The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 10/21: Ido Benbaji (MIT)

Title: An argument against V-stranding VP-ellipsis from only in polar questions
Time: Thursday, 10/21, 12:30pm-13:50pm
Location: 32-D461 (with MIT COVID Pass or Tim Ticket, plus contact tracing information)
Abstract: This paper contributes to the debate over the (non-)existence of verb-stranding VP-ellipsis (VSVPE), providing a new argument against its existence from the behavior of focus particles in questions. Polar questions in Hebrew (as in many other languages (Holmberg 2016)) can be answered affirmatively by echoing the verb in the question. Hebrew verb-echo answers (VEAs) are often analyzed as declarative sentences whose arguments have been deleted by a combination of VSVPE and subject pro-drop (Doron 1990). We show that VEAs are unacceptable as answers to polar questions with the focus particle only, and argue that this remains a mystery on a VSVPE account, as the presence of only is compatible with both V-to-T movement and VP-ellipsis (the ingredients required for VSVPE). We then show that the data can be straightforwardly accounted for if VEAs are derived via Argument Ellipsis (AE); i.e. elision of the verb’s object based on parallelism with a linguistic antecedent, without verb-movement (which has been proposed for Hebrew in Landau 2018).