Alternatives on Demand and Locality: Resolving Discourse-Linked Wh-Phrases in Sluiced Structures
Previous studies have observed a tendency to associate the remnant (e.g., who) of ambiguous sluicing ellipsis with the closest/most local correlate (someone) in the matrix clause, as in Somebody said Fred fired someone, but I don’t know who. I present the results of three experiments investigating the interplay between locality and the discourse status of potential correlates. The studies exploit the discourse-linking property of which-phrases in ambiguous sluiced sentences, like A teacher scolded Max or Dotty, but I can’t remember which one, to explore whether the preference for more local correlates is modulated by the discourse status of the potential correlates. I propose a discourse economy constraint (Alternatives on Demand: Avoid positing new discourse alternatives without evidence), which interacts with structural constraints like locality. Evidence from several questionnaire studies, as well as three online self-paced reading studies, supports the predictions of a sentence processing model in which the discourse status of items in memory immediately impacts the retrieval of a correlate for the remnant of sluicing ellipsis and related constructions. In addition, the time point at which the interaction between processing biases appears is shown to depend on the strength or diagnosticity of the retrieval cues in which-phrase.
Although a simple “thank you” fails to convey the gratitude I feel towards Lyn Frazier for years of mentorship and support, it will have to do. I also thank Joel Fishbein for administering Experiments 2 and 3. I am indebted to Chuck Clifton and Lyn Frazier for discussion on methodology and interpretation, to the UCSC Department of Linguistics for feedback during a colloquium talk, to participants at Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing held at Riva del Garda, Italy, participants in the UCLA Psycholinguistics Seminar, the 26th Annual CUNY Sentence Processing Conference hosted by the University of South Carolina, and to the audience at LynSchrift 2018, where portions of this work were previously presented. I thank UCLA and Pomona College for financial support. Any errors are naturally my own.
- Alonso-Ovalle, L. (2006). Disjunction in alternative semantics. Ph.D. thesis, UMass Amherst.Google Scholar
- Barros, M. (2014). Sluicing and identity in ellipsis. PhD thesis, Rutgers University.Google Scholar
- Barros, M., & Vicente, L. (2016). A remnant condition for ellipsis. Proceedings of WCCFL, 33, 57–66.Google Scholar
- Bates, D., & Maechler, M. (2009). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 0.999375-31.Google Scholar
- Carlson, K. (2002). Parallelism and prosody in the processing of ellipsis sentences. Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics. Routledge, New York, NY.Google Scholar
- Cinque, G. (1993). A null theory of phrase and compound stress. Linguistic Inquiry, 24, 239–297.Google Scholar
- Dayal, V., & Schwarzschild, R. (1988). Definite inner antecedents and wh-correlates in sluices. Rutgers Working Papers in Linguistics, 3, 92–114.Google Scholar
- Frazier, L. (1987). Sentence processing: A tutorial review. In M. Coltheart (Ed.), Attention and performance XII (pp. 559–586). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Frazier, L., Plunkett, B., & Clifton, C. (1996). Reconstruction and scope. In: M. Dickey & S. Tunstall (Eds.), University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguistics (Vol. 19, 239–260).Google Scholar
- Harris, J. A. (2015). Structure modulates similarity-based interference in sluicing: An eye tracking study. Frontiers of Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01839.
- Martin, A. E. (2010). Memory operations and structures in sentence comprehension: Evidence from ellipsis. Ph.D. thesis, New York University, New York, NY.Google Scholar
- Merchant, J. (1998). ‘Pseudosluicing’: Elliptical clefts in Japanese and English. ZAS Working Papers in Linguistics, 10, 88–112.Google Scholar
- Merchant, J. (2001). The syntax of silence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Pesetsky, D. (1987). Wh-in-situ: Movement and unselective binding. In E. Reuland, & A. ter Meulen (Eds.), The Representation of (In)definiteness (pp. 98–129). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Reinhart, T. (1981). Pragmatics and linguistics: An analysis of sentence topics. Philosophica, 27, 53–94.Google Scholar
- Romero, M. (1998). Focus and reconstruction effects in wh-phrases. Ph.D. thesis, UMass Amherst.Google Scholar
- Rooth, M. (1985). Association with focus. Ph.D. thesis, UMass Amherst.Google Scholar
- Ross, J. R. (1969). Guess who. In R. Binnick et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th Annual Chicago Linguistic Society, Chicago, IL (pp. 252–286). https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199645763.003.0002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Selkirk, E. O. (1984). Phonology and syntax: The relation between sound and structure. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Van Craenenbroeck, J. (2010). The syntax of ellipsis: Evidence from Dutch dialects. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Vicente, L. (to appear). Sluicing and its subtypes. In T. Temmerman & J. van Craenenbroeck (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of ellipsis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar