Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 281–296 | Cite as

Non-sentential assertions and semantic ellipsis

  • Robert J. Stainton


The restricted semantic ellipsis hypothesis, we have argued, is committed to an enormous number of multiply ambiguous expressions, the introduction of which gains us no extra explanatory power. We should, therefore, reject it. We should also spurn the original version since: (a) it entails the restricted version and (b) it incorrectly declares that, whenever a speaker makes an assertion by uttering an unembedded word or phrase, the expression uttered has illocutionary force.

Once rejected, the semantic ellipsis hypothesis cannot account for the many exceptions to the syntactic ellipsis hypothesis. So, we can safely infer that the Claim is true.

(1)The Claim: Speakers can make assertions by uttering ordinary, unembedded, words and phrases.

To the degree that the Claim reallyis in tension with the primacy of sentences (i.e., the view that (a) only sentences can be used to make assertions and (b) only sentences are meaningful in isolation) this doctrine must also be rejected.


Artificial Intelligence Explanatory Power Original Version Computational Linguistic Enormous Number 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

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  • Robert J. Stainton

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