, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 91-136

Verb-stranding verb phrase ellipsis and the structure of the Russian verbal complex

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Abstract

This paper investigates novel evidence from Russian Verb-Stranding Verb Phrase Ellipsis (vvpe), and argues for its use as a probe into the syntactic structure of morphophonologically inseparable but morphosyntactically complex verbs. The first step is to distinguish internal argument drop from vvpe, because they appear identical on the surface. I present novel evidence that Russian internal argument drop is illicit in syntactic islands, while vvpe is licit. Once this bifurcation is established, it allows us to explain previously obscured differences in the syntactic licensing of subject vs. internal argument drop in Russian. The second step uses the verb-matching requirement on the stranded verb in Russian vvpe to establish which parts of the verbal complex originate inside the domain of ellipsis, and which parts originate outside. A surprising finding is that the verb-matching properties of the Russian vvpe construction do not align with what has been demonstrated to hold of other languages in which vvpe is available. Unlike the strict matching requirement of Hebrew (Goldberg 2005a, 2005b) or Irish (McCloskey 2011) vvpe, the matching requirement in Russian vvpe appears to be sensitive to discourse factors, at least for certain speakers. This last discovery results in a significant contribution to our understanding of the nature of the identity requirement in ellipsis licensing.