Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 399-452

First online:

Ellipsis and higher-order unification

  • Mary DalrympleAffiliated withXerox-PARC
  • , Stuart M. ShieberAffiliated withDivision of Applied Sciences, Harvard University
  • , Fernando C. N. PereiraAffiliated withAT&T Bell Laboratories

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We present a new method for characterizing the interpretive possibilities generated by elliptical constructions in natural language. Unlike previous analyses, which postulate ambiguity of interpretation or derivation in the full clause source of the ellipsis, our analysis requires no such hidden ambiguity. Further, the analysis follows relatively directly from an abstract statement of the ellipsis interpretation problem. It predicts correctly a wide range of interactions between ellipsis and other semantic phenomena such as quantifier scope and bound anaphora. Finally, although the analysis itself is stated nonprocedurally, it admits of a direct computational method for generating interpretations.