately generated expressions whose linear insertion into the host is a matter of discourse/production rather than syntax proper.