A two-source hypothesis for Gapping

Abstract

In this paper, we argue that Gapping constructions like Jessie might order beans and Kerry rice are ambiguous between two structures: CP domain coordinate structures, and vP domain coordinate structures. Initial evidence for this structural ambiguity analysis comes from the scope ambiguity that such examples exhibit: scopal elements above the vP domain, such as the modal auxiliary might, can take wide scope above the coordinate structure, or distributive scope, under it. Scopal elements within the vP domain, like manner adverbs, take only distributive scope. This distribution follows directly from our two-source analysis: ambiguous scopal material is either contained within the CP sized conjuncts, yielding a distributive interpretation, or it occupies a position above, and thus scopes over, the vP domain coordinate structure. We then show that our structural ambiguity analysis correctly predicts that the distribution of the Gapping scope ambiguity interacts with seemingly independent syntactic properties, with the effect that only one or the other reading is available in certain syntactic contexts.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We use ◊ and □ to represent, respectively, possibility and necessity modals of various flavors.

  2. 2.

    In early work on Gapping, examples in which a negation was gapped were judged infelicitous (Hudson 1976:545). Examples such as (4a), in which, on the distributive interpretation, a negation has been gapped, are discussed in and reported as acceptable by Siegel (1984). The novel judgments we report were collected from ten or more native English speakers, including linguists and non-linguists, with greater than 75% agreement.

  3. 3.

    For some speakers, a slightly variant wide scope reading may be more salient, whereby what is excluded is the possibility that James orders caviar while Mary orders chili, but where there is no intuition that the impossibility of this circumstance obtaining is the responsibility of James in particular. Because this reading does not differ from the wide scope reading discussed in the body text in the scope of its modals, we do not discuss the difference between these wide scope readings further. See Hacquard (2010) for a discussion of root modals which are tied to arguments other than the subject.

  4. 4.

    An anonymous reviewer remarked on the possibility that the Gapping scope ambiguity is an illusion resulting from these entailment relations. As we will see in Sect. 4, certain syntactic configurations eliminate the availability of one reading or the other, strongly suggesting that the ambiguity is genuine.

  5. 5.

    The use of possibility modals with the conjunct in this discussion is intentional. The wide and distributive scope interpretations of a necessity modal, without a negation or other scopal operator, in conjunctive gapping entail each other: □(PQ)⇔□P∧□Q. Consequently, we cannot create a context to distinguish them, and so focus on illustrations where the readings can be easily truth-conditionally distinguished.

  6. 6.

    Jackendoff also discusses examples like (ia), which include the frequency adverb sometimes, of which he notes that the gap cannot be interpreted as in (ib). Instead, he claims that the example is to be interpreted as in (iia), with sometimes taking distributive scope. However, in line with our discussion of frequency adverbs above, the adverb sometimes also appears able to take wide scope, as paraphrased in (iib). The ability for scopal elements to take wide scope in Gapping configurations had not yet been observed in 1971.

    1. (i)
      figurec
    1. (ii)
      figured
  7. 7.

    We are interested here in whether the adverbial negation in (28a) can receive a wide scope interpretation. As noted earlier in this section the prosody typically associated with a wide scope interpretation is one in which both conjuncts appear within the same intonational phrase. Example (28a) is awkward under such a contour. It could be that the tendency of adverbial negation to be focused is interfering with the ability of both conjuncts to be pronounced within the same intonational phrase, leading to reduced acceptability. On the other hand, our informants indicate that it is acceptable under the distributive scope prosody, where the contrastive focus on the remainders and correlates might license de-accenting of the negation.

  8. 8.

    By constructing the context in such a way that the reading of interest is the only true reading, we can avoid any possible effects of the phenomena known as Charity (Gualmini et al. 2008), or the similar Truth Dominance (Meyer and Sauerland 2009). The Charity principle states that an example will be judged as true if any of the readings possible for that example are true, even if the reading of interest is false. Because we have constructed the contexts in (28b) such that the distributive scope readings are false and the wide true, the example should be judged true only if the wide scope reading were available.

  9. 9.

    We restrict our attention here to Gapping in the verbal domain. Gapping-like configurations are also attested to the nominal domain (Abney 1987; Chaves 2005; Jackendoff 1971; Yoshida et al. 2012); we make no claims here about the structure of these types examples. See also Sailor and Thoms (2014) for a similar proposal concerning a related phenomenon, Non-constituent Coordination.

  10. 10.

    Under the assumption that the gap in Gapping configurations is the result of ellipsis, a question arises about the nature of the identity condition on ellipsis: in what respect must elided material be identical to an antecedent? Again, there is a substantial literature on the status of the identity condition on ellipsis, but the evidence we discuss surrounding the Gapping scope ambiguity, and our proposal, are compatible with several approaches to the identity condition on ellipsis, including syntactic identity (Chung et al. 1995; Fiengo and May 1994), semantic identity (Merchant 2001; Yoshida 2010), and hybrid syntactic-semantic identity theories (Chung 2006, 2013; Van Craenenbroeck 2010; Merchant 2013). We will therefore set this issue aside here.

  11. 11.

    Nor is it possible for the constituent containing the scopal element to ATB raise at LF thereby achieving wide scope without the need for other the correlate subject to overtly raise even higher, as ATB movement cannot occur at LF (Bošović and Franks 2000). We thank an anonymous review for bringing this potential derivation to our attention.

  12. 12.

    See Beaver and Clark (2009:7.6) for an interesting set of examples which suggest that certain types of focused elements within an antecedent may be contained within a subsequent ellipsis site. It seems plausible that the focused material within the antecedent may be treated as no longer focused, and so be rendered elideable, in these examples. We will set these complications aside here.

  13. 13.

    This analysis of SCG invites comparison to a phenomena known as Pseudogapping (Jayaseelan 1990; Lasnik 1995; Levin 1979; Neijt 1980). An anonymous reviewer noted that, if the remnant in Pseudogapping escapes the ellipsis site via focus movement, as we assume to be the case for Gapping remnants, we would expect that multi-remnant Pseudogapping should be possible. Such examples have been observed, confirming this prediction; Bowers (1998) reports several examples. Nevertheless, the nature of the remnant movement in Pseudogapping is an open debate, it being unclear whether it is A or A′ movement (Jayaseelan 1990, 2001; Lasnik 1995).

  14. 14.

    An anonymous reviewer suggests a LCG parse like that in (i) for these examples. Such a parse would yield a distributive interpretation, that given in (43c). However, it would also require non-constituent ellipsis to be possible, else the topicalized element within the Gapped conjunct would surface overtly. Given that the distributive interpretation is unavailable for examples like those in (39), we conclude that such a non-constituent ellipsis parse is unavailable for these examples.

    1. (i)
      figureg
  15. 15.

    Although the feasibility of our analysis does not hinge on the construal of these elements within the ellipsis site, it does not seem possible in these cases to construe the gap site as not containing an instance of the left-peripheral element from the antecedent. In the case of (41a), the topicalized PP is an obligatory argument, and so it must be contained within the ellipsis site given that no PP argument occurs outside the gap. The left peripheral elements in the remaining examples are adjuncts, and so it is conceivable that they are not construed within the ellipsis site as well. However, generally, adjuncts contained within an antecedent appear to be obligatorily reconstructed within the ellipsis site, as the example in (ia) must be interpreted as in (ib) and not (ic). Consequently, we have no reason to believe that the adjuncts in (41b)–(41d) would behave any differently.

    1. (i)
      figureh
  16. 16.

    An anonymous reviewer questions whether examples like (50) and (52) represent genuine examples of Gapping. We can be sure that they do, as they obey those unusual constraints, the No Embedding Constraint and the No Subordination Constraint, which appear to afflict Gapping alone of the various elliptical constructions (Jackendoff 1971; Johnson 2009). When the Gapped phrase is subordinated to the antecedent clause, as in (ia), or embedded, as in (ib), the examples become unacceptable.

    1. (i)
      figurej
  17. 17.

    See Haegeman (2004) and López and Winkler (2003) for a similar observation.

  18. 18.

    Our informants report that examples like (52) sound most natural with a rising accent on the initial remainder, Bill, and a falling accent on the second, sadly, which is prosodic contour most characteristic of distributive scope readings in Gapping in general.

  19. 19.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for bringing this correlation to our attention.

  20. 20.

    These and the following examples are from Merchant (2013). See also Johnson (1994) for early discussion of voice mismatch in Gapping.

  21. 21.

    However, see Tanaka (2011), on the possibility that Pseudogapping does sometimes allow voice mismatch. The speakers we have consulted judge the VPE versions of the example in (21), constructed based on the voice mismatch VPE examples of Sailor (2014), to be more acceptable than their Pseudogapping equivalents. Moreover, they report that this asymmetry disappears in similar non-voice-mismatched examples. We will therefore continue to assume that VPE, but not PsG, permits voice mismatch.

    1. (i)
      figuren
    1. (ii)
      figureo

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Brady Clark, Matt Goldrick, Kyle Johnson, Dave Kush, Jason Merchant, the NLLT reviewers and editors, and the audiences of GLOW 36, WCCFL 31, and the 89th annual meeting of the Linguistics Society of America for insightful discussions of the issues considered here. This work has been supported in part by NSF grant BCS-1323245 awarded to Masaya Yoshida.

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Potter, D., Frazier, M. & Yoshida, M. A two-source hypothesis for Gapping. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 35, 1123–1160 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-017-9359-y

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Keywords

  • Gapping
  • Ellipsis
  • Across-the-board movement
  • Structural ambiguity