, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 399-452

Ellipsis and higher-order unification

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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.

We would like to thank the following people for helpful discussion: Hiyan Alshawi, Sam Bayer, Joan Bresnan, Mark Gawron, Kris Halvorsen, Dan Hardt, Julia Hirschberg, David Israel, Mark Johnson, Ron Kaplan, Lauri Karttunen, Shalom Lappin, Richard Larson, Peter Ludlow, John Maxwell, Richard Oehrle, Stanley Peters, Hub Prust, Steve Pulman, Mats Rooth, Ivan Sag, Peter Sells, Gregory Ward, Michael Wescoat, Annie Zaenen, Draga Zee, and two anonymous reviewers. The written comments alone that we received prior to publication ran to well over 50 pages, longer, in fact, than the paper itself. We regret that we could not include discussion of all the important issues that they raised.